Suggested Reading for 2/8/13

suggestedreadingHey everyone! Welcome, new readers! I don’t know where y’all came from, but I’m glad you’re here. Mondays and Wednesdays I post something substantial; Fridays are my recommended readings for early-childhood-related matters. Enjoy!

Teacher Tom follows up last week’s excellent meditation on violent play at preschool with new insights—namely, that the game feels a lot different when you’re a part of it. It turns out play isn’t just powerful for kids; it’s powerful for adults too. Also, some thoughts about the ongoing question of clean-up time—particularly relevant to parents.

Saw this nifty image, and thought it was such a cool idea for kids learning to read!

Here’s a nice little example from How We Montessori about what “practical life” experiences for young children can look like at home. So simple, yet so inspiring. And an activity that I remember from my childhood but haven’t thought of since. Hammers and nails! What a great fine-motor builder.

From Picklebums, a perfect, simple little idea for sensory play: salt!

From Not Just Cute, a useful examination of why children lie, and what we can do about it. The explanation section is particularly good. I think in addition to the strategies she mentions, it’s important to remember that, for all the reasons listed, kids just aren’t very good at adhering to the truth—therefore, it’s important for adults not to place unrealistic expectations on children.

Some fascinating new research, described in the New York Times, about how our brains deal with stress, and what effects our genes have on how our brains deal with stress, and how those differences play out in academic testing and assessment situations. Very compelling.

Here’s an opinion column from the New York Times about how elementary schools are failing to meet the developmental needs of boys, as evidenced by the divergance of their grades and standardized test scores, as well as other achievement measures. A friend posted this article on Facebook, and I wrote this in response:

Okay, I have some thoughts. First off, the “misalignment” between test scores and grades would be an indication that these metrics clearly aren’t measuring the same thing as each other. The fact that classroom grades incorporate “non-cognitive skills” is, to me, one of the MANY reasons standardized test scores are crap. The non-cognitive skills mentioned here all fall under the heading of “executive function” or “self regulation,” and they’re all measurably more important to school and life success than academic skills (eg writing, math), and as important as cognitive skills (eg, problem solving, organizing information). The problem is that beyond preschool (ahem) we as a country mostly don’t think about teaching these skills. Which is ridiculous, because these skills are, as I said, crucial to success however you define it. The thing I think the article glosses over is the extent to which these skills are LEARNABLE. We have realized that girls aren’t intrinsicly worse than boys at math and science; it’s just that environment we put kids in doesn’t meet the needs of girls trying to learn math and science as well as boys’ needs. In a precise analogue, it’s not that boys are intrinsicly worse at learning to self-regulate than girls; it’s that the environment we put kids in meets boys’ socio-emotional needs less than girls’, and we haven’t figured out how to teach boys those skills very well. Except, again, in preschool, where the question of “how do we meet the diverse physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional needs of a roomful of children who are all developing differently” is literally an everyday affair. Adaptations like the trampoline you mention are an example of an enormous toolbox we bring to bear on any issue where we discover, “Hm, apparently our environment is not allowing these children to be successful. How do we change our environment?”

Finally, for your listening pleasure, a show about “Kid Logic” from This American Life. Some wonderfully entertaining true stories about mistakes children make in thinking; then a serious fictional story about kids in emotional distress; then a really sad and touching story about a child dealing with his father’s dementia and declining health. Overall, really excellent portraits of how kids think.

If you’ve read anything good, post it in the comments!

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