Sunday, April 24, 2022

Letting Students Struggle May be the Key to Academic Success

 A piece earlier this month in The New York Times looking at research in how to maximize learning after the disruption of the pandemic examined the work of several educators -- and led to an interesting conclusion.

When students, especially students with learning challenges or those for whom teachers may have had historically low expectations, are not challenged, they do not get the depth of understanding that they would gain from strugging to master material. The article describes a number of ways of thinking about the process of struggling to learn material that can result in deeper learning and more complete understanding. 

Some educators use the metaphor of a "learning pit", a place where students can visualize the fact that they need to ask for help, work on the material, and through serious effort eventually "climb out" of the learning pit to a place of understanding. This process encourages students to become "comfortable with being uncomfortable". Another metaphor that has been used when students are encouraged to work through their discomfort with not understanding a lesson or subject is that of learning to ride a bicycle. If a teacher holds firmly to the back of the bicycle while the student is learning to ride, the student avoids the "cognitive wobble" that requires them to think more deeply. 

Dr. Manu Kapur, an educational psychologist whose meta-analysis of studies looked at how students learn best, found that simply teaching a topic was not the most effective method for achieving student mastery. Instead, students who had to struggle to solve problems before being taught precisely how to solve them learned better than when they were first taught a concept and then given a chance to practice it. 

For this "productive failure" approach to work most effectively, students should work collectively and should know that the goal of the lesson isn't to get to a specific correct answer. In addition, the problems presented should be difficult but not impossible and should have a number of possible solutions.

 All of the educators mentioned in the Times discussion noted that when work is too simple, and students do not have to struggle to understand and master material, they do not have the opportunity to deepen their learning. Especially now, when many students have been derailed by pandemic learning loss, it is important to make them aware that working hard, seeking help from their teachers and fellow students, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable can all contribute to better, deeper learning. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Using visual routines to help toddlers learn new daily life skills

Former Yellin Center Learning Specialist Renée Jordan is back today with more tips from her work with younger children .

Kids have so many routines to learn in the early years. Whether it is potty training, washing their hands or getting out the door in the morning, there is a stepwise process that they need to learn. However, the CDC, in looking at developmental milestones by the age of two, notes that two or three-step directions are all that most kids that age can hold onto.  But most of these routines require kids to master way more steps than that. Kids simply don’t have the active working memory to navigate these routines yet, which often results in tantrums and resistance.

One way to help these pre-reader aged kids learn these routines, and stay on track during the process, is to use a visual routine. Each step is represented by a visual so they don’t need to be able to read the word. As they go through the routine, if they forget the next step they can independently look at the routine and figure out what they need to do next.

The first few times a visual routine is used, you will do it with the child and teach them the steps of the routine. However, after a few uses, they will be able to look at the chart and follow the routine on their own. Over time, they will internalize the routine and no longer need it. They will have learned the steps, and be able to navigate the process independently.

On the Earlybird platform you can find cut & paste versions of helpful visuals that let you personalize routines to your child, or you can print several of their premade routines for bedtime, laundry, morning, hand washing or learning to use the bathroom. Or, you can create your own visuals, perhaps using characters from your child's favorite book or video. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Early Childhood Education Increases Academic and Professional Success

Today we are concluding our series on early childhood learning by former Yellin Center Learning Specialist Renée Jordan.

In the 1960’s, a pilot project, called the Perry Preschool Project, was conducted that gave children access to a preschool experience and supplemental home learning using high-quality programming that was designed to develop their cognitive, motor and social-emotional skills.  

Initial participants in the Perry Preschool Project showed greater academic achievement, as well as higher income earning later in life when compared to a control group (those who hadn’t had access to early learning). Participants also had higher graduation rates and IQ scores, as well as reduced incarceration rates and a higher likelihood to own their own homes.

Recently, researchers followed up with participants (now in their 50s) to see if these significant positive outcomes held -and they did. Not only that, but when researchers looked at the participants' children, they saw generational gains in terms of academic achievement and income. 

One interesting element of the Perry Preschool Project is that it included home learning support using the same rich educational programming. When parents and childcare providers provide developmentally appropriate materials and time for children to play with them, children reap immeasurable benefits that set them up for success in school and in life. 

However, it can be tricky as a parent or care provider to know what early childhood skills your child should be developing. Thankfully, there are resources, like Earlybird, that give you the information you need about child development, and the no-prep activities and materials you need to apply that learning. 

Photo by Andrew Ebrahim on Unsplash

Monday, December 6, 2021

The School Readiness Skills Your Child Needs

We are continuing our series on early childhood learning by former Yellin Center Learning Specialist Renée Jordan.

If you have a child under the age of five you may be wondering what skills you need to be working on to ensure they are school ready and set up for success upon starting kindergarten.

School readiness skills are the cognitive, social-emotional, motor, and attentional skills that lay the foundation for future school success. The thinking used to be that all your child needed was to recognize a few letters and numbers. However, current research shows that school readiness goes beyond just the basic literacy and numeracy skills. Motor and social-emotional skills are critical. Higher thinking skills such as creativity, problem solving, and imagination are of equal importance to academic skills (Pan, Trang, Love & Templin, 2019).

Sesame Workshop, the educational research organization behind Sesame Street, commissioned the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to examine school readiness skills in today’s children. Their findings were released in the Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry report. The study found  that 44% of children enter school with one or more developmental risk factors that have the potential to impact their success in school.

The good news is that you can develop these skills at home or childcare while your child plays, using the materials you already have around. Children are "hands-on" learners. They acquire knowledge through playful interactions with quality materials and meaningful interactions with their caregivers (Hedges, 2000; Whitebread et. Al., 2009).

Painting, play dough, and coloring build motor skills. Letters, colors, numbers and shapes can be reinforced while children play with their toys. Dramatic play is grounds for rich social-emotional learning. Higher thinking skills are cultivated as a child builds puzzles, solves mazes and engineering towers out of their blocks.

One great resource that makes sense of the early years for parents and caregivers is Earlybird. Beyond providing fun, engaging play-based learning activities, Earlybird will also teach you what developmental skills each activity is targeting, giving you the knowledge, confidence and resources to ensure your child is school ready. 


Monday, November 29, 2021

Making Sense of Early Learning for Parents and Childcare roviders

Today we welcome back blogger Renée Jordan, who last wrote for us in 2016. We are delighted to have her contributing to our blog once again. Read about her story and hear about the exciting learning resources she has helped create.

I used to be a learning specialist at The Yellin Center. I eagerly joined the incredibly talented team as soon as I finished grad school at Columbia. My years at the Yellin Center are where I grew my knowledge of child development and how a child’s brain learns and grows. Working alongside Dr. Yellin deepened my understanding of the neurodevelopmental constructs that are fundamental to the work of The Yellin Center and my commitment to helping families and children make sense of their cognitive strengths and challenges to ensure they find success in school and beyond.

I left the team in 2016 to return to my hometown to focus on fertility treatments in hopes of starting a family. Leaving NYC and The Yellin Center was one of the hardest decisions we have made to date. But finally, in 2018, we welcomed our son Anderson. While on maternity leave, I began creating and doing easy activities with Anderson that targeted the core neurodevelopmental domains. When I began sharing them on Instagram I generated a following of fellow parents and childcare providers who were looking to make sense of the early years for their own kids.

It was during this time that I met Sarah, the other half of Earlybird. Sarah is an entrepreneur with a robust business knowledge and incredible sense of design. After we both had our second children, we decided now was the time to partner and build a platform outside of social media where parents and childcare providers could come to find the information they needed to know about child development, as well as the evidence-based activities and materials they needed to apply that knowledge. So in the middle of the pandemic, with four kids under three-years-old between us, we launched Earlybird.

Earlybird’s goal is to nurture every child’s intellectual, physical and social-emotional development to ensure they are ready for school and life. Anyone caring for children will find that Earlybird equips them with the confidence, knowledge and resources they need to create child-centered and developmentally appropriate play-based learning experiences that build a child’s literacy, numeracy, motor, social-emotional and creative thinking skills.

We keep it simple for you by using everyday items in our little to no prep activity ideas. On the platform you can filter resources by subject, specific skills, and ages. Then do the activities now, or save your favorites to your saved folder for later. We take the guesswork out of the early years for you.

Stay tuned for more posts looking at the research behind the early childhood tools we have developed. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

ACT Exam to Use IEP/504 Accommodations

 Last week, the ACT Exam announced a change to how they would offer accommodations to students with learning, attention, and other disabilities. They now align with the College Board, which administers the SAT, AP, and other exams, and which implemented changes at the beginning of 2017. The College Board uses a "two question" inquiry for students seeking disability accommodations: 1) does the student's IEP or 504 Plan contain the accommodation they are seeking and 2) has the student used the requested accommodation for school exams?

 As the ACT noted in a press release, "Beginning with the 2021-22 testing year, students who already receive accommodations at their school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act will automatically be eligible to receive the allowable testing accommodations when they register for the ACT with accommodations."

This means that students no longer need to go through a separate process of providing evidence of their need for accommodations, such as extended time, to the ACT. If a student's school has approved accommodations as part of an IEP or 504 Plan, the ACT will simply require that for "examinees who have a valid, current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan (504 Plan) a copy of the IEP or 504 Plan will be sufficient to demonstrate eligibility and need for the same allowable accommodations on the ACT test." 

Note that the ACT still will exercise some oversight into which accommodations they will allow; they discuss certain Guiding Principles, which require that any accommodation should be reasonable and not fundamentally alter what the test is designed to measure. 

This is a welcome change, but it raises some questions. Among these are:

  • What about students who don't have an IEP or 504 Plan?

The ACT still will consider the needs of such students for accommodations. The "shortcut" they have announced doesn't change that and they will continue to apply the "reasonable accommodation" standard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that they have always used. 

  • What about students who  have "informal" accommodations?
If students are enrolled in a public school, we urge them to formalize their accommodations via a 504 Plan or even an IEP, if appropriate. For most private schools, a 504 Plan is not an option, but private schools should consider creating a more formalized plan memorializing accommodations they provide. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Getting Ready for the New School Year - A Webinar

Last week, Dr. Paul Yellin and Susan Yellin, Esq. presented a webinar for ADDitude Magazine on “9 Ways to Prime Your Child for a Positive School Year." The discussion, with slides and a Q&A session at the end, focused on using the remainder of the summer to prepare for a return to what for most students will be in-person learning this fall. More than 700 attendees watched live and over 6,000 more  signed up to watch it later

The Yellins' recommendations included both steps that parents should take and those that were more focused on student readiness - all keeping in mind that it's been a rough year and a half and that students and their families need a chance to engage in summer activities that are enjoyable and that build social as well as educational skills.

Parents were reminded that this summer would be a good time to review their child's IEP or 504 Plan, and seek to make changes to it, if needed, before school begins in the fall. For children who are taking ADHD medication, Dr. Yellin discussed the importance of working with your child's doctor to monitor the effectiveness and side effects, if any, of medication and to keep a "medication diary" to share with your child's prescribing physician. Dr. Yellin spoke about the importance of frontloading and having a "growth mindset'" as discussed by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset.

Both speakers mentioned a number of tools, apps, and websites that could build skills that may be needed to begin the next school year primed for success. These included those that were free and fun, like Bedtime Math to others that are more focused in their approach, such as IXL 

You can access this presentation as a video replay, listen to the podcast episode (#363), and download the slide presentation, with numerous slides and suggestions, from ADDitude, all at no charge.