Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

September 17, 2020
Logged In, Checked Out: How Executive Function Can Upend the COVID Slide (Part 3)

How do you engage students during remote learning or blended learning and beat the COVID slide? Develop students' executive functioning skills. Here's everything you need to know.

August 18, 2020
Reading Mastery: Where Pedagogy Meets the Science of Reading

The science of reading shows that an important way to develop reading fluency is reading out loud. Here's why.

June 24, 2020
Stopping and Slowing the COVID Slide: Part 2

In part one of this blog series, I reviewed four principles from the science of learning that can boost academic gains through both conventional and remote instruction. Here, I will discuss four more brain-based educational guidelines that educators can implement while simultaneously fostering social-emotional learning support.

May 28, 2020
Slowing and Stopping the COVID Slide: Part 1

Educators are concerned that the current restrictions on in-person instruction necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic will significantly decrease academic gains among a large swath of children in the United States. Given that current U.S. government data indicate only one-third of fourth-graders have the reading skills considered proficient, the "COVID slide" could result in a further decline in literacy skills, especially among our most vulnerable students. Why will the COVID slide occur and what can educators do to combat it?

February 14, 2020
Disrupting the Myth about “Mediocre” Students

How one teacher turned an underachiever into an overachiever by teaching executive function. In early elementary school, Louise (all names in this story have been changed) was a sweet child who never caused trouble. She was also an average student who was rarely chosen for special duties or called on in class. Louise’s parents were concerned about her progress in school, given that her siblings were exceptional students. The school principal assured them that she was a bright little girl, but she would never get an ulcer worrying about school achievement. Children like Louise are often described as underachievers. But this description of Louise began to change in third grade under Mr. Stevens. He was a stickler for neatness, organization, planning, paying attention, and punctuality. He referred to himself as “Hurricane Stevens” because, without warning, he would check students’ desks for disarray or confiscate potentially distracting items. One day, Louise was admiring a yo-yo she had won during recess when the yo-yo suddenly became part of Mr.  Stevens’ “cyclone stash” of toys and comic books. These items were all returned each Friday with a wry smile and gentle warning that sometimes objects get lost in cyclones. “Class time is your job,” Mr. Stevens extolled her, “you can think about recess during recess. During class, you need to focus on learning.” "Fun Facts" Mr. Stevens also had a memory game he called “fun facts.” He started each day with a list of new history or science facts, vocabulary words, or current events details that would end up relating to class, and more information about the fun facts would be part of the daily lessons. Students were told to pay close attention, but they were not permitted to write anything down. Mr. Stevens would later quiz the class on the fun facts and how […]

December 6, 2017
The Reading Brain: How Your Brain Helps You Read, and Why it Matters

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an accomplished reader. In fact, you’ve most likely forgotten by now how much work it took you to learn to read in the first place. And you probably never think about what is happening in your brain when you’re reading that email from your boss or this month’s book club selection. And yet, there’s nothing that plays a greater role in learning to read than a reading-ready brain. As complex a task as reading is, thanks to developments in neuroscience and technology we are now able to target key learning centers in the brain and identify the areas and neural pathways the brain employs for reading. We not only understand why strong readers read well and struggling readers struggle, but we are also able to assist every kind of reader on the journey from early language acquisition to reading and comprehension—a journey that happens in the brain. We begin to develop the language skills required for reading right from the first gurgles we make as babies. The sounds we encounter in our immediate environment as infants set language acquisition skills in motion, readying the brain for the structure of language-based communication, including reading. Every time a baby hears speech, the brain is learning the rules of language that generalize, later, to reading.  Even a simple nursery rhyme can help a baby's brain begin to make sound differentiations and create phonemic awareness, an essential building block for reading readiness. By the time a child is ready to read effectively, the brain has done a lot of work coordinating sounds to language, and is fully prepared to coordinate language to reading, and reading to comprehension. The reading brain can be likened to the real-time collaborative effort of a symphony orchestra, with various parts of the brain […]

August 4, 2015
New Research Shows How to Minimize Side Effects of Chemo

Key Points: Regardless of age, cancer treatments impair learning, memory and attention The speed of processing information can also be diminished These effects can last for months, or even years, after cancer treatment is finished Research study shows Fast ForWord can help prevent learning problems in cancer survivors when used during cancer treatment The cognitive impact of chemotherapy on children When any of us are told someone we love has a diagnosis of cancer, “The Emperor of all Maladies” so aptly named by Siddhartha Mukherjee, it is very upsetting. But, when it is a parent who learns of a cancer diagnosis in their child, time seems to stand still for months, often years, as treatments are administered.  The good news is that the overall mortality rate from cancer has decreased markedly in the last 20 years. For children diagnosed with cancer, today’s cure rate exceeds 80% for some types of cancer. Earlier diagnosis and more specifically targeted forms of chemotherapy, combined with evidence-based protocols, mean many children are now miraculous survivors of this age-old, but very complex, illness. After cancer – what are the implications on learning? However, the success of targeted chemo and radiation therapy does come with a price. With improved survival rates, oncologists have become more aware of the aftereffects that childhood cancer treatments have on thinking, learning and remembering.  According to Jorg Dietrich at Massachusetts General Hospital and his colleagues at Stanford University and Anderson Cancer Center, conventional cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiology for brain tumors in patients of any age frequently result in a variety of thinking and memory of problems. These neurocognitive deficits, as they are called, include impaired learning, memory, attention, and negatively impact the speed of information processing. Increased survival rates = increased studies on effects Interested specifically in those effects […]

February 4, 2010
Are "Smart" Kids Born Smart?

Did you ever know someone that others referred to as a “brain”? It is a term most commonly used in a school environment referring to a top student. Often the “brain” did not seem to have to work hard at school; he or she was viewed as naturally intelligent, knowledgeable in many subjects, liked by teachers and admired by fellow students. Did you ever wonder how that person got that way? Most likely you thought, as did most experts in psychology, the field that assesses intelligence, that he or she was just “born” smart.  Until very recently, intelligence was viewed as a fixed innate capacity, a genetic gift from mom and dad that more or less propelled a child on their way to success in school then ultimately success in life. But it turns out, that intelligence is not as fixed as was previously thought nor is it preset by a person’s genetic inheritance.  There are many variables that affect intelligence as it is measured by tests, measured in school, and measured in life.   Neuroscience: nature vs nurture Current neuroscience research suggests that most newborn infants are born with the potential to achieve in many cognitive areas. There will be some genetic predispositions, but the child’s brain is extraordinarily malleable and “teachable”. One could say that the job of the infant brain is to figure out, from what is going on around him or her, what skills and sensory abilities it will be important to master. Once the basics are established the child’s brain will set out on a path to become an expert in those areas.  By stimulating their child in certain ways, parents set the stage for the infant brain to begin a developmental trajectory that will influence what the child becomes “smart” at – science, math, […]

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