Our High Tech Kids

chess is my game

Our High Tech Kids

Today I am writ­ing about hand­writ­ing, but it is just one more ingre­di­ent in this high tech world that has neg­a­tive impli­ca­tions for our chil­dren. Handwriting is even­tu­ally going to be a thing of the past. There are so many more high tech ways to com­mu­ni­cate and schools are begin­ning to focus on those alter­nate meth­ods.

As a stu­dent I have found that writ­ing notes helped me to remem­ber impor­tant details much bet­ter than if I had typed them. My own chil­dren found the same strat­egy to be true. Conversely, I can write more cre­atively when I type. I teach writ­ing to young chil­dren to facil­i­tate read­ing. It helps them to sin­gle out let­ter sounds and sight words in iso­la­tion and then apply it to text. Clearly, the act of writin,as well as typ­ing, has an impact and now we know more about why that is.

In a recent New York Times arti­cle it was said that:

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain bet­ter able to gen­er­ate ideas and retain infor­ma­tion. In other words, it’s not just what we write that mat­ters — but how.

When we write, a unique neural cir­cuit is auto­mat­i­cally acti­vated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psy­chol­o­gist at the Collège de France in Paris. “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,” he con­tin­ued. “Learning is made eas­ier.”

2012 study led by Karin James, a psy­chol­o­gist at Indiana University, lent sup­port to that view. Children who had not yet learned to read and write were pre­sented with a let­ter or a shape on an index card and asked to repro­duce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dot­ted out­line, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a com­puter. They were then placed in a brain scan­ner and shown the image again.

The researchers found that the ini­tial dupli­ca­tion process mat­tered a great deal. When chil­dren had drawn a let­ter free­hand, they exhib­ited increased activ­ity in three areas of the brain that are acti­vated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the infe­rior frontal gyrus and the pos­te­rior pari­etal cor­tex.

By con­trast, chil­dren who typed or traced the let­ter or shape showed no such effect. The acti­va­tion was sig­nif­i­cantly weaker.

Dr. James attrib­utes the dif­fer­ences to the messi­ness inher­ent in free-form hand­writ­ing: Not only must we first plan and exe­cute the action in a way that is not required when we have a trace­able out­line, but we are also likely to pro­duce a result that is highly vari­able.

In a study that fol­lowed chil­dren in grades two through five,Virginia Berninger, a psy­chol­o­gist at the University of Washington, demon­strated that print­ing, cur­sive writ­ing, and typ­ing on a key­board are all asso­ci­ated with dis­tinct and sep­a­rate brain pat­terns — and each results in a dis­tinct end prod­uct. When the chil­dren com­posed text by hand, they not only con­sis­tently pro­duced more words more quickly than they did on a key­board, but expressed more ideas. And brain imag­ing in the old­est sub­jects sug­gested that the con­nec­tion between writ­ing and idea gen­er­a­tion went even fur­ther. When these chil­dren were asked to come up with ideas for a com­po­si­tion, the ones with bet­ter hand­writ­ing exhib­ited greater neural acti­va­tion in areas asso­ci­ated with work­ing mem­ory — and increased over­all acti­va­tion in the read­ing and writ­ing net­works.

We live in an age where mod­ern con­ve­niences are chang­ing at light­ning speed. The way we com­mu­ni­cate, watch TV, use computers……………………….all dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent than just two years ago. Even the food we eat is less whole­some than in years past. Our brain and other organs are still the same and requires proper stim­u­la­tion and nour­ish­ment. It scares me to think of how we may be hurt­ing our chil­dren as a result of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

I urge all par­ents and teach­ers to be fully mind­ful as we pre­pare our chil­dren towards their future.



I Am Curious About Curiosity


I am Curious About Curiosity

Why , why, why.

Parents can get so tired of explain­ing things to curi­ous three, four and five year old chil­dren.

But why, when chil­dren grow up, do so many cease to be curi­ous?

The new com­mon core cur­ricu­lum strives to encour­age crit­i­cal think­ing and increase a child’s appetite to learn more about the world.

The basic tenets of Montessori are to allow a child’s desire to learn be the dri­ving force of their early edu­ca­tion. I feel that there is a lot of truth to that prin­ci­ple.

As a retired kinder­garten teacher, and now a pri­vate tutor, I encour­age chil­dren to explore sub­jects that they won­der about. Stimulating their sense of won­der will set the stage for more advanced learn­ing when the details are devel­op­men­tally appro­pri­ate for them to under­stand. Additionally, won­der­ing and ques­tion­ing encour­ages the kind of crit­i­cal think­ing stu­dents need to ana­lyze infor­ma­tion and make the kind of con­nec­tions nec­es­sary for deeper under­stand­ing.

What are you curi­ous about?


Parenting and School Success

Good Parents Great Kids


Thomas Friedman’s edi­to­r­ial in the New York Times brought back many mem­o­ries of frus­tra­tion with our edu­ca­tional sys­tem. In this piece he points his fin­ger at the parental ingre­di­ent for stu­dent suc­cess. High school teach­ers spoke about the hours of extra atten­tion they gave their stu­dents and lamented about the lack of par­ent sup­port as evi­denced by the most basic miss­ing ingre­di­ent: home­work. 

There is always room for improve­ment and our edu­ca­tional sys­tem is far from per­fect. We are con­tin­u­ously shin­ing a light on how schools can meet children’s needs more effec­tively. Why do we con­tinue to neglect the most impor­tant fac­tor in a child’s school and over­all suc­cess?

Parenting, at any age, but most impor­tantly the early stages, is crit­i­cal. This is when chil­dren learn how to over­come obsta­cles, become respon­si­ble, develop con­fi­dence and strive to be the best they can be. These ingre­di­ents will impact a child’s suc­cess in school more than any­thing else.

All fam­i­lies, with and with­out money, can do bet­ter. Schools must develop strate­gies to ele­vate par­ent­ing with­out the tra­di­tional blind­ers. Yes, we want our chil­dren to do bet­ter in school and fam­ily math nights and pub­lish­ing par­ties are fab­u­lous ways of engag­ing every­one. Issues such as enabling, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, anger man­age­ment, screen time, sib­ling rivalry, coop­er­a­tion and inde­pen­dence are the basis for suc­cess in school and life. Let’s build an infra­struc­ture that will sup­port our chil­dren and stop think­ing schools can do it all. 





As a teacher and a par­ent, I know there is a fine line between authen­tic and non-con­di­tional praise. If every­thing is won­der­ful, than there is no con­nec­tion with true effort. Motivation may actu­ally be reduced and all the flow­ery words will become like back­ground noise; mean­ing­less. Appropriate praise with mea­sured encour­age­ment and cor­rec­tion will go a long way to help a child be moti­vated and develop a strong sense of self con­fi­dence.

As your child pre­pares for the kinder­garten entrance exam (gifted and tal­ented, ERB or Stanford Binet) keep in mind that the most impor­tant thing you as a par­ent can do is to teach your child that they are capa­ble. Attacking ques­tions that may be dif­fi­cult can cause a child to give up too soon and take a ran­dom guess. If a child feels that they have suc­cess­fully fig­ured some­thing out even when it ini­tially appeared out of their reach, they may be more likely to think clearly and be more accu­rate.

The dif­fer­ence of a few points may decide your child’s score and there­fore their options for kinder­garten.  If you work with your child at home you need to encour­age and instruct care­fully. A child wants to please their par­ent and will react more extremely to a parent’s efforts to cor­rect and instruct. A hearty dose of smiles, praise and a dash of instruc­tion is the key to rais­ing their level of per­for­mance and con­fi­dence.

Best of luck and let me know if I can help.







I am writ­ing this blog entry as I am liv­ing it. Most, really all, of my blogs speak from a place of expe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence. I have prac­ticed what I preach and know my insights and strate­gies can be very help­ful and effec­tive.

Today I am inspired to dis­cuss an issue that has long eluded me and it’s time to deal with it.


Ahhhh, I even love the sound of it. A per­fect evening, per­fect weather, a per­fect career, and of course per­fect chil­dren.

How crazy is it that I would strive for per­fec­tion in my chil­dren? How crazy is it that fam­i­lies live in an envi­ron­ment where chil­dren are com­pared and judged. Is my child pop­u­lar, are they smart, are they ath­letic and how beau­ti­ful are they?

Clearly no per­son, young or small can be per­fect. Perfect doesn’t even exist. But striv­ing for that goal, or want­ing that life, dimin­ishes the life we have.

At the Emmy award this year some­one and I can­not remem­ber who, thanked their mom for not wor­ry­ing about him. Imagine what that means.  Think about why we worry about our chil­dren. Do we want them to be dif­fer­ent? Does our worry impact them in a neg­a­tive way? Does it detract from their con­fi­dence level because clearly mom or dad may be con­cerned?

My goal these past years is to have patience and con­fi­dence. Set aside worry and live in the moment. It is huge for me as I tend to worry, and often need­lessly. But giv­ing up the idea of per­fec­tion and accept­ing what­ever it is I have, that would bring me peace of mind and that would be much bet­ter than per­fec­tion.




Gifted and Talented In New York City



I met Alex as he was prepar­ing for the bat­tery of tests NYC stu­dents must often take to get into the gifted and tal­ented classes or Hunter Elementary School.He was such an engag­ing stu­dent and we enjoyed our time together.

I once asked him if he was inter­ested in writ­ing a book and showed him my first stu­dent authored book: “Chess Is My Game”. He imme­di­ately took to the idea and is now proud to present it to you. He took spe­cial plea­sure in dress­ing up and choos­ing loca­tions for the shot. I think chil­dren will delight in the illus­tra­tions and will relate to their inno­cence. 

I would love it if you checked it out and bought it for your grand­chil­dren, chil­dren, or stu­dents. It can be a huge moti­va­tor for any­one who is learn­ing to write and even author their own book. 




Karate Is My Sport, a book by and for young readers



As a par­ent edu­ca­tor and a tutor for early read­ers, I am pleased to announce the  sec­ond book authored by my youngest stu­dent. 

Once a child has a solid foun­da­tion of let­ter sounds they can begin to use inven­tive spelling to rep­re­sent words. Photographs or their own illus­tra­tions add the fin­ish­ing touch. 

As a sea­soned and now retired kinder­garten teacher, I am able to pub­lish a book that has con­trolled vocab­u­lary, repet­i­tive and pre­dic­tive text with pic­tures to pro­vide a solid clue to the unknown word. The result is a book that the author is very proud of, as well as a book that can be an inst­pi­ra­tion to young read­ers and writ­ers in gen­eral.



Kindergarten in New York City



Kindergarten and Play


Last week, in yoga, the teacher inno­cently instructs us to be play­ful with our pose. Pretend that you are in kinder­garten she relates. I fume. Kindergarten has very lit­tle to do with play these days…..though I wish it did.  And why do peo­ple still think it does? There are schools that still value a less struc­tured and aca­d­e­mic cur­ricu­lum but those are few and far between. Many preschools, as well as par­ents, encour­age learn­ing basic skills such as the alpha­bet and num­ber recog­ni­tion as a way to give their child a leg up. The value of pre­tend play, exer­cis­ing fine and gross motor skills (small and large mus­cles,) and build­ing a child’s capac­ity for com­plex learn­ing tasks are sig­nif­i­cantly diin­ished. Instead, kinder­garten cur­ricu­lum goes straight to hard core aca­d­e­mics with limit­ted time for a five year old to be emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally free. Easels are gone…too messy. Fingerpainting is out. Clay is rarely used and soon crayons will be sub­sti­tuted for iPads. Worksheets are fre­quently used.


Many edu­ca­tors believe that this push to teach kinder­gart­ners in this way is inap­pro­pri­ate and inef­fec­tive. Children who are allowed to explore and exper­i­ment are more likely to be moti­vated to learn. Critical think­ing, which is at the heart of the new com­mon core cur­ricu­lum, is increased and chil­dren develop their social emo­tional skills in a sup­port­ive set­ting.


Parents who strive to give their chil­dren the best edu­ca­tion may look for the most rig­or­ous set­ting. In my opin­ion, a school that pro­vides great stim­u­la­tion for a child’s nat­ural curios­ity and then sup­ports them with a flex­i­ble envi­ron­ment in which to explore will be most effec­tive.


New York City pro­vides many options in both the pub­lic and pri­vate arena. Tests such as the ERB for pri­vate schools are impor­tant to some schools but not oth­ers. The G&T pro­gram may be an option but is often unac­cept­able. Hunter Elementary School is a great school but your child must per­form excep­tion­ally on the Stanford Binet Exam which is an IQ test. There are many gen­eral pub­lic schools that are won­der­ful options if you live within the school’s bound­aries. 

As you explore kinder­garten for your child’s next aca­d­e­mic step be aware of the trap­ping of the so called “top ten schools.”There is more to look at than a school’s rank­ing. Observe well and seek the advice of edu­ca­tors you respect. 






Early Readers

chess is my game


As a par­ent edu­ca­tor and a tutor for early read­ers, I am pleased to announce the first book authored by my youngest stu­dent. 

Once a child has a solid foun­da­tion of let­ter sounds then they can begin to use inven­tive spelling to rep­re­sent words. Photographs or  their own illus­tra­tions add the fin­ish­ing touch. 

As a sea­soned and now retired kinder­garten teacher, I am able to pub­lish a book that has con­trolled vocab­u­lary, repet­i­tive and pre­dic­tive text with pic­tures to pro­vide a solid clue to the unknown word. The result is a book that the author is very proud of, as well as a book that can be an inst­pi­ra­tion to young read­ers and writ­ers in gen­eral. 

I am proud of this first book and will soon be announc­ing his sec­ond in this series. Karate Is My Sport.




The Myth of Gifted Education in New York City



As an edu­ca­tor I can fully appre­ci­ate the needs of highly gifted chil­dren. They see the world dif­fer­ently and often require unique strate­gies and oppor­tu­ni­ties for learn­ing and reach­ing their poten­tial.

In New York City chil­dren enter­ing kinder­garten are required to take a stan­dard­ized test if they want to be part of the Gifted and Talented Program. Many par­ents see this as an oppor­tu­nity for an ele­vated edu­ca­tion. The real­ity is that the chil­dren who test into these pro­grams are usu­ally not the excep­tional chil­dren edu­ca­tors con­sider gifted. They are bright, they are inquis­i­tive, they learn more eas­ily than some oth­ers, but they cer­tainly do not require spe­cial­ized instruc­tion. What they do need is an atten­tive and nur­tur­ing teacher, a rich cur­ricu­lum that respects their devel­op­men­tal stage and an envi­ron­ment that is safe and stim­u­lat­ing.  

In California, where I taught for over thirty years, there were two lev­els of gift­ed­ness. The sem­i­nar pro­gram was solely for highly gifted stu­dents. The for­mula for the “clus­ter pro­gram,” the sec­ond tier of gift­ed­ness, was that 25% of the class needed to be iden­ti­fied as gifted while the rest of the class was not. This shifted the focus of the instruc­tion to a higher level and was meant to raise the bar for the entire class of chil­dren. Differentiated teach­ing was still nec­es­sary and any decent teacher knows that dif­fer­en­ti­ated teach­ing and indi­vid­u­al­ized instruc­tion must always be part of the plan. Children all learn at dif­fer­ent speeds and modal­i­ties. Attention must be paid to these dif­fer­ences.

In my opin­ion, the major ben­e­fit of a gifted class is not the teach­ing style or the cur­ricu­lum. It is the stu­dent. The ben­e­fits of a class that is com­prised of high achiev­ers are that a teacher can move quicker and delve deeper into all sub­jects. Class dis­cus­sions are richer and stu­dents are moti­vated by their peers. In classes that lack bright stu­dents there is a greater chance that chil­dren will have learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties as well as behav­ior prob­lems. The teacher’s time may be skewed d to the most chal­leng­ing stu­dents and a bright, well behaved child may get a poor aca­d­e­mic expe­ri­ence.

In New York City, where I was born and raised, and now live, I am wit­ness­ing many frus­trated par­ents who are unable to enroll their child in a good school. Their child may have tested high on the G&T exam but denied a slot due to lack of open­ings. Also, their child may not have received a high enough score and there­fore their choices were lim­ited. Some chil­dren may get into a gifted pro­gram but the com­mute may be so long that it would be unac­cept­able to even con­sider. Many chil­dren have no choice than go to a neigh­bor­hood school even though those schools are floun­der­ing. Teachers, par­ents as well as school admin­is­tra­tors are frus­trated and there is no solu­tion in sight. Throwing money at schools has not been shown to make a dif­fer­ence. Testing has become a new source for cor­rup­tion and neglect as schools find them­selves being dri­ven to raise test scores at the expense of qual­ity instruc­tion.  Charter schools can be won­der­ful but, more often than not, are poorly man­aged and must report to a board who are overly inter­ested in their finan­cial invest­ment.

Benjamin Disraeli once said: “Upon the edu­ca­tion of the peo­ple of this coun­try, the fate of this coun­try depends.” Can we afford to con­tinue to let our pub­lic schools floun­der and die? We con­tinue to explore and strate­gize solu­tions but what if the solu­tion is not found within the school sys­tem but the child who enters it? What if that child came from a home where par­ents were involved, had ele­vated par­ent­ing skills and part­nered with the child’s teacher? Early edu­ca­tion for chil­dren and par­ents as well as ongo­ing par­ent­ing sup­port  is a path  to change the fate of our pub­lic schools. Every class­room should have a pas­sion­ate teacher and stu­dents who are eager and capa­ble of learn­ing. All schools should be good schools. Anything less is unac­cept­able.


Related links

The Failure of The American Schools:



Gifted Education:



No Rich Child Left Behind: 



Geoffrey Canada: