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.

 

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I Am Curious About Curiosity

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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?

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ERB or Not To ERB

 

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The New York Times sent shock waves through the world of NYC preschool par­ents when it informed us of the end to the dreaded ERB test. The test was now not rec­om­mended by a panel of experts due to the vast amount of “prep­ping” going on and the unhealthy use of ERB scores as a way for par­ents to show­case their child’s bril­liance. 

My first reac­tion, as a tutor who, yes I admit it, helps to pre­pare chil­dren for the ERB was great. I hate the notion of test­ing and the ridicu­lous hoops par­ents and chil­dren must jump through just to get into a school that will be a pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence. But then real­ity set in. How will schools make deci­sions about who is accepted and who is not? Obviously schools can­not accept every­one so how will the new sys­tem work? I have asked sev­eral of the direc­tors at the schools who have decided to see how life with­out the ERB will unfold and it appears that much of the change will be in for­mat rather than con­tent. By this they mean that they will observe chil­dren at play, they will have infor­mal ses­sions with them and yes, an assess­ment will be made. Scoring will be vague, at least at first, and par­ents will be informed as to how well they did in sub­jec­tive terms. You can be assured that most, if not all, skills pre­vi­ously assessed will still be con­sid­ered.

As an ele­men­tary school teacher for over thirty years I can tell you most earnestly that screen­ing chil­dren prior to kinder­garten is impor­tant. Some chil­dren require spe­cial instruc­tion out­side of a main­stream class­room. It’s won­der­ful to have a nice blend of chil­dren with dif­fer­ent tal­ents and var­i­ous back­grounds.

I am totally in favor of some kind of screen­ing for every school. Eliminating the ERB’s is a step in the right direc­tion. Competition in NYC and par­ents using their chil­dren as tro­phies is another mat­ter com­pletely.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/education/on-entrance-test-whose-days-appear-numbered-a-95-just-wasnt-good-enough.html?_r=0

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Kindergarten Decisions

The fol­low­ing is a piece writ­ten by a par­ent who strug­gled through the myr­iad of hoops prior to her child’s entrance into kinder­garten and then strug­gled with the deci­sion to take a cov­eted gifted and tal­ented spot or accept the ease and com­fort of a pri­vate school. I am post­ing this for all par­ents who just went through it and for par­ents who shortly will. It is well writ­ten, poignant and illus­trates the real­i­ties of the New York City school envi­ron­ment. In a recent phone call from a par­ent I lis­tened as she grap­pled with a dif­fer­ent choice: a gifted and tal­ented spot for both her twins or a spot in a closer school; a char­ter called Success Academy. I am so glad that both choices were accept­able. No mat­ter what school your child attends, their suc­cess and hap­pi­ness will largely depend on their teach­ers. Teachers will be happy and moti­vated at a school that respects its’ fac­ulty and oper­ates in a sen­si­ble man­ner. Make some effort to sur­vey the teach­ers and you will gain valu­able infor­ma­tion to help you decide your child’s next big step. Good luck and don’t for­get to breath and smile. . 

 

THE DECISION, IN RETROSPECT
By Anna Li

Today I vis­ited my daughter’s class­room for their end-of-the-year cel­e­bra­tion.  Her music teacher had pre­pared the stu­dents to sing two songs from The Sound of Music, in addi­tion to other orig­i­nal songs about their Kindergarten expe­ri­ences.  While they were per­form­ing, their com­puter teacher dropped by to make sure every­thing was set for the photo-mon­tage pre­sen­ta­tion.  Diplomas were handed out, bows were taken.  It was adorable and there were few dry eyes in the room. 

My daugh­ter goes to pub­lic school gifted and tal­ented pro­gram.

A year and a half ago I had planned and pre­pared and nav­i­gated through the Kindergarten appli­ca­tion process in New York City.  I went through reg­u­la­tions, appli­ca­tions, guide­lines, dead­lines, and more dead­lines, all the while keep­ing my child happy through­out the process as I cam­ou­flaged my anx­i­ety.  

Like some of you in New York City, we saved a spot with a deposit at a pri­vate school in the West Village, which we truly adored.  When we finally received our gifted and tal­ented seat assign­ment in the pub­lic schools, we com­pared both schools care­fully. We looked read­ing, writ­ing, math, lan­guages, arts, com­puter, sci­ences, phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion, nutri­tion, human­ity, and finally home­work load and com­mute. 

In the end, we felt both schools were on par with each other, account­ing for their dif­fer­ences: one offered for­eign lan­guage (pri­vate), the other: none.  One began com­puter in Kindergarten (pub­lic), the other, 2nd grade.  One had a pool and a bicy­cle-rid­ing pro­gram (pub­lic!)…  The list goes on.  I believe that par­ents will have to sup­ple­ment at any school, so we opted for the one that saved us $37,000 annu­ally. 

By now, you have made your deci­sion.  You did all your home­work, but hope­fully you were also warned by prin­ci­pals and par­ent coor­di­na­tors not to ignore the less obvi­ous, like home­work load, com­mute and per­son­al­ity of the school.  Your job was not to get your child into the best school; it was to get your child into the right school.

All year long, I’ve asked myself if we suc­ceeded in choos­ing the school in which our Lili was meant to be. 

Lili’s cur­rent edu­ca­tion is more rig­or­ous that that of our local school, and I can see the results.  She is cur­rently read­ing at almost sec­ond grade level, and she does writ­ing and math work­shops daily, which allow her to write sto­ries and express her­self more effec­tively.  The school also fills out her week with music, art, dance, the­ater, com­puter and cook­ing.  And she has made the kind of friends she’d stick up for in a play­ground.  

One of the biggest draws for us is that the school has a Kind and Gentle pro­gram, which they prac­tice daily.  (My daugh­ter loves school so much, that she makes her friends play “school” when she has them over on play dates.  This is tor­ture for her boy-friends, who I have over­heard ask, “Am I done yet?”)

Despite my daughter’s suc­cesses this year, there are, of course, some regrets I have about our deci­sion.  

First, I under­es­ti­mated the travel fac­tor in my child’s day.

I am one of the lucky moth­ers; the yel­low bus was not a prob­lem for my child.  Many kids cried and refused, adding an addi­tional com­mute to the entire family’s day.  However, the 40-minute ride home from school -and hers is by far not the longest- is in lieu of valu­able play­time.  By the time she returns home, all her neigh­bor­hood friends are well into their play dates.  On days when she has after-school, between travel time and home­work, there’s no time for play.  Plus she’s not just los­ing free time; her friend­ships are slip­ping away because she’s absent from the neigh­bor­hood.

I also didn’t quite real­ize what impact home­work would have on our sched­ule. Yes, she reads chap­ter books, and has cor­rect hand­writ­ing.  However, in order to do this, her school­days are more struc­tured, as are her after­noons.  Couple travel with home­work, and free time becomes a real chal­lenge.  Each week we take home read­ing, writ­ing, and math.  I say “we” because Lili and I are in it together.  Her angst is my angst, just as her joys are mine too. 

I will admit, Lili is on the verge of over-booked, although she has far less after­school than some of the other chil­dren in her class.  I man­age my daughter’s schedule/workload by moth­er­ing over­time to make sure she is happy, not just enter­tained.  I cam­ou­flage home­work to seem like it’s our game, which works most of the time.  I have her friends over so she can spend more time with them after doing home­work — I have an entire agenda, which includes every­thing from candy and sure-fire din­ners, to large-screen TV movie show­ings and marsh­mal­low dec­o­rat­ing.  I jump through hoops, basi­cally, because she is still just a five year old, albeit going on fif­teen.

As far as I’m con­cerned, Kindergarten is one of the last times a child has to be truly care­free.  Free play is invalu­able to a young child’s intel­lect, to her abil­ity to process what is hap­pen­ing to and around her. When we trade free play for struc­tured classes in the name of get­ting ahead, we are doing just that: get­ting ahead of our­selves.    

It may sound to you like I am not happy with my deci­sion.  On the con­trary: I am thrilled.  Yes, I mourn the sweet sim­plic­ity of a neigh­bor­hood expe­ri­ence for my daugh­ter.  But this first year has been a gift nonethe­less. Lili loved her teacher so much, she some­times called her Mama, and vice versa. She marched around those hall­ways and up and down the stairs like she owned the place.  She now wakes up and reads half a dozen books by her­self in bed, before begin­ning her day.

Ultimately, I won­der how this accel­er­ated early edu­ca­tion will affect her, or her future.  Will it make it eas­ier for Lili to get into a bet­ter mid­dle school?  Will we see a domino effect, thus help­ing her to an excel­lent high school?  Should I even be think­ing this far in advance?

I look back on last year, when I won­dered why I was jump­ing through all those hoops.  Now, as Kindergarten has come to an end, I am able to under­stand how my daugh­ter has grown, and learned to deal with her expe­ri­ences.  I real­ized, this past year, that the onus of choos­ing the right kinder­garten was about set­ting my child up for a life­time of not just learn­ing, but lov­ing to learn. 

Making the right kinder­garten choice is pos­si­bly one of the biggest edu­ca­tional deci­sions of a child’s life­time.  If they are in love with learn­ing in their early years, there’s no hold­ing them back.  Lili has found her spot at her Chelsea school.  She was just intro­duced to her First Grade teacher for next year, and now I’m find­ing pieces of paper from Lili prac­tic­ing writ­ing her name.  My daugh­ter is at home in her school, and that’s all I want for now.  Who knows where she will be for mid­dle school, but she has told me there are plans in the pipeline to be a pilot or a doc­tor.  As long as there’s a twirly skirt involved.

 

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Gifted and Talented In New York City

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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. 

 

http://www.amazon.com/My-Stuffies-Alex-Agrawal/dp/1490473629/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371822054&sr=1–1&keywords=my+stuffies

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

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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.

http://www.amazon.com/Karate-Is-Sport-Johji-Nakada/dp/1490378642/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1371399829&sr=8–3&keywords=karate+is+my+sport

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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.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Chess-Is-Game-Johji-Nakada/dp/1484110757/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1368909843&sr=8–5&keywords=chess+is+my+game

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Kindergarten Tip: Clapping Game

Entering the world of kinder­garten:

 

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Old fash­ioned hand clap­ping games never go out of style. They are played all over the world, and often times with amaz­ing sim­i­lar­ity. These games engage chil­dren because they are men­tally stim­u­lat­ing and chal­leng­ing and can be ele­vated to greater and greater dif­fi­culty. I have fond mem­o­ries of my 6 year old daugh­ter play­ing with her 12 year old brother. This was about the only activ­ity they could engage in with equal delight.

Kindergarten Tip:

Hand clap­ping games rein­force at least 3 basic skills.

1. Patterning, which is a rea­son­ing skill, is the abil­ity to notic­ing what is repeated.

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2. Sequencing , which is another rea­son skill, is sim­i­lar to pat­tern­ing but rather than notic­ing a repeat, one must observe how some­thing is con­tin­ued. 

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3. The last major skill that is rein­forced is mem­ory. As the dif­fi­culty level pro­gresses it becomes a chal­lenge to remem­ber all the moves and their cor­rect order. 

Whether your child is prepar­ing for a kinder­garten entrance exam or not, hand clap­ping games will be fun, edu­ca­tional, and an oppor­tu­nity to engage your child dur­ing those times when they are search­ing for some­thing to fill their time.

 

 

 

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NYC Parents of Kindergartners: Ask Why

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ATTENTION all NYC Parents of Kindergartners:

Whether a kinder­garten entrance exam is in your child’s future or not, enhanced rea­son­ing skills are crit­i­cal for suc­cess in school and life. Reasoning skills hap­pen to be the #1 skill that pro­fes­sion­als look at when eval­u­at­ing a child’s intel­li­gence.

One aspect of rea­son­ing skills is called metacog­ni­tion which  refers to one’s abil­ity to explain their think­ing. When a child is in school and answers a ques­tion the teacher might, and should often, ask why they thought that. When chil­dren are not accus­tomed to being ques­tioned they typ­i­cally inter­pret that response as a sign their answer was wrong. A child will often shut down and feel embar­rassed  When a child is able to explain their think­ing it not only rein­forces their rea­son­ing skills but also allows adults the oppor­tu­nity to clar­ify any con­fu­sion or even deepen the child’s under­stand­ing. 

So when you and your future kinder­gat­ner are chat­ting, try ask­ing them why they think the things they do. It’s always inter­est­ing to hear.Often times chil­dren will say, I don’t know or my brain told me. This is absolutely nor­mal but don’t give up. Sometimes they will sur­prise you. Keep ask­ing why and help them along by giv­ing pos­si­ble rea­sons. Your child will become used to this kind of ques­tion­ing and will be ready to take on that entrance exam as well as be a more crit­i­cal thinker and stu­dent.

Future kinder­gart­ners in NYC and across the coun­try:  this is your future. Prepared to talk a lot about why you think the way you do. 

to learn more about metacog­ni­tion:

http://education.purduecal.edu/Vockell/EdPsyBook/Edpsy7/edpsy7_meta.htm

Enjoy the con­ver­sa­tion .…

 

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Kindergarten Tip: Visual Spatial Orientation

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Visual Spatial Orientation in this lit­tle puz­zle box.

Many chil­dren spend a lot of time play­ing but how much is on a screen?

Visual/spatial ori­en­ta­tion is the abil­ity to move shapes in your mind and visu­al­ize how they will look when rotated, or flipped around. Like all skills, some chil­dren are nat­u­rally strong in this area. Whether your child has this as a strength or weak­ness, expos­ing them to these activ­i­ties, espe­cially early in life, will ben­e­fit them as expec­ta­tions grow.

The G &T exam for NYC kinder­garten relies heav­ily on this skill.

 

The fol­low­ing is an exam­ple of how a child must become adept and mov­ing objects in space in an prga­nized and log­i­cal man­ner.:

figural analogies

The objec­tive is to notice how the fig­ure changes from left to right and deduce how the the next fig­ure will change. 

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