Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tip 6 - Quick Thinking --play the Speed Talking Game

Try this fun “speed talking game” the next time you have a long car or plane ride with your child.  [Be careful not to play this game when you need to concentrate on driving.] Ask your child to say a word, any word…like “house”. You have to come up with a word that can build on that like “boat” – for “houseboat” or “hold” for “household”. Then it is your turn, say any word…like ”shoe” and your child has to build on that with a word like “store” for “shoe store”. Make it a “timed” game by seeing how many word pairs you can come up with in fifteen minutes and keep a chart to see if you can beat your own record next time. Of course two or three children can join in as well. The Speed Talking Game not only builds vocabulary and concepts like compound words-- but also helps build “quick thinking”.

Do you know someone you consider "quick on their feet?" Athletes talk about the importance of "quickness" and teachers describe students as "fast learners". There is a reason for all of this talk about speed -- what underlies quickness in sports, school and picking up new skills is processing speed. In the brain, processing speed is a measure of the efficiency of the brain's connection pathways -- I referred to this in an earlier post as the “super highways” of the brain. The super highways are long fiber tracts that are "paved" with myelin, a fatty substance that acts like an insulator for efficient transmission of brain signals. New research indicates that the more we practice a skill that requires some concentration, especially when the emphasis is on accuracy and speed, the thicker the myelin becomes. That is probably why athletic coaches include speed drills as part of all their practice sessions and arithmetic teachers include timed tests for math facts. Helping your preschooler become a quick thinker is a great way to prepare for school; and, if you have a school-aged child you can keep building processing speed through “speed taking” games – like the one at the end of this post.

How can you help your child become a "quick thinker"? You use the brain's strategy.

Brain research over the past few decades indicates that speech and language skills are a primary avenue (pun intended) that the brain uses to begin the process of paving important super highways for symbol use -- the left brain architecture that your child will need for school subjects like reading, math, science and geography. You see, spoken (or signed) words are the first symbols a child learns. Take the word "dog" for example. The words puppy, doggie, woff-woff  are very different words - but they stand for the same object -- a furry four legged pet that barks. It might seem very simple to hear a word and then use it as a symbol for something in the world around us. But in the brain the super highways needed for talking are quite complex. When a child hears the word "dog" he has to perceive the individual speech sounds d-o-g, sequence them in the correct order (if he gets the sequence wrong he might think the word is "God") and then transfer that information to the "doing" part of the brain, the frontal lobe, to say them. Young children are pretty inefficient at that - a young child might say "gog" or "dah" for dog - not because he cannot say the sounds correctly but because the super highways are not yet very efficient and the signal gets mixed up along the way. The brain highways become efficient by talking - talking a lot. And talking paves the "interstate highway system" that will be used later in school for learning to read, write, and use symbols in math, science and geography.

The more opportunities your child has to talk, the better paved the highways will become - the "quicker" your child will be able to produce coherent sentences, say words with correct pronunciation, as well as formulate and express ideas. Quick thinking starts with talking.

Step 6 - play the speed talking game for quick thinking

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