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Archive for the ‘Language development’ Category

Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, speaking at the launch of Pre-K for MA.  Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, speaking at the launch of Pre-K for MA. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Launched this spring, the Pre-K for MA coalition has been growing, and we’re inviting you to join us by becoming a Voice of Support.

As we blogged in the spring, Pre-K for MA is an effort to expand access to high-quality early education programs. This effort is being led by Strategies for Children and Stand for Children Massachusetts.

As the Pre-K for MA website says, “High-quality early education has been shown to have a significant short- and long-term impact on children’s educational, health, social, and economic outcomes. Yet in Massachusetts, we have not invested enough in Pre-K, leaving the ‘kindergarten readiness’ challenge up to parents to figure out on their own.”

That’s why Pre-K for MA supports a bill filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) called “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

The bill calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey by providing “access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts,” as this fact sheet explains (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Play is making a comeback in kindergarten classes located in the Maryland suburb of Pasadena, according to a recent New York Times article, “Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom.”

But support for play varies based on class-related ideas about what children need most: more play or more academics.

Describing Pasadena’s new approach to play, the Times writes:

“Mucking around with sand and water. Playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Cooking pretend meals in a child-size kitchen. Dancing on the rug, building with blocks and painting on easels.

“Call it Kindergarten 2.0.”

“Concerned that kindergarten has become overly academic in recent years, this suburban school district south of Baltimore is introducing a new curriculum in the fall for 5-year-olds. Chief among its features is a most old-fashioned concept: play.”

Some teachers are excited about the new approach.

“But educators in low-income districts say a balance is critical,” the Times notes. “They warn that unlike students from affluent families, poorer children may not learn the basics of reading and math at home and may fall behind if play dominates so much that academics wither.” (more…)

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Photo Source: WIDA Store

Photo Source: WIDA Store

Tomorrow and Thursday, the Department of Early Education and Care — in partnership with WIDA Early Years — is hosting a two-day institute on the WIDA Early English Language Development (E-ELD) Standards Framework.

“Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the WIDA Early English Language Development (E-ELD) Standards Framework, and how to apply that understanding to their daily work with children,” according to a program announcement.

We recently blogged about E-ELD here.

Participants who attend the institute will be able to:

• “Identify the foundational principles and components of the WIDA E-ELD Standards Framework”  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This blog was originally published on May 9, 2013.

Children’s vocabulary is a key ingredient of learning to read with comprehension, but recent research finds limited instruction in vocabulary in kindergarten – and too little to enable children with small vocabularies to close the vocabulary gap that is evident long before they begin school.

Susan B. Neuman, a professor in educational studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Tanya S. Wright, an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University in East Lansing, analyzed observations of 55 kindergarten teachers’ instruction in a variety of school districts. They found limited instruction in vocabulary in most settings, but low-income children were least likely to be taught the kind of sophisticated, academic words that will help them succeed in school

“Vocabulary is a deceptively simple literacy skill that researchers and educators agree is critical to students’ academic success, but which has proved frustratingly difficult to address,” Education Week reports. “By age 3, when many children enter early preschool, youngsters from well-to-do families have a working vocabulary of 1,116 words, compared to 749 words for children in working-class families and 525 words for children on welfare, according to a seminal 2003 longitudinal study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, authors of the 1995 book ‘Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.’

“The consensus among researchers and educators has been that students must close such vocabulary gaps to succeed academically and deal with rigorous content. (more…)

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“Singing—much like rhyming—is a special form of language that improves children’s memory, and teaches them rhythm and melody. Brain research has shown that when children are sung to, both the left and right sides of their brains are activated, strengthening their neural connections. Singing can also teach children new vocabulary words.

“But children don’t get the same benefits from listening to a CD or musical video. According to Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, the benefits to brain development occurs best when a parent or caregiver sings directly to, and with, a young child.”

“Even Singing Off Key Can Bring a Smile to Children’s Faces,” a blog post on the website Too Small to Fail, March 11, 2015

(And parents, don’t just sing to your child, think about how they can participate in the song.)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Researchers know that talking to babies helps their vocabularies grow. The more words infants hear the better. But studies show that in addition to more words, babies benefit from hearing more complex words. And as children grow, parents can help by having more “abstract” conversations.

Meredith Rowe, a Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) professor, explains her findings on language development in an interview posted on HGSE’s “Usable Knowledge” website.

“We’ve known for a while that the quantity of input matters. I think the shift to a focus on quality rather than quantity was a natural next step in the field,” Rowe explains, adding:

“It is much easier to send a message about quantity, but if we know that quality trumps quantity, statistically, then perhaps we can really try and change the message to be more about having high-quality conversations with children rather than just ‘talking a lot.’”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

This month, a National Geographic article explores “Baby Brains,” looking at the factors that hinder or help infants’ neurological development.

“Peering inside children’s brains with new imaging tools, scientists are untangling the mystery of how a child goes from being barely able to see when just born to being able to talk, ride a tricycle, draw, and invent an imaginary friend by the age of five,” the article explains. “The more scientists find out about how children acquire the capacity for language, numbers, and emotional understanding during this period, the more they realize that the baby brain is an incredible learning machine. Its future—to a great extent—is in our hands.”

The article adds: “The amount of brain activity in the earliest years affects how much there is later in life.” A picture of the EEG scans of eight-year-olds shows “that institutionalized children who were not moved to a nurturing foster care environment before they were two years old have less activity than those who were.” Again, early nurturing was essential for building brains.  (more…)

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