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DVD Review: Alphabet Exercise

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My six-year-old daughter loves exercise videos; I’m not sure how that happened. If given free access to DVDs that guide her through structured physical activity, she faithfully completes the disc on a daily basis, dragging as many of her younger siblings along as she can round up. When I discovered Alphabet Exercise – a children’s exercise video that teaches letter recognition along with the formation of numbers and letters – I knew we had to try it.

Designed for children from three- to five-years-old, Rock ‘N Learn’s unique exercise program integrates early literacy skills with physical activity. A funny gentleman named Alphabet Al guides children through 35 minutes of gentle physical activity while clad in a blue tux: complete with cummerbund, bow tie, top hat and gloves. Al introduces children to each of the capital and lower case letters in turn, providing an active movement that begins with the specific letter. L for example is lift, P is pick and T is twist. The letters appear onscreen along with the action word and related vocabulary words that begin with the letter throughout the segment.

As the letters change, the colourful, digitally generated background that Al and his exercise mat appear shift and the music changes as well. At times Al switches off with children performing the movement, or is accompanied by computer-animated characters. A pause is provided while each new letter is introduced, allowing for a relaxed pace that will accommodate most children. Some of the letter segments encourage children to form the shapes of the letter with their bodies, an excellent reinforcement for kinesthetic learners.

Developed in conjunction with a certified fitness trainer, a variety of balanced exercises are included: stretches, light cardio, upper body, lower body, and isometric exercises are all present. A natural intermission is provided at N for nap, providing a break that can be used to divide the workout into two segments, or just a pause before resuming with letters O through Z.

Following the 35 minutes of movement an animated guide to printing the letters and numbers is quickly presented. Encouraging children to follow the onscreen movements with their finger in the air (air-writing) is absolutely the best method for imprinting proper letter formation in young learners, so I was thrilled to see this included. The printing segments bring the discs total run time to 44 minutes.

The delivery of the exercises is fairly standard for children’s programming. Big goofy smiles, wide eyes, bright flashing colours, and squeaky voices are all par for the course. Al’s voice speaks in a clear rhythm, complete with rhymes as he introduces each letter, the accompanying movement and additional vocabulary words. The accompanying music varies in style though it sounds synthetically generated throughout. It serves mainly to reinforce the tempo of Al’s speech and the pace of the physical movements, never forming what one would consider a proper song.

Fully chaptered, viewers can move between segments while watching, or through the excellent navigational menu. Each of the letters is available to select on the menu to go straight to its segment. A “Play All” option, and buttons for the numeral printing and alphabet printing segments are also provided. The ease of menu selection makes it easy for parents and teachers to reinforce any difficult letters, and to easily focus on specific skills.

It wasn’t long before my daughter started offering unprompted feedback. “This guy is so funny mommy!” she exclaimed when he introduced the letter A. “Oh, this is so fun!” was her response to the letter B, when she got to bicycle on the floor with her legs in the air. Because we use an Orton-Gillingham approach to phonics which emphasizes letter sounds over letter names, she’s still unfamiliar with some of the letter names, and isn’t entirely confident with the others.

Though my oldest is outside of the recommended age range, the reinforcement provided by this DVD is just what she needs. We’re able to kill three birds with one stone – provide an outlet for physical activity, reinforce letter names, and help her learn proper printing technique. With my three-year-old starting to count and learn the ABC song I have great hopes that this fun-filled disc will help her along in her journey towards or recognition. Educators working with young children should certainly put Alphabet Exercise on their short list of products to look into further.

A video sample can be viewed online at the Rock 'N Learn website.

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About Jennifer Bogart