Roundup XII

A recent article in Science Daily describes how even a small amount of music training in childhood can go a long way toward improving how the brain functions in adulthood when it comes to listening and the complex processing of sound. The study, conducted by Northwestern University, found that adults with one to five years of musical training as children had enhanced speech and music perception, making them better listeners later in life. This is important news for those of us who have children who didn’t stick with their music lessons.

• • •

I may have mentioned this before, but as our students adjust to the fall school schedule it bears repeating. Preschoolers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep each night; 5- to 12-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours; and teens need 9.25 hours of sleep each night, according to researchers at the National Sleep Foundation. Children operating on too little sleep struggle in school, exhibit great symptoms of attention deficit and are more likely to be anxious and depressed.

• • •

If your teen loves video games as much as mine does, it has likely crossed your mind that it would be great if they could make a living from this time-wasting hobby. The new Khan Academy Computer Science project is designed for students with no programming knowledge who would like to learn how to write code. As always, the videos are completely free at khanacademy.org/cs.

• • •

The Hunger Games trilogy has surpassed the Harry Potter series to become the best-selling series on Amazon.com. I loved both series and have noticed many adults enjoying the “Hunger Games,” so it doesn’t surprise me, except that the “Harry Potter” series is so many more books (seven versus three) and this was accomplished so quickly.

• • •

A new partnership between an online gaming company and Oxford University Press aims to boost student interest in reading through a gaming site dedicated to classic works of literature. The collaborative effort, called “50 Great Reads Before 15,” is part of a growing trend of injecting a gaming component into regular academics. The game introduces characters and storylines from classic literature, including “Alice in Wonderland,” “Macbeth,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Don Quixote” and “Arabian Nights.” What a great idea, if kids take to it. Go to secretbuilders.com.

• • •

Along the same lines, if you are worried about the video games your child enjoys, check out Games for Change. The site has the mission of “catalyzing social impact through digital games.” They curate a group of games that they believe are fun, while also “serving as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.” See what they offer atgamesforchanges.org.

• • •

I am running to the bookstore to buy “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. I gather the author’s hypothesis is that intelligence has nothing to do with success and that, instead, non-cognitive skills like persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence, are far more crucial to achieving success.

• • •

Every school district is scrambling to make the transition from its State Standards to the new national Common Core standards. The concern is not so much that the Common Core standards are harder, they are just so different that it will involve a lot of teacher training to make the switch. Some specific examples, the Common Core eliminates cursive instruction, it changes the year that multiplication takes place, critical reading will be stressed starting in the lower grades and most importantly, it relies less on memorization and more on real-world challenges and higher-order thinking.

• • •

The website Daily Tekk has created a list of 101 indispensible websites for students (of all ages). Many I had heard of but many are new and truly astounding. Check them out here: tinyurl.com/8mtwchh.

• • •

I was surprised to learn that 85 percent of children’s learning is related to vision, and that in the U.S., 80 percent of children haven’t had an eye exam before they start kindergarten (Science Daily 8/30/12). Make sure your children’s eyes are checked before they start any type of school, including pre-school. Kids can’t tell you that they can’t see well because they have no basis for comparison.

• • •

Maybe our parents were right: the British Broadcasting System (BBC) reported that researchers have found that kids who started smoking pot below the age of 18 – while their brains were still developing – suffered a drop in IQ. For more than 20 years, researchers have followed the lives of a group of people – beginning before any of them had started using marijuana – and then re-interviewed them repeatedly, up to the age of 38. They found that those who persistently used cannabis – smoking it at least four times a week year after year through their teens onward – suffered a decline in their IQ. The more that people smoked, the greater the loss in IQ. The effect was most marked in those who started smoking pot as adolescents, and no loss was found among those who began as adults. Stopping or reducing use failed to fully restore the lost IQ.

• • •

If your son or daughter (of any age) doesn’t love to read, you might try audiobooks, either downloaded to an iPod from audible.com or on CDs from the library. Many kids find that they love to unwind listening to a book at night and many will stick with it for many more hours than they would hold a book.

• • •

“What can parents do to help their children develop skills like motivation and perseverance? The reality is that when it comes to non-cognitive skills, the traditional calculus of the cognitive hypothesis—start earlier and work harder – falls apart. Children can’t get better at overcoming disappointment just by working at it for more hours. And they don’t lag behind in curiosity simply because they didn’t start doing curiosity work sheets at an early enough age. Instead, it seems, the most valuable thing that parents can do to help their children develop non-cognitive skills – which is to say, to develop their character – may be to do nothing. To back off a bit. To let our children face some adversity on their own, to fall down and not be helped back up.”

Those are the words of author Paul Tough, whose book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character,” has just been released. The Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt from the book last week.

• • •

There continues to be a lot of talk in the education press about brain food and the fact that children’s dietary habits can impact their energy level, mood and academic performance. Top of the list to boost brain power are exactly what my children refuse to eat: foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, tuna and other fish. Other top foods include blueberries, spinach and quinoa.

• •

The Harvard Education Letter suggests five interesting ways that schools can build closer relationships with families. Author Richard Milner proposes: 1. Offer language-learning resources for all parents and families. Help parents to help their children to succeed in school by improving their own English skills, and if a school offers more languages than Spanish, offer classes in those languages to the wider school community. 2. Offer parenting workshops that help parents understand how best to support their children in a school culture. These workshops empower parents to be active participants in their children’s education. 3. Encourage school-wide book reading and choose a book that supports a specific theme that the district has chosen that year to pursue. 4. Choose a diversity-related theme that sparks conversations to be explored over the course of the school year. Possible themes, he suggests, are: opportunity, diversity, integrity, community service, poverty, resilience, tenacity and injustice. Students can help choose and teachers can incorporate the theme into the curriculum 5. Offer school-wide movies as an easy way for a community to come together to address issues of importance to a school or district. Some choices he suggests: “Boys in the Hood,” “Crash,” “The Blindside,” “Remember the Titans,” “Something New,” “Finding Forester,” “Stand and Deliver,” “Lean on Me,” andGood Will Hunting.” 6. And finally, offer a community-centered dinner because he suggests there is nothing like food to bring people together. A periodic dinner brings parents, other family members and community members together with teachers, staff, administrators and students.

• • •

There is a new book out titled “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brain Thinkers Will Rule the World,” in which author Daniel Pink puts forth the argument that the future will belong to those with a different kind of mind – “designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers – creative and empathetic ‘right-brained’ thinkers.” He cites a number of global trends that are driving a shift away from the reductive and analytical thinking that has been valued in American society for years, toward a new value placed on creative thinkers.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: