"Rebecca Davis sets up a coordinate plane on the floor of her classroom. Groups of 3 or 4 students are assigned equations in slope-intercept form and graph them using their bodies on the giant coordinate plane. As extensions, Ms. Davis changes the slope or y-intercept of the original equation and makes the activity into a race."
By Holly Korbey "For the typical American kindergartner, unstructured free play during the school day consists of 20 to 30 minutes of recess, and perhaps some time at indoor “stations” — perhaps creating with building blocks, costumes, or musical instruments. But what if there was more? What if the answer to “what did you do in school today?” was, “I climbed a tree, played in the mud, built a fire”?
That is exactly the kind of learning going on in the Swiss Waldkindergartens, or forest kindergartens, where children ages four to seven spend all of their school days playing outdoors, no matter the weather. With no explicit math or literacy taught until first grade, the Swiss have no set goals for kindergartners beyond a few measurements, like using scissors and writing one’s own name.
They instead have chosen to focus on the social interaction and emotional well-being found in free play. With many parents and educators overwhelmed by the amount of academics required for kindergartners — and the testing requirements at that age — it’s no surprise that the forest kindergarten, and the passion for bringing more free play to young children during the school day, is catching on stateside. Free play and inquiry learning are the cornerstone of Canada’s new all-day kindergarten program; forest kindergartens are popping up in Washington state, Vermont, and even Brooklyn."...
[Hillary is a fellow with the OpEd Project and an associate professor in the College of Education at DePaul University in Chicago.]
"Helicopter parents and teachers, stand down. Kids of all ages need time to learn through play in school."
"In classrooms across the country, the countdown to summer vacation has begun. The winter doldrums have always taken a toll, but in the era of test-dominated schooling and the controversial Common Core, it seems increasingly that it’s not until summer that teenagers have any prospect for having fun any more.
One of the casualties of current education reform efforts has been the erosion of play, creativity, and joy from teenagers’ classrooms and lives, with devastating effects. Researchers have documented a rise in mental health problems—such as anxiety and depression—among young people that has paralleled a decline in children’s opportunities to play. And while play has gotten deserved press in recent months for its role in fostering crucial social-emotional and cognitive skills and cultivating creativity and imagination in the early childhood years, a critical group has been largely left out of these important conversations. Adolescents, too—not to mention adults, as shown through Google’s efforts — need time to play, and they need time to play in school.
Early childhood educators have known about and capitalized on the learning and developmental benefits of play for ages. My five-year-old daughter has daily opportunities to play dress-up in her preschool classroom, transforming into a stethoscope-wearing fairy princess and tending to the imaginary creatures in her care. Her work during “center time” has all the hallmarks of what experts like psychologists David Elkind and Peter Gray define as play: she has choice in her pursuits, she self-directs her learning and exploration, she engages in imaginative creation, and she does all these things in a non-stressed state of interest and joy."...
"Readers have been dreading the rise of e-books since before the technology even existed. A 1991 New York Times piece predicting the imminent invention of the personal e-reader spurred the 1990s equivalent of a Twitter sh**storm: a flurry of angry letters to the editor. One reader wrote in to express his worry that the new electronic books wouldn't work in the bath.
"Twenty-three years later, half of American adults own an e-reading device. A few years ago, Obama set a goal of getting e-textbooks into every classroom by 2017. Florida lawmakers have passed legislation requiring public schools to convert their textbooks to digital versions.
Despite the embrace of e-books in certain contexts, they remain controversial. Many people just don’t like them: They run out of battery, they hurt your eyes, they don’t work in the bath. After years of growth, sales are stagnating. In 2014, 65 percent of 6 to 17-year-old children said they would always want to read books in print—up from 60 percent two years earlier."...
Image credit: Doug Neil "If you think your inability to concentrate is a hopeless condition, think again –– and breathe, and focus. According to a study by researchers at the UC Santa Barbara, as little as two weeks of mindfulness training can significantly improve one's reading comprehension, working memory capacity, and ability to focus.
Their findings were recently published online in the empirical psychology journal Psychological Science.
"What surprised me the most was actually the clarity of the results," said Michael Mrazek, graduate student researcher in psychology and the lead and corresponding author of the paper, "Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering." "Even with a rigorous design and effective training program, it wouldn't be unusual to find mixed results. But we found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it."...
By Maanvi Singh (Image credit: Elissa Nadworny/NPR)
"Thomas O'Donnell's kindergarten kids are all hopped up to read about Twiggle the anthropomorphic Turtle.
"Who can tell me why Twiggle here is sad," O'Donnell asks his class at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Baltimore.
"Because he doesn't have no friends," a student pipes up.
And how do people look when they're sad?
"They look down!" the whole class screams out.
Yeah, Twiggle is lonely. But, eventually, he befriends a hedgehog, a duck and a dog. And along the way, he learns how to play, help and share.
These are crucial skills we all need to learn, even in preschool and kindergarten. And common sense — along with a growing body of research — shows that mastering social skills early on can help people stay out of trouble all the way into their adult lives.
So shouldn't schools teach kids about emotions and conflict negotiation in the same way they teach math and reading? The creators of Twiggle the Turtle say the answer is yes.
Emotional Intelligence 101
Twiggle is part of a program called Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, or PATHS. It's designed to help young kids recognize and express emotions."...
"When it comes to learning to read, educators agree: the younger, the better. Children can be exposed to books even before they can talk, but for that a family has to have books, which isn't always the case.
There are neighborhoods in this country with plenty of books; and then there are neighborhoods where books are harder to find. Almost 15 years ago, Susan Neuman, now a professor at New York University, focused on that discrepancy, in a study that looked at just how many books were available in Philadelphia's low-income neighborhoods. The results were startling.
"We found a total of 33 books for children in a community of 10,000 children. ... Thirty-three books in all of the neighborhood," she says. By comparison, there were 300 books per child in the city's affluent communities. Neuman recently updated her study. She hasn't yet released those findings but says not much has changed.
And according to Neuman, despite advances in technology, access to print books is still important because reading out loud creates an emotional link between parent and child. "There's that immediate connection and that eye-to-eye joint attention," she says. "The parent is not looking at her cellphone or his cellphone; she is focusing on the child and the book. The second reason is the vocabulary that is contained in those books. Even very rudimentary, you know, beginning books, like board books, have vocabulary that tends to be outside the parent's normal, day-to-day interaction. So that child is learning words that he or she is likely not to see in any other place."...
"Partnership for Children & Youth is a California-based non-profit organization that finds funding, partners and solutions to help schools better serve students, and informs state and national public policy on education issues."
"Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) and the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) have teamed up to bring you this ground-breaking policy brief that examines the role of school districts in promoting family engagement.
Seeing is Believing: Promising Practices for How School Districts Promote Family Engagement spotlights how six school districts across the country have used innovative strategies to create and sustain family engagement “systems at work.” Our findings point to three core components of these successful systems: creating district-wide strategies, building school capacity, and reaching out to and engaging families.
Drawing from districts’ diverse approaches, we highlight promising practices to ensure quality, oversight, and impact from their family engagement efforts. We also propose a set of recommendations for how federal, state, and local policies can promote district-level family engagement efforts that support student learning."...
For full post, main link to Harvard Family Research Project, and to download report, click on title above or here:
"Discretionary screen time (ST) is now the main waking activity of children: a lifestyle factor as relevant to health as nutrition and physical activity. High ST is increasingly considered an independent risk factor, often exhibiting a dose–response relationship with cardiometabolic disease, unfavourable child development outcomes, and adult morbidity and mortality, ultimately placing greater pressure on primary care services.1 The US Department of Health has issued ‘recommended limits for screen time’ as one of its national ‘health improvement priorities’ and a key ‘disease prevention objective’.2 Public Health England recently reported their concern over: ‘Increased screen time … evidence suggests a “dose-response” relationship, where each additional hour of viewing increases the likelihood of experiencing socio-emotional problems’.3
As concern grows over the amount of ST, the term ‘addiction’ is increasingly used by physicians to describe the rising number of children engaging in a variety of screen activities in a dependent, problematic manner. The diagnostic vernacular is still evolving: internet addiction disorder (IAD), at-risk/problematic internet use (ARPIU), pathological video game use, video game addiction, pathological technology use, online game addiction, and more. Although the current medical focus is on ‘video gaming’, other forms of screen use, from excessive messaging and social networking to ‘porn addiction’, can also become highly problematic. While there is a lack of consensus as to whether such screen use constitutes a formal psychiatric disorder, the NHS doesn’t consider it a passing phase, stating ‘as computer use has increased, so too has computer addiction’.4
Involving primary care in this emerging problem should not be construed as medicalising a popular pastime, the thin end of the wedge leading GPs to meddle in patient lifestyles. ST is a health issue and the GP’s surgery is the entrance hall through which patients seek authoritative guidance, referral, and where education can take place. Raising parental awareness of both excessive ST and problematic, dependent screen use is vital. As the guardians of family health, GPs’ views on child health hold currency.
Unfortunately, families are courted and bedazzled, child development research is funded, and governments are lobbied by a well-heeled, highly influential technology industry. It is, therefore, incumbent on GPs to confront the iridescent elephant(s) in the room.
Irrespective of the formal status of screen ‘addictions’, those in primary care must step back and simply consider the extent to which excessive, seemingly dependent, non-work-related ST affects the health and wellbeing of patients, and ST’s impact on functioning including work, study, relationships and finances. In this rapidly developing field, a better understanding of the subject will enable physicians to make clinical and policy decisions."...
"One of the most distressing characteristics of education reformers is that they are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn. Nowhere is this misplaced emphasis more apparent, and more damaging, than in kindergarten.
A new University of Virginia study found that kindergarten changed in disturbing ways from 1999-2006. There was a marked decline in exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education and an increased emphasis on reading instruction. Teachers reported spending as much time on reading as all other subjects combined.
The time spent in child-selected activity dropped by more than one-third. Direct instruction and testing increased. Moreover, more teachers reported holding all children to the same standard.
How can teachers hold all children to the same standards when they are not all the same? They learn differently, mature at different stages – they just are not all the same especially at the age of 4-6."...
"From a press release: As part of a national movement called the Tech Timeout Academic Challenge, a San Francisco school will shut down their tech devices for three days beginning February 12th.
SAN FRANCISCO - What happens when over 1,100 students in grades K-12, at a school that prides itself on ubiquitous access to technology, power down their electronic devices for three straight days? That question will be answered on February 12-14 when students at Convent & Stuart Hall in San Francisco take The Tech Timeout Academic Challenge. It will be the first school in the greater Bay Area to take the challenge and just the third in California.
The Convent & Stuart Hall Tech Timeout is unique in that it includes students ranging in age from four to 18 and spans the divide between school-provided technology and personal devices such as cell phones. All students are encouraged to participate and will complete a pledge sheet where they list all of the technologies from which they agree to abstain. Parents can also participate and will be given a family kit that they can use to help them succeed.
“The opt-in is a critical piece,” says Howard Levin, Director of Educational Innovation and Information Services.
The hope is that participating students and their families will walk away from the Tech Timeout with a better understanding of their dependence on technology. Following the challenge, students will discuss their experience of going “tech-free” and evaluate their personal practice of how to disconnect.
“In some ways the kid that fails has a better chance of being reflective,” Howard says. “We want to create cognitive dissonance among those who join.”
This is the first year that Convent & Stuart Hall has fully adopted an ePack program across all ages designed to provide daily access to a wide range of digital tools, including a 1-to-1 program with the Apple iPad, but encompassing much more than a single device. Howard says that at the heart of the program is a desire to change the ed-tech model from “learn to use” in computer labs to a “use to learn” model where technology can aid in any lesson.
To reflect this shift, the school recently designed new positions for its ed-tech faculty. Now a team of Educational Innovation Coordinators work full-time to support teachers in the use of digital tools and innovative spaces. The administration is in part facilitating the timeout to ensure that the school continues to use the provided devices in the most effective and mindful way.
“A school like ours that embraces a 1-to-1 program needs to find balance,” Howard says. “We need to also help students not only learn how to use technology wisely, but how to recognize how devices can get in the way of having real conversations and relationships.”
The Tech Timeout Academic Challenge sponsored by Foresters will launch on Feb 12 with an assembly where students will seal their phones inside envelopes. To date, more than 16,000 students across North America have participated in the challenge."
For full post and contact information, click on title above or here:
"In the stressful final days of a long and trying semester, Colgate University professors wanted to spread some love. To get the message across, they turned to a social media scene frequented by students but foreign to many professors. They set out to take back Yik Yak by flooding the anonymous social media app with happy thoughts.
Yik Yak -- like the many “confessions websites” before it -- is associated with campus-specific hateful comments and cyber bullying.
“It started there, and we wanted to end it there,” said Eddie Watkins, an associate professor of biology at Colgate.
Racist comments on Yik Yak were responsible in part for tensions at Colgate in September that led a group of students to stage a multi-day sit-in to protest the university’s lack of diversity. Insulting -- and at times threatening -- comments reappeared on the app's Colgate page (and elsewhere) in recent weeks as people across the country have organized to protest grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police.
During the September sit-in, associate biology professor Geoff Holm knew faculty members who posted tried to spread some Colgate campus love on Yik Yak. But individually, their comments weren’t very influential.
He thought a unified effort to spread positive thoughts would be more effective, and he suggested the idea last week to a few friends who are faculty members. “If Yik Yak is really going to be a driver of campus culture, we need to be a part of that,” Holm said.
More than 50 professors posted comments through the app on Friday, the last day of classes. Posts from faculty members ranged from quoting Herman Melville and Voltaire to challenging other professors to see who could build up the most active Yik Yak account.
Most, though, offered well wishes for students as they started finals and appreciation for students’ hard work throughout the semester.
“Thanks to the students at Colgate for making my job fun. I’m sorry I can’t always return the favor, but you know I love ya,” one post from a user named Prof Woods says.
Another reads: “Bordeaux’s Study Tips 1. Real food. The brain can’t function properly on simply carbs and stimulants. 2. Get off social media and study already. (After you upvote my yak, of course.)”
Watkins said he was a bit worried that students would overwhelm professors' efforts to turn Yik Yak into a force for social good by responding with rude comments. Instead, replies called the faculty takeover “dope” and “amazing.”
“To all the professors, thank you. What a wonderful, happy thing to wake up to in the morning. You made mine and many other students’ days,” one post reads.
Outside of the virtual world, students on campus also seemed to enjoy the professors' comments, said Watkins, who heard feedback from students in the hallways and at the student center.
“Students are loving it,” Watkins said. “They’re shocked. They had no idea we even had phones, I think."
Professors didn’t have any rules about what to post, other than an encouragement to keep things positive and to identify themselves.
“People should stand behind what they say, or else they shouldn’t say it,” said Watkins, who suggested to other faulty members that they use their names when posting.
Watkins said that while some professors may continue to post on Yik Yak, he doesn't expect all his colleagues to turn into frequent users.
But that wasn't the point of the take-back. The idea was to highlight all that’s good on campus while showing students the power that even posts on an anonymous app can have over the mood on campus."...
"Vanessa Rodriguez is co-author, with Michelle Fitzpatrick, of the new book, The Teaching Brain: An Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education.
In it, they contrast behaviorist models of instruction, which cast the learner's brain as an "empty vessel" to be filled with knowledge, with cognitive psychology models, which view learning as a more dynamic and vibrant process, starting at birth.
Rodriguez taught in New York City public schools for 10 years before pursuing a doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in human development and education.
After more than a decade in the classroom, you went back to school to research and ask some fundamental questions about teaching. What prompted you to do that? Unanswered questions?
'Pretty much. It was the idea that student test scores weren't what I thought was a good measure of the complexity of teaching that was happening in classes. I really wanted to just know more about what was going on in my mind when I was going through the processes of teaching. I'd often come up against principals challenging me on why I was making certain decisions. And other than saying, 'I know it works, come into my classroom and see,' I really didn't have that foundation of evidence that's expected for why I was making certain teaching decisions that weren't the norm.'...
"As the Lawrence Student Writers Workshop, a program of Andover Bread Loaf, enters its 25th year of operation, the workshop has become a national and international prototype for dozens of educational programs around the country, including New York City, Boston, New Orleans, Durham, Cleveland, Tombstone, as well as internationally in Nairobi, Kenya; Mumbai, India; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Karachi, Pakistan. The LSWW offers 100 Lawrence public school students grades 5-10 an intensive 3 week summer writing and arts workshop that participants describe as empowering, exciting, and transformative.
The backbone of the LSWW is made-up of a team of 25 Writing Leaders, older high school and college students who are trained to be leaders and teachers, the majority of whom hail from Lawrence public schools and many participated in the LSWW as students. Day in and day out, Writing Leaders each lead and supervise their own group of 10-12 students throughout the workshop. To date, the college graduation rate for Writing Leaders is 100%."
Co-authored by the Alliance for Childhood, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment
"This guide is designed to help educators and parents make informed decisions about whether, why, how, and when to use screen technologies with young children. Just because products are marketed as “educational” doesn’t mean they are. How do we best support children’s growth, development, and learning in a world radically changed by technology?
"State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has appointed an Educator Excellence Task Force to focus on the Educator Quality element of the Blueprint for Great Schools and designed to strengthen California’s teacher corps"....
"The Educator Excellence Task Force report provides their recommendations on how to strengthen California's teacher and administrative corps."...
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