Resources: Blog

The Science of Learning

December 13, 2016
Cursive Becoming Obsolete?

Cursive is becoming obsolete. How can that be?  I remember 1st grade at Glebe Street Elementary School in Johnstown, New York, where we practiced penmanship every day.  I tried to be so perfect writing out my letters.  The next step was learning cursive in 2nd grade!  Once I learned how to make those curly letters, I was considered a big kid, like a rite of passage.  As handwriting has disappeared with the advent of computers and smartphones, this rite of passage (and some people argue an important developmental milestone) may seem old-fashioned, outdated and irrelevant in today’s modern world. Current research: Is handwriting still important? The current research on handwriting is somewhat mixed - some say yes, some say no.  Some educators and the Common Core say handwriting might be not be as relevant because it doesn’t directly tie-in to curriculum.  And many states are no longer required to teach it.  Only a handful of states are still teaching handwriting.  If I were a young student today in upstate New York, I wouldn’t necessarily be learning handwriting/penmanship.  Many skills aren’t deemed relevant if they aren't directly related to skills that state tests are targeting, which includes handwriting. Why should we teach handwriting?  Popular author/psychologist, Stanislas Dehaene, at the College de France in Paris states that, “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain. And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize. Learning is made easier.” So when we write something down, this research has shown that our brains get activated in ways that aren’t activated when we type something.  And this brain activation helps with recall when we are learning. […]

November 29, 2016
5 Steps to ERASE Discord in Your Home

Our children bring us joy for many reasons. We can’t help but love them. It doesn’t hurt that they have tiny fingers and toes and that they say and do the silliest things. An acquaintance of mine recently posted on Facebook an interaction between her husband and daughter. During a trip to the grocery store, the husband perused the shopping cart and listed aloud the items. Among them were Pop Tarts, Tostitos, and Lucky Charms. “Are we missing anything?” he asked his daughter. She quickly responded, “Our dignity.” She’s six. We are constant witnesses to our children’s actions and words, so we know just how wise and brilliant they can be. But sometimes the immaturity they exhibit is more annoying than endearing. They are throwing tantrums because they aren’t allowed to eat glue or because we won’t allow them to play video games into the wee hours of the night. In response to the noise of our children’s minor frustrations, we adapt, adjust, and learn to cope, all the while making our best attempt to teach them that it is their responsibility not to become monsters in the world. However, when our kids fail to follow simple directions, it’s enough to drive us mad, and we might not always respond in ways conducive to promoting positive change in the home. How to get your child to follow directions (without a meltdown!) You may be relieved to know there are steps you can take as a parent to assist your children with following directions. Especially if your child struggles with his/her attention, language, or memory, this task may seem incredibly daunting. But if you are interested in improving the quality of your life—and possibly the quality of your relationship with your child—remembering the acronym ERASE just might do the trick. You have the […]

November 15, 2016
Underperforming Student Success Strategies

Some low-income schools are wildly succesful while others continue to struggle. Dr. Eric Jensen has researched this phenomenon, studying what makes one Title I school a place where students are as successful as their high-income peers, whereas others continue to be low-performing. Following is a transcript of a portion of his Underperforming Student Success Strategies webinar, in which he outlines some game-changing, yet simple tips. Watch the full webinar by clicking here. 7 Secrets to Accelerate Underperforming Students We've got lots to do, so let's roll up our sleeves and get started. First things first; here’s an overview of what we're going to cover: Relationships matter the most. Learn how you can create relationships with struggling students. Understand the REAL problem.  Part of succeeding with struggling students is learning how to hear what people are not saying. Sometimes it looks like there's one problem you're solving but it's really a different problem altogether. Shift mindsets and expectations. Learn what kind of expectations are realistic with the struggling student. Build cognitive capacity relentlessly. How do you build cognitive capacity? And why is this important? [Hint: Dr. Jensen recommends Fast ForWord!] Teach grittiness for the long haul. Learn how you can teach grittiness. Work on social and emotional skills. How do you teach social emotional skills? Coaching for life. How do you become a coach for your students to be successful in life? I've worked with many underperforming students and of course, you can come up with a different list of seven but I think this list is solid gold, so let's get started. Be Conscious of How You Start Your Day One suggestion is every time you begin working with your students, always ask yourself: What's the posture your students are in? What's their metabolic state? How are they feeling at the moment? You and I know when […]

October 25, 2016
Risks of Not Identifying Dyslexia

Think about your favorite stories.  From personal tales, to books and movies, the common catalyst of action and emotion comes from opposing forces.  Storytellers and writers call these opposing forces antagonists.  Opposing forces can take the shape of authority, flawed relationships, ticking clocks, hostile worlds, or an enemy within.  When heroes overcome opposing forces, the typical result is a satisfying outcome, or at least, a good story.    Struggling learners face opposing forces on a regular basis.  While not every struggling learner feels trapped inside a hostile world, many relate to the pressures of trying to uphold respect from teachers and friends while feeling like they’re letting everyone down.  These heroes feel their own disappointment and frustration, along with the disappointment and frustration of people close to them.  That’s a big burden for a child to bear alone. Try as they might, their struggle to learn can grow into anxiety, impatience, fear, humiliation, loneliness, or shame.  Many blame themselves, and develop an inner sense of dislike or distrust.  After repeated attempts to learn in a particular way, they lose confidence and faith in their own abilities to change outcomes.     Understanding dyslexia leads to empowerment Identifying dyslexia can clarify and validate your child’s learning struggles, putting him or her in control of their own story.  Terms such as diagnosis, identification, or labels need not define or limit any person, adult or child.  Instead, the knowledge can be used as a tool for greater understanding, allowing your child access to education through instruction that is appropriate for the way they learn.  Recognizing that dyslexia, also known as a Specific Learning Disability, plays a role in your child’s behavior and learning allows parents and educators to offer appropriate learning support. Dyslexia can affect: Academic performance Behavior Confidence Communication Perception of learning ability […]

January 26, 2016
10 Facts About How Poverty Impacts Education

Education reform has been a hot topic in recent years, and leaders across the political spectrum have championed measures such as increased testing and results-based evaluation of teachers and school districts. But one of the most pervasive problems affecting public schools is rarely discussed as an education issue at all. With the recent news that a majority of K-12 students in the Southern and Western United States now live in low-income households, it is time to take a serious look at how poverty affects education. Here are 10 surprising facts you may not know about poverty and its impact on children in our schools: 1. Disadvantaged even before birth. Cognitive capacity is not just a matter of genetics, but can be strongly influenced by external factors like prenatal drug use, environmental toxins, poor nutrition, and exposure to stress and violence. All of these are more prevalent in low-income households, and affect cognitive development from the prenatal stage through adulthood. 2. Less verbal exposure. A famous 1995 study by Hart and Risley demonstrated that by the age of four, children from poor households hear 32 million fewer spoken words than their better-off peers. More recent research has shown that quality of conversation differs as well. Parents with higher education and income are more likely to engage children with questions and dialogue that invite creative responses, while parents in poverty often lack the time and energy for anything more than simple and goal-oriented commands. 3. Poor sense of agency. Children growing up in poverty often experience life as a series of volatile situations over which neither they nor their caregivers have any control. Thus they fail to develop a conception of themselves as free individuals capable of making choices and acting on them to shape their lives, instead reacting to crises that are […]

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 […]

August 28, 2012
21st Century Learning: Preparing Students Today

Today, we live in a world dominated by technology. Our interactions with the world and with one another are mediated by computers, tablets and smart phones. The answer to practically any question you might have, at any moment, is a few keystrokes and fractions of a second away. In the same way that print changed how humans perceive information, now technology has once again flipped the world on its head. “We should seriously consider the claim that we are now undergoing one of the most significant technological revolutions for education since the progression from oral to print and book based teaching.” -Dr. Douglas Kellner, UCLA, New Media and New Literacies: Reconstructing Education for the New Millennium Preparing students for today’s world demands that education be delivered in a vastly different manner than what we see today in U.S. schools. In this world where information creation and discovery are taking place faster than we can bring that information to our classrooms, true 21st century learning must involve more than information literacy alone. Certainly, the traditional “3 Rs” – a shorthand way to talk about traditional content areas like reading, writing and arithmetic – play a core role in the 21st century classroom. (For the sake of argument, let’s have the 3 Rs include other traditional content domains like social studies and history.) But in this new world, those “content domains” become avenues for imparting a whole array of 21st century skills – skills that will allow students to function, learn and adapt throughout life in this post-modern world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills(P21), one of a number of organizations advocating for a revamped educational system, says that for our young people to be able to compete in the global economy, they need more than the 3 Rs; a new “4 […]

January 26, 2012
Helping Low-SES Students Thrive

Studies and statistics have clearly demonstrated the link between low achievement and low socioeconomic status or SES. Still, studies have also shown that given the right conditions, every student – including those from less fortunate circumstances – have the opportunity to succeed. Not only that, but the kinds of changes that can increase achievement are available to every household, regardless of SES. Factors linked to low-SES have been shown to have an effect upon readiness for school and achievement once a child has entered school. Circumstances include a household’s lack of financial wherewithal to devote to learning resources such as books, supplies and computers. Other contributing factors include lack of parental involvement; only 36% of low SES parents read to their kindergartners, compared to 62% in the highest SES students (Coley, 2002). In addition, parents of low SES households tend to be dual-income or single parent families who have limited time and energy at home to devote to meaningful engagement with their children. That said, many successful students do come from low-SES homes. While some of this success can be attributed to the simple innate resiliency and drive arising from within the student, research has been able to tease out a number of common factors in such homes, where certain practices are clearly contributing to student success.  Factors for Success In 2006, Allison Milne and Lee Plourde studied this population, selecting six second-grade students from a Central Washington elementary school who came from low-SES homes but were also high achievers. While the number of students in the study was limited, Milne and Plourde outline a number of common factors in their homes that likely contributed to their success: Educational content in the home:In all households, these students as early learners all had access to learning materials, such as books, writing […]

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