Monday, July 25, 2005

Leaders of Tomorrow

Training a New Generation of Leaders

"Most home-school teenagers are, indeed, belying the stereotype of a disengaged younger generation and consequently are gaining the attention of the national media. ABC's 'World News Tonight' recently visited the campus of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., where the weeklong Generation Joshua Summer Camp was being held.

Launched in spring 2004, Generation Joshua is a program developed by the Home School Legal Defense Association. It provides civics training to a new generation of home-schoolers. The camp focused on the need for civic engagement and taught the principles of the founding of the country."


I certainly feel that homeschoolers will be the movers and shakers of tomorrow. Their strength will come from knowing how to think, ask questions, and motivate themselves. I forsee a majority of my students pursuing their ideals whether it be in politics, business, or education.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Memory Tips & Tricks

Study Shows How Sleep Improves Memory

"A good night’s sleep triggers changes in the brain that help to improve memory, according to a new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

New memories are formed within the brain when a person engages with information to be learned (for example, memorizing a list of words or mastering a piano concerto). However, these memories are initially quite vulnerable; in order to 'stick' they must be solidified and improved. This process of 'memory consolidation' occurs when connections between brain cells as well as between different brain regions are strengthened, and for many years was believed to develop merely as a passage of time. More recently, however, it has been demonstrated that time spent asleep also plays a key role in preserving memory."

(Furthermore, it's neat that I personally know Dr. Schlaug and Dr. Nadine Gaab from my time working at BIDMC)

Memorizing information, such as multiplication tables, to utilize processing speed for further study is one of the hardest tasks that my students have. Any tricks, such as improved sleep, for consolidating memory should be used to its fullest potential.

Over the past week, three of my students have begun memorizing their multiplication tables. One of my students, an eight years old girl, was dependent on using her fingers to count up. For example, 8 x 4 becomes, 8 (thumb), 16 (index finger), 24 (middle), and 32 (ring finger). In the past she was taught, or figured out, that this method worked and continued to use it. I explained that this method was much like sounding out caaaaaaaaaaaat, every time she read the word cat. She agreed as well.

We took a new approach. Sitting on her hands, so that she’d stop relying on her fingers, I had her go through six multiplication facts. One by one, she went through a fact, answered it and then I asked her to make up an extremely detailed picture to go with the fact. For example, 9 x 3 = 27 and she pictured all three numbers playing soccer (her favorite sport).

For fun, I wanted to see if I could remember all six cards on my own after a two day hiatus. Below is what I came up with:

3 x 9 = 27 ~ Playing soccer on a field.
8 x 3 = 24 ~ 8 & 3 are being chased by an octopus with 24 tentacles.
7 x 5 = 35 ~ 7 & 5 are playing underneath a tree. The branches and leaves make a 35.
6 x 7 = 42 ~ 6 & 7 are riding a racehorse with the number 42 on its side.
9 x 9 = 81 ~ 81 is a maid at the Super 9 hotel!
8 x 4 = 32 ~ 8 & 4 are being chased by a shark with 32 teeth.

Two days after our session, she was supposed to have practiced her six facts and add three more. At the next session, she performed beautifully having memorized all nine cards. I too had remembered all six cards correctly.

After working this technique with one student, I excitedly tried it again. This time, I was working with an eight years old boy, and he was able to memorize five cards. However, he preferred to make pictures that would rhyme with the answer. For example 8 x 8 = 64 was turned into the eights eating pizza in the kitchen while the 64 sat on the floor. I'll be looking at his retention tomorrow.

I've found that it helps to give the student control in how they decide to memorize their facts. As long as they are having fun & learning, that's what matters.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Criticism of Baby Sign Language

Learning to sign before speaking

“Baby Signs is based on research showing that using signs enhances language, cognitive and social-emotional development of babies. The program originated in 1982 when two researchers at the University of California, Davis launched a study of babies and sign language.

‘We discovered that teaching babies sign language facilitated and sped up talking,’ said Linda Acredolo, a psychologist who later co-authored a best-selling book on the program. ‘And children who used sign language had higher IQs than peers who didn't.’

The researchers also noted social and emotional benefits for the babies and positive effects on the parent-child relationship. Acredolo said signing reduces frustration for the baby and parents and enables the babies to share their world.

The author of several books on child development, Greenspan said teaching babies to use specific signs and gestures introduces an artificial element into the naturally developing communication system.

'Anytime you do something repetitive with a baby you're reducing the flexibility and creativity of the child,' Greenspan said. 'I don't want to say that parents who use sign language are doing something bad or wrong, that only makes the parent feel bad. But why not let your child learn to ask for a drink 30 different ways instead of just using one sign? What if there was only one way to express love? Or one gesture to show love?'"


Greenspan misses one important aspect of creativity and flexibility; children use sign language outside of original context. This application of information to other areas displays the child’s understanding of a concept.

When I worked as a nanny, transition times were always difficult. After meals the children tended to signal that they were done by squirming, standing up in their highchair, or sometimes yelling. To alleviate the stress (and to provide a better alternative), I taught the children to raise their arms in the air to signal “all done.” It worked brilliantly and mealtime became much easier for the children and myself since we could communicate more effectively.

To my surprise, in a short period of time, I noticed that their new communication skills were being implemented in other areas. When they were done playing or were ready for a new activity the “all done” sign would appear. Sometimes "all done" would be made into a joke where the child would produce the gesture after one bite of food; when asked if they were really done, the child would laugh and continue with their meal. This clearly demonstrated flexible and creative thinking. Furthermore, being able to communicate made for a more stress free environment, which is of the utmost importance to a child’s development.