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2016-2017 / Bodies speak new languages

Experimental programme, Year 2

Familiarising children with the sounds of the English language, a project for infant-toddler centres: San Carlo, Il Parco, Sant’Agostino di Sassuolo


Federica Parretti, Peter Byworth, Eimear Tunney and Riccardo Ronzoni for Il Palmerino Cultural Association. Elisa Finelli, Elena Romagnoli and Giada Costantini for Domus coop.


Based on the premise that sensory-motor experiences generate learning, is it possible to hypothesise that they can bring us closer to understanding a foreign language? How much can giving life to words through bodily movements help build meanings and foster familiarisation with sounds that are different from those to which we are most often exposed?

There is no doubt that the construction of our cognitive reality occurs through multiple referential processes established by numerous connections, in which all of our physical senses are involved. In fact, the more complex this information becomes, the more it expands to incorporate meanings and information that increases our knowledge base. In this context, research and observation were set up to stimulate an innovative method in which children are both ‘users and creators’ of the process itself.


Each session is strongly empathy-based and its guided movements reflect what the children propose, as they express themselves via postures and sounds, linked to English only. This method facilitates their engagement with the language, using mostly onomatopoeic verbs and other words that can be easily matched to the movements or postures suggested. Sounds are encouraged and supported through the amplification of gestures and facial expressions. The intent is to maintain children’s interest and engagement in the activities proposed, whose format was developed in response to needs identified within the pre-school environment, in recent years.

It is of paramount importance for mentors and educators to have the chance to share their reflections and experiences, and their time together is just as important as face-to-face sessions with the children, in order preserve the programme’s true intent and prevent it from becoming routine. In the same way, ample emphasis was given to documenting the project. Its records have become a resource that can be examined by pedagogical teams, which will potentially enhance data gathered, whilst making it available to families and the community at large.


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