Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tip 40 - The Language to Reading Connection

The highly respected international journal Science devoted the August 19, 2011 issue to the importance of early education in ultimate success in high school, college and beyond. One area emphasized in this special issue is the importance of building language skills, starting in preschool. This Parent Smart Blog has been devoted to helping you as parents apply the most current brain research to play games with your children that build language and other cognitive skills shown to enhance school success. Below are some of the highlights from an artilce by David Dikenson of Vanderbilt University in this August 19, special issue of Science.
We know from research conducted by Early Child Care Research Network of the National Institute of Health that the language ability we see in children three and four years of age predicts later reading skills all the way through high school. We also know that ability with language later in life builds directly on earlier competencies.  Below are specific competencies parents can foster at home and through pre-school and elementary school experiences to assure language good language skills.
·         Birth to age three
Milestones you should expect for basic vocabulary and syntax –

§  30 months - 300 words (38.6% nouns, 21% verbs, 7.1% adverbs; 14.6% pronouns)
§  3 years - 900 words; MLU = 3.1

Your child should enjoy books and word play like nursery rhymes and funny words
Your child should begin using language used to form relationships.

·         Three to Kindergarten
Milestones you should expect vocabulary and syntax –

·         Your child should have school based vocabulary like that needed for following directions, knowing alphabet letters, understanding school rules, etc.
·         Advanced syntax should be developing for use and understanding of compound and complex sentences, like “The boy who likes ice cream is my friend”
Your child should understand stories read aloud.
Your child should know if words rhyme and identify words that start with the same sounds
Your child should be able to read a few commonly occurring words like his name, the word STOP on road signs, words repeated often in favorite books, and be able to write his name

Preschools that stress language skills can be very helpful in assuring your child builds these prerequisite language skills. Parents need not seek out preschools that teach reading or mathematics per se, rather those that stress language enrichment through opportunities to listen to stories being read and to talk about stories that are read aloud.

Tip 40 - Research is building that the stronger your child's language skills during preschool years the better your child will do in school. Provide as many language rich experiences as you can when your child is young and seek out preschool environments where language skills are emphasized.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tip 39 Put a Tiger in your Think Tank

I am traveling /speaking in Asia this week - Tokyo, Jakarta and Singapore. My friends here reminded me yesterday that this is the home of the "Tiger Mom." Parents here are very concerned with school success. Although I do not believe that pressuring children to do well in school guarantees success as an adult, the parents here are models for instilling a respect for education and a strong academic work ethic.  Taking school seriously does not have to mean drudgery and drill. Your child's brain is a learning machine so as a parent it can be relatively easy to build a 'love of learning' atmosphere in the home that will carry over in school.  Below are suggestions I shared with parents in Singapore and Jakarta this week.

Hang learning reminders in visible areas around the home. Last week I suggested having a calendar where you and your child can post important assignment due dates to help keep them in mind. Below are two other ways to keep school topics like vocabulary and grammar visible reminders that 'learning' goes on everywhere, all the time.
·               Hang a “New-Word Board - All school ages
         List each family member down the left side in permanent marker
         Each day, before dinner, using erasable marker, each family member can write their favorite new word of the day next to their name
         At dinner – each family member can take turns talking about their new word - where they saw or heard it, what it means, why they thought it was an interesting word
·               Grammar Detective Stars Grades 5-12
        Grammar is one of those areas that seems important in school but not necessarily at home or on the playground – so to enable your student to understand why grammar counts try adding stars to names on the New-Word Board for catching grammatical errors on TV, in movies or videos, or really anywhere
      Whoever catches the most mistakes during a week gets a star next to their name on the “New-Word Board” for the week
        At dinner – a parent can make a grammatical error and see which grammar detective discovers it
      Examples younger children - “Dad took I to school yesterday; there is the toys; The cat and the mouse is playing; ”
      Examples for older children – “She saw the boy he was running; I like to reading each day”
         When you watch a T.V.  program as a family (reality TV is often a good place to catch mistakes),  make a game out of trying to catch grammatical errors– note who catches it first
-     Mom and Dad test your own grammar sleuth capacities to see if you can catch grammatical or vocabulary errors in politicians' campaign sound bites

Tip 39 -  School subjects are not just about school – learning goes on all around us all the time. So keep learning alive at home and Put A Tiger in Your Think Tank

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tip 38 - Back to School Brain Building Strategies

Now that summer is ending, it is time to prepare your child for the upcoming school year. Research indicates that one to two-months of academic gains are lost during the summer.  To get your child back into the groove quickly and effortlessly start now to prepare for the structure and demands of the coming school year.

1. Get back on schedule before classes actually start All Ages  One of the hardest parts of school is getting back into the groove of early to bed -- early to rise. Rather than wait for the first day of school start planning ahead by planning fun acitivities that begin about the same time school does - a breakfast trip to the beach or park; a morning trip to a local museum; a day at the zoo.  Schedule a few of these early morning trips a week or so before school starts so that going to bed and getting up earlier will not be a problem when school begins.

2. Back to school Spelling Bee Ages 6-10 One academic area that suffers the most during the summer is written language. Many children and their parents continue to read during the evenings before bed, but often there is little opportunity to practice writing and spelling. Plan a round-robin at dinner time where each child tests you or a brother or sister on spelling words from the past year. They can go back to old spelling tests or workbooks to find words. Or, you can choose fun words to practice spelling from summer reading - Spell the names of Harry Potter characters or other characters from favorite books, homonyms (piece vs. peace; boy vs. bouy. etc/) or words that should be spelled similarly that are not (straight vs. state; phone vs. foam) etc. See if your child can come up with fun words that are not spelled the way they sound.

3. Set up a homework station  Ages 7-14  If your child does not have a desk in their own room where they can study consider setting up a homework center somewhere in your house or apartment where distractions will be minimal (away from TV's or busy work centers, like the kitchen)  where your child will have his or her own space for books, papers, and a writing surface. Before school begins have your child decorate the space with school-themed pictures. Take an empty can, wrap it in gift wrap and turn it into a fancy pen and pencil holder then fill it with a couple of new pens, markers and pencils.

4. Set up an assignment calendar Ages 8 - 17 A week or so before school begins, help your child to start planning ahead for school assignments Purchase an inexpensive montly wall calendar and hang it in a highly visible area (kitchen, hallway or family room) so it cannot be ignored.  Before school starts ask your child to put in school holidays and known school events (athletic events, start of girl scouts, ends of semester dates, etc.) Then establish a routine starting on the first day of school that as soon as your child gets home from school the first thing he does before going out to play, starting homework or eating a snack, is to put homework assignments on the calendar. If there are math problems due tomorrow, put them in the square for today. If there is a spelling test on Friday, put the study time in for Wednesday or Thursday night. Setting this calendar routine will be build important self-discipline and planning skills.

TIP 38 - School supplies are a very small part of preparing your child  to get back to school. You need to get the brain prepared  as well! By gradually re-establishing routines and preparing for homework before school begins your child will have a head start when school actually begins.