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Brain & learning

Poverty and planning skills

A recent study in the journal Child Development suggests a link between students living in poverty and poor planning skills that extends into several academic areas, including math and reading. Using scores from a strategic puzzle-based task that requires advance planning and tactical moves, researchers found that scores on the planning task in Grade 3 predicted children's reading and math outcomes at Grade 5, even while controlling for IQ.

What does your child do before bedtime?

Parents know the value of a good bedtime routine. Dinner, bath, books and bed was the routine around here for years and years, and for the most part, our girls went to bed and fell right to sleep. But as kids get older, electronics and television seem to find their way into kids' hands closer and closer to bedtime. These habits, unfortunately, can make it harder for kids to fall asleep, resulting in less sleep overall. Inadequate sleep is associated with several school issues, including poor concentration, hyperactivity and obesity.

Vocabulary, worth talking about

I have a good friend with a 7 month old daughter. Through his video clips on Facebook, I have watched E react to new toys, try all sorts of new foods, and learn to sit up. Around our house, we're way past soft foods and teethers, so I watch with joy as E happily gums spoonfuls of bananas and sweet potato. But every time I watch, I'm struck by the silence. There are no adult sounds, just the occasional grunt or gurgle from baby E. When I finally asked E's Mom and Dad about the silence, it turns out to be plain 'ol stage fright — Mom and Dad are too shy to have their voice heard on video.

Where good ideas come from

Chance favors the connected mind. So says Steven Johnson, best-selling author of books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. Johnson has spent lots of time answering questions such as: what types of spaces lead to creativity and innovation? He describes how many great ideas don't come from a big eureka! Most come from ideas that have percolated or marinated within for quite some time. Johnson believes that good ideas come from the collision of smaller ideas, and only after those smaller ideas have time to incubate.

The 'learning styles' can of worms

The concept of learning styles has been around for a long time. Intuitively, the notion of learning styles makes sense, especially for those who work with struggling readers. Some kids seem to respond better to visual information, others to auditory, and still others to tactile information. Following this train of thought, teachers should present information in a style that is matched to a learner's learning style.

Two ideas worth spreading

Ideas worth spreading is the tagline for TED, a website that provides "riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world." If you are not familiar with the TED site, you should go visit it! I've watched some truly amazing talks on there, ones that I think about for days afterward. Here are two new talks I watched recently that have really stayed with me.

If you see the words brain-based, run

If you see the words brain-based, run. That's the advice from David Daniel, a researcher at James Madison University. And it's not just Daniel that feels that way.

The value of mixed practice in teaching reading

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits is a timely reminder about a few techniques that can reliably improve how much a student learns from studying. Techniques include alternating study environments, spacing study sessions, self testing, and mixing content.

Peering inside the brain

Don't you love when you finally have a moment to read something that's been on your desk for two months? I had that experience today when I finally read The Reading Leader from the Haskins Literacy Initiative.

"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl