Monday, September 30, 2013

Physical Fitness is Good for Kids’ Bodies and Brains

In case you haven’t heard, exercise is really good for you. Study after study has associated physical fitness with a multitude of health benefits like improved ventilation in asthma patients, lower risk of cancer for both men and women, lowered rates of coronary heart disease, and reduced risk of dementia in senior citizens. Kids who build healthy habits at a young age tend to maintain them, so many health experts recommend that children engage in physical activity while they’re young so that they’ll grow into fit adults.

But a recent study suggests that active kids aren't just physically healthier; they learn better, too. It’s been established that exercise before a test leads to better test scores, and researchers have also uncovered a link between overall fitness and higher achievement scores. Most recently, a study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that fit kids outperformed their less healthy peers on a difficult memorization task.

Although the benefits of exercise may be obvious to parents, persuading kids to set down the iPad and get their pulses racing can be tricky. Participation in sports, martial arts and dance classes, and horseback riding lessons can be fun ways to get kids moving. But for some over-scheduled families, adding extra commitments isn't an option. Here, then, are a few ideas to get kids moving that can be integrated into day-to-day family life:

Make Screen Time Active

We advocate limiting screen time, but some small changes can make the time your child does spend in front of the tube or the computer a little more healthful. Ask your child to stand while working with a laptop or tablet (place the device on the kitchen counter if a tabletop is too short). Even better, dare them to stand on one foot! While watching TV, designate commercial breaks as movement periods and challenge kids to do crunches, leg lifts, push-ups, sit-ups, or wall sits until the program starts again. A little friendly competition between siblings or buddies will add an extra element of fun. During programs, encourage kids to sit on stability balls that will engage their core muscles as they balance and work their leg muscles when they bounce.

A Furry Friend in Need

Express your concern that the family dog isn't getting enough exercise and task your child with taking it for frequent walks or starting games of fetch or keep-away.

Get Out Together

Take a walk after dinner whenever possible. Use weekends to do something outdoors together; it’s a great way to combine family time and fitness time. Go for a hike, take a walk in the park, or strap on helmets for a bike ride. Parents who like the idea of longer bike rides don’t need to leave their little ones behind; look into a trail-a-bike, a device that uses a child-sized seat and wheel that turns any adult bike into a tandem.


Only going up a flight or two? Skip the elevator and lead your kids up the stairs.

Take Measure

Really committed to getting your kids to move? Hand out small, inexpensive pedometers and compare everyone’s steps at the end of the day. The desire to beat his older brother’s total may just get your child to go the extra mile.

Play Time

Kids love interactive games like Simon Says, Mother May I, Follow the Leader, or the Mirror Game*. When you play, throw in physical challenges like crab walks, jumping jacks, frog hops, etc.

Clean Living

Assign kids chores like washing windows, sweeping, washing the car, raking leaves, gardening, or anything else you can think of that will get them moving.

Golden Oldies

Introduce your kids to old, favorite schoolyard games like jump rope and hopscotch. Brownie points for successfully navigating a game of double-dutch!

Three Words

Impromptu Dance Party!

*To play the Mirror Game, partners face each other. One is the actor and one is the mirror, and when the actor moves the mirror must copy the movements exactly. Partners should switch roles at some point so that each one has a chance to be both the mirror and the actor.

Photo credits:U.S. Dept. of AgricultureespensorvikvastateparksstaffglutnixPink Sherbert Photographymastermaq.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fans of Percy Jackson: Meet Author Rick Riordan!

Fans of Percy Jackson will be thrilled to learn that on October 9th, author Rick Riordan will be visiting Symphony Space on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to discuss his latest book, The House of Hades, which is the latest addition to his series Heroes of Olympus! Tickets are extremely limited, so don't delay!

To those who haven’t yet discovered Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the first of Riordan’s series about Greek gods and their modern counterparts, we say: What on earth are you waiting for? We love the Olympians series, not only for its humor and action-packed plot but also for what it teaches kids about learning differences and Greek mythology.

Readers are introduced to Percy in the first book of the Olympians series, The Lightning Thief. Twelve-year-old Percy has been kicked out of every school he’s ever attended. He struggles with his work because of his dyslexia, and his ADHD makes it tough to focus. His dad isn’t around either; Percy has never met him. Things begin to get strange when one of Percy’s teachers turns into a Fury and attacks him on a class field trip. Percy learns that he is a half-blood: that is, half-human and half-god. His absentee father is actually Poseidon, god of the sea. His dyslexia? A result of the fact that he’s wired to read ancient Greek, not English. And his ADHD? An important hyper-awareness he’s developed to help him stay alive on the battlefield, of course. Monsters are fond of going after the half-children of gods and goddesses, so it’s best to be on one’s toes. It seems that although Percy wasn’t suited to sit in a classroom, he’s got a lot of qualities that make him outstanding in other arenas. Just as Percy is coming to terms with his identity at Camp Half-Blood, he’s sent on a quest to recover Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt with sidekicks Annabeth, daughter of Athena, and Grover, a satyr.

Percy and his pals grapple with the likes of Medusa and Hades, meet centaurs, consult with an oracle, swallow ambrosia and nectar when they’re injured, and duel Ares, and that’s just in the first book of this five-part series! The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters, its sequel, have been released as movies as well.

Once he’d completed the Percy Jackson series, Riordan began work on a second series, The Heroes of Olympus, which turns its focus to Roman mythology. The House of Hades, which he will discuss at Symphony Space on October 9th, is the fourth installment in the series.

A trip to see Rick Riordan speak will make for one enjoyable evening. But hooking kids on his dynamic, exciting books will provide them with enriching entertainment for months to come.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Banning from a Legal Perspective

Just how does a book get banned? Who decides what goes into library collections in the first place? What rights do libraries and readers have? Read on for facts about obscenity, book banning, and the First Amendment.


Selecting Books

When it comes to choosing books, librarians follow a series of self-established guidelines. Most libraries seem to have similar philosophies about collection materials, though the criteria may vary slightly from place to place. In general, libraries attempt to maintain a diverse collection of media that are free from bias and stereotype and intended to reflect the multiple facets of life around the world. Libraries generally accept recommendations from readers as well. They research recommended materials to determine whether acquiring the media in question would enrich the library’s collection.

Because they are public institutions, libraries are not permitted to discriminate. That means anyone can check out any materials they choose, regardless of age, sex, or race. Most libraries do request that guardians monitor the selections of minors, however.

Banning Books

Censorship of ideas is nothing new, but US laws dictating freedom of information are comparatively new on the scene. In 1982, the Supreme Court found in Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico that school officials did not have the right to remove library material because they disagreed with the ideas it espoused. (School libraries continue to receive more requests to ban materials than public libraries.) To justify banishment from a school library, the material must be “pervasively vulgar.”

US libraries receive hundreds of requests each year to remove books from their shelves. Patrons most commonly challenge books on the grounds that they contain sexually explicit content, offensive language, and/or inappropriate subjects for minors. Public libraries regard themselves as open forums for ideas and so are generally loathe to censor their offerings. Just as challenging a book is the right of any citizen, it is the right of each individual library to decide whether to comply with these requests. On the occasions that such cases have been decided by courts, judges generally rule in favor of the library because of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Freedom of expression aside, libraries must not maintain materials that are unquestionably obscene. But just what defines obscenity? The US Supreme Court decision in Miller v. California in 1973 established that materials must “appeal to prurient interests when taken as a whole; involve patently offensive sexual conducts; and contain no literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” to be deemed obscene. Of course, even this three-point test is subjective, and in the case of banned books the burden of proof lies with the protesting party, not the library, to demonstrate that the material is inappropriate.

For more information, please visit the American Library Association.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Books Week Is Here

What do Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, A Wrinkle in Time, A Light in the Attic, and Call of the Wild have in common? For one, they’re all great works of literature. And, according to the American Library Association, they’re all frequently challenged books, too.

We think the freedom to read what we choose is worth celebrating! If you’re looking for ways to observe Banned Books Week, which runs from September 22 to September 28 this year, the ALA’s website dedicated to reading and intellectual freedom is a great place to start. Below, we've outlined a few other ideas as well. Happy reading!


Looking for a way to celebrate the right to read in your area? Check out the Banned Books Week Events page for a list of happenings at libraries and bookstores around the country. Don’t see an event near you? Start your own.

Embrace Social Media

Make distracting services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram work for you by using them as platforms to examine and discuss censorship. Start by reviewing a list of frequently challenged books with students. Help your younger child pick an appropriate book for story time and take teenagers to the library so they can check out a copy of a book that sounds compelling. Then post a picture of your child with her nose buried in these “controversial” volumes. Invite her to write a captions for the picture to share her thoughts about the book or the idea of censorship. If you tweet, be sure to use #bannedbooksweek to ensure your child’s post is associated with this event.

Virtual Read-Out

Speaking of social media, the Banned Books Week organization has established a dedicated YouTube channel to allow readers from all over the world to submit videos in which they explain why the freedom to read is valuable to them and read a short excerpt from their favorite banned book. To add your voice or your child’s voice, visit the site  to learn about the criteria for participation and fill out the form for video submission.

First Amendment Film Festival

Love intellectual freedom but not exactly a bookworm? Consider arranging your own film festival to explore the topic of censorship through film. Alone or with students or friends, watch a selection of fictional films and documentaries from an ALA list, such as Good Night and Good Luck, Inherit the Wind, Smothered, and Tell It Like It Is.

Show Your Colors

Turn freedom into a fashion statement! You can make this simple by helping kids use fabric paint to design their own tote bags or t-shirts promoting the idea of the right to read or their favorite banned book. Alternately, you can turn to the pros. Some of our favorite banned book products include a bracelet  made of tiles displaying the covers of various banned books; a tote bag from New York’s iconic Strand bookstore; and a large selection of bookish merchandise from Out of Print, including t-shirts, phone cases, stationery, and more.

Friday, September 20, 2013

NYC Private Schools to End Use of Controversial Admissions Test

We were very pleased to see the announcement in today's New York Times that most private schools in New York City will soon phase out the admissions test many of the City's elite private schools have administered since the 1960's to applicants as young as four years old.

Kevin Jarrett
The Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) advised its approximately 130 members by a letter dated on September 18th that a review of admissions practices for kindergarten and first grade concluded that the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI), which is administered by the nonprofit Educational Records Bureau and is universally referred to by New York parents as the "ERB", indicated that, "high-stakes testing of young children (under 8 years old) provides only a narrow assessment of their cognitive abilities and may not be predictive of future academic success." The group went on to note that, "due to the increased prevalence of test prepping, the results of the WPPSI are tainted and their credibility is in question due to coaching."

Dr. Yellin stated that he was heartened by this announcement and commented, "Today's announcement that private schools are likely to abandon the ERB is a positive development and a change for which we have advocated for some time. The reason stated is that the results have been compromised by widespread coaching and test preparation. The truth, as many educators have expressed to us, is that the system was misguided and flawed from the start. ERB's use portions of IQ tests that were never intended for this purpose. We strongly recommend Dr. Carol Dweck's wonderful book Mindset to provide perspective on this important issue." 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Get the Math Makes Algebra Relevant

Math, particularly algebra, can sometimes seem irrelevant to frustrated middle and high school students. It’s hard to see how solving for a variable or graphing a line could ever be useful. They’d much rather flip through a fashion magazine, shoot hoops, or listen to music. Thanks to Get the Math, however, algebra students can see real-life examples of how the math they’re learning is indispensable to those very industries and try their hand at solving the kinds of problems professionals face every day.

Get the Math, funded by WNET, plays host to a series of videos to set up real world math challenges. Algebra students can watch teams of teenagers travel to restaurants, music studios, video game designing companies, gyms, and other interesting workplaces where they meet young, dynamic professionals. After explaining their jobs, the pros present teams with practical challenges they’ll need algebra to solve. For example, fashion designer Chloe Dao wants a shirt to retail for less than $35, but it currently costs more than $40. So she presents the teams with the list of material and production costs, provides the mark-up, and sets them loose to change the design so the shirt will be more affordable. Video game designer Julia Detar of Arkadium challenges the teams to save a spaceship from colliding with an asteroid in a game she’s designing. The asteroid is traveling on a coordinate grid along a linear path. The teams are given only a few points and must figure out the asteroid’s trajectory, then plot a course to guide the spaceship to safety.

The introductory video ends once the problem has been presented, allowing viewers to tackle the problem themselves. The Challenge link provides access to screens that review the information in the problem, and they can enter and check their answers, too.

Once they’ve got it (or once they’re stumped), the final video in the series captures the team working in partner pairs. They discuss how they will solve the problem and critical information appears in captions at the bottom of the screen to make it easier to follow. Once the teams are happy with their answers, they present their solutions to the featured professional for feedback and reflect on the experience. Most of the time, both partner pairs will arrive at different correct solutions, highlighting the important lesson that real world math isn’t black and white. In redesigning the shirt, for example, one team opted to forgo the beading to bring down the cost due to a bad experience she’d had with beaded clothing. The other team chose to replace one type of fabric with a more durable and cheaper variety, hoping to both reduce the price and make the shirt less fragile.

Telling kids they’ll need math one day is nothing new. But hearing that message from a professional in a field of interest can be more powerful than hearing it from a parent or a teacher. We like the sense of empowerment students will feel when they realize that they’re learning the kind of skills that will make them valuable additions to the workplace. We hope to see this promising interactive site expand!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Memory Strategies: Use Music, Mnemonics, and YouTube to Improve Learning

A frequent issue mentioned by students who come to The Yellin Center for help with school is that they can’t remember information they studied when test time rolls around. They often suspect they have memory difficulties, but we frequently find that poor memory is not the problem. Even the strongest memories in the world can’t handle a limitless number of facts; these students are usually in need of better memory strategies. The more strategically they learn information, the easier it will be to “find” when taking exams.

Testing is particularly difficult for medical or law students, or even high school students in chemistry or history classes, because there is so much material to remember. We often recommend that students use mnemonics to help them recall lists of facts. For example, to remember the taxonomy for biology, if students can remember the sentence “King Philip Cuts Open Five Green Snakes,” they’ll have access to the first letter of each of the taxonomic levels in order (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species).

Another way to recall information is to turn it into song lyrics to go with a catchy tune. We think this is a great idea, and we’re not the only ones. A recent news story tells of a young British doctor doing just that to help the staff at his hospital remember to use the asthma treatment guidelines when treating wheezing patients. When traditional reminders weren't working, Dr. Tapas Mukherjee made a YouTube video  in which he sang his new asthma-related lyrics to the tune of Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and crossed his fingers. Within two months, doctors at his hospital reported that they all knew the guidelines. More importantly, they performed much better on measures that tested their knowledge of specifics. For his efforts, Dr. Mukherjee won the British Thoracic Society Innovation in Education Award in 2012 and the National Health Service Expo/Network Casebook II Innovation Award this year.

There are plenty of other great examples of students using song to help get troublesome facts to stick. One is a video made by Canadian medical students. (Those unfamiliar with second-degree AV block, a disorder that causes irregular heartbeat, may find it a little tough to follow but will still get the idea). Another winner is “This is Why We Clot,” described on the page as “Drug Life’s hot new single about the use of anticoagulants.” To see a model of how this tactic could work with younger children, watch the silly “Place Value Song” from Teacher Tipster  below to see how Mr. Smith uses a song to help his youngsters learn how to grasp the concept of tens and ones.

The most memorable study song, of course, is the one a student invents himself. So next time your student has to learn a list of prepositions, recall a series of events, or perform a multi-step procedure, help him turn the information into a song. Teachers can try this out in the classroom by putting students in groups; finished songs can be recorded and played or performed live for the class. Turn studying into a rockin’ good time!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Recommended Reads: Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks

Grades: 4-6

Plot: The story opens with the capture of two wild tiger cubs from their jungle home, then follows them into the dank belly of a ship bound for ancient Rome. The stronger cub is immediately chosen to be trained for Caesar’s games, where he will be set loose in the coliseum to fight gladiators to the death. He is known to his tormentors as Brute. Caesar’s plans for the smaller cub, however, are quite different: he is to be a pet for Caesar’s coddled daughter Aurelia. She names him Boots, and while Brute learns to lash out at humans with all the ferocity he can muster, Boots lives a life of luxury as he is pampered by Aurelia and cared for by her slave and animal keeper, Julius. But Aurelia’s idyllic existence starts to tarnish when she is taken to the coliseum for the first time and sees the violence her beloved father considers entertainment. Meanwhile, her cousin Marcus is becoming jealous of Aurelia’s growing affection for Julius, and he plans a prank that backfires horribly. The climax of the book reveal’s Rome’s cruelties to Aurelia and even to Marcus, but it highlights the power of family and love as well.

Adult themes: The book is certainly appropriate for most kids nine years old and above. Be warned that animal lovers will find plenty of moments in the book to be cringe-worthy, however, and some of the people in the book are treated cruelly as well. Too-young readers may struggle with the idea of Aurelia’s father arranging her marriage. 

Our Take: This unique and wonderful book by one of our favorite authors isn't as well-known as her Indian in the Cupboard series, but we found it just as compelling. Banks paints a living, breathing portrait of third century Rome that will make readers feel as though they’d stepped into a time machine, and the characters, even the minor ones, are sumptuously vivid as well. Brief scenes, such as the one in which Marcus’s father wrings his hands over pleasing Caesar even though they are related, or when Aurelia must put on a show at the coliseum for her father’s subjects despite her true feelings, will impress upon young readers the absolute power of the Caesars more than any history book could. One thing we really love about Banks is that her language and vocabulary are rich and complex – there’s none of the watered-down prose one sees too often in young people’s literature. Most sophisticated words are clear in context, but parents may wish to challenge kids to keep a list of words they can’t figure out on their own to make this book even more enriching.

-Beth Guadagni, M.A.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Interleaving Can Lead to Improved Outcomes

Here at The Yellin Center we have long suggested that students benefit when their assignments are designed with the concept of "interleaving" in mind -- where no two problems or questions of the same kind appear in order. So, for example, a homework assignment might include newly learned long division problems, but also some multiplication and even addition and subtraction. This is different from more traditional tests or problem sets, where the questions follow the blocks of the curriculum and material from earlier lessons is only reviewed when it is time for year end tests.

Photo: Silenceofnight/Flickr

recent discussion of this practice was included in an excellent Science Times section of The New York Times which focused on "learning what works" in education. The article looks at research from a team at the University of South Florida which looked at interleaved math instruction in a small sample (140 students in all) in a Tampa middle school. The students found that interleaved problem sets took a bit longer to do, at first, but that when they needed to study for a test they could spend less time reviewing because all the material they had learned was still fresh in their minds.

Furthermore, the results when the students took tests were remarkable. The scores on problems presented in the traditional manner averaged 38% -- but they scored an average of 72% on the material they covered through interleaved problems. The Times discussion included opinions of various psychologists and learning researchers as to why interleaving is beneficial, which ranged from noting that it engaged particular kinds of memory (something we call "paired associate memory"), to opining that since students need more time when they are first working with interleaving, the additional assistance they may get from their instructors makes a difference in how much they learn.

The research team plans to expand its investigation to see the impact of interleaving when it is used more broadly, with a far greater number of students. We will be interested to see the results.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Learn With Games Instead of Drilling

Parents often ask us for advice about their kids’ schedules. They understand the value of raising well-rounded kids who also get the outside academic support they need, but how much tutoring can they cram in around guitar lessons, swim practice, and choir rehearsal? And what about the all-important decompression time kids need, to go about the business of being kids?

For children who need some extra practice with reading and math skills, particularly in kindergarten and the early years of elementary school, these questions can be tough ones. One possible solution is to multitask. Wouldn't it be great if your child could play and learn at the same time? If this idea appeals to you, then Peggy Kaye’s books could be great resources for your family.

Games for Reading and Games for Math have been around for a long time (first published in 1984 and 1987 respectively), but Kaye’s delightful outlook and thoughtful, fun suggestions are timeless. Kaye believes that “what doesn't amuse shouldn't be used,” and she encourages parents and teachers of students in kindergarten through third grade to experiment with her many great ideas until they find some that get kids smiling so much they won’t even know they’re building critical academic abilities.

Games for Reading hones a variety of reading skills. For example, Wrong-Speed Conversations counsels parents to speak to children as though they’re faulty record players, speaking much too quickly or much too slowly. When children get over their fits of giggles and are encouraged to do the same, their slow-motion speech helps them to stretch out words and pay attention to the individual sounds that make up each word, a critical skill for early literacy and spelling. Similarly, rhyming games in which one “player” begins a rhyming couplet but leaves off the last word for the other person to finish (“I could eat two/But I’d rather share one with ____”) develops phonemic awareness, helping children to be more attentive to the sounds in words. Kaye has more ideas for working through stacks of flashcards than you thought could possibly exist, and many of her games involve friendly competition, jumping, and drawing. The List of Important Sounds at the back of the book helps parents who are not educators to ensure they’re hitting all the critical bases when they plan games at home.

Games for Math is another gem. Kaye’s Cleaning Counts game, for example, turns clean-up time into a math lesson. Instead of simply saying that you want your child to clean up her toys by the time you count to 20, why not experiment by counting backward or skip counting by 5’s to 100? Invite your child to count with you as she starts to get the hang of it. Kaye points out that this kind of early exposure to number patterns is a great way to build a child’s awareness of numerical sequences. Kaye also shares ideas for card games that will help children practice addition and homemade tangrams and visual puzzles for spatial reasoning. And her drawing game on graph paper for understanding multiplication is simple yet nothing short of brilliant.

Students need free, unstructured time to engage in creative play. But thanks to Games for Reading and Games for Math, the fun doesn't need to stop when it’s time to review academic skills.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Educational Apps for Children: Best Uses and Limitations

We love math apps, but a recent article in The New York Times seemed like a good prompt for us to share some of our reservations. In case you missed it, the article reports on a series of math apps aimed at helping preschool students learn critical math concepts so that they'll be more prepared to start kindergarten and elementary school. According to the article, the National Association for the Education of Young Children advocates technology, with an important caveat: Technology is best used within the context of sound instruction. We couldn't agree more. In our opinion, apps have two outstanding uses: they’re a good way to introduce students to concepts, and they’re great for drills.
Apps as an Introduction

Apps have the capacity to introduce children to concepts in a way that is both inviting and motivating. One of the apps used by the researchers discussed in the article, called Breakfast Time, allows children to "slice" a waffle with a swipe of a finger, then experiment with the resulting pieces. This is a great way to gain a foundational understanding of fractions, but on its own, it's not enough.

The missing ingredient is known in pedagogical circles as "transfer." Many students have difficulty applying what they learn in one task to another task that appears different, even though the connection may seem obvious to adults. Let's use grammar as an example. Many students spend hours identifying nouns and verbs on worksheets. They learn that a complete sentence needs to have a subject, which is a noun, and a predicate, which is a verb or verb phrase. But it takes a fairly large leap to apply that skill to one's own writing without explicit instruction. A student who aces worksheets on parts of speech will often produce sentence fragments and run-on sentences in her writing because she doesn't connect the photocopied, fill-in-the-blank sheets with her own creative story generation. Knowledgeable instructors know that the worksheets are only part of the story; to truly impact a child's written output, they need to teach students to transfer what they learn about parts of speech from a worksheet to their own writing.

So back to Breakfast Time: Slicing waffles via app is a wonderful way to introduce children to fractions. It’s certainly neater than allowing children to practice the same concepts with real waffles. But, as the article explains, the exercise is complete only when the children's teacher shows them how to practice the same principle using real ice cubes and cups, then, we imagine, demonstrates down the road how the same principles can be expressed using numbers.

Apps as a Tool for Drilling

A second great use for apps is to provide kids with rote practice. Going through the same piles of flashcards over and over again is boring, but apps allow children to drill the same facts in a fun way. As many parents have discovered, some of these games can be downright addictive, making kids more likely to want to put in the time it takes to memorize some of these critical nuts-and-bolts skills.

To be alluring to kids, many of these academic games are replete with engaging bells and whistles. If a child taps the right answer, there is often a burst of color or sound, or perhaps a character will deliver a funny (well, funny to your six-year-old) tagline. But these features can sometimes lead the games to be counter-productive, so be discerning about which apps your child uses. 

Kids often show us their favorite apps, and we've seen a few that seem pretty ineffective. For example, one student was so eager for the stimuli that resulted in a right answer that he tapped frantically at all the answer choices until he happened to hit the right one, then beamed as he listened to the music that rewarded him for making the right "selection."  There was no penalty for a wrong answer, and no limit to the number of times he could be wrong. When asked about what he’d just learned, he could not recall the problem or the answer. He just knew that he'd “gotten it right”! Another child found the encouraging phrases that emanated from the game when he picked the wrong choice to be hysterically funny. Instead of using the game to work on his estimation skills, he selected clearly wrong answers on purpose and giggled when the game’s characters innocently urged him to try again.

Most parents and educators realize that technology is not a panacea. But it can provide kids with fantastic tools, and we hope this gives you a few ideas about using flashy new techniques to help develop solid, old-fashioned understanding.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Free Back-to-School Workshops for Parents and Educators

The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education will present a series of free back-to-school workshops for parents and educators at our Center on West 29th Street in Manhattan in the coming weeks.

Jeremy Koren
First up: on Tuesday, September 24, Paul B. Yellin, MD, FAAP,, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine and Director of The Yellin Center will discuss ADHD, Attention, and Learning. Special emphasis will be placed on the topics of common symptoms, the process of diagnosis (and what labels like "ADHD" really mean), some recommended treatments, and how to deploy individualized strategies to best support weak attention and executive-function controls in learners at every grade level, from elementary school through college.

On the following evening,Wednesday, September 25, Susan Yellin, Esq. will present College 101: What Students with Learning Issues (and Their Parents) Should Know. Mrs. Yellin will focus on matters of import to students and parents who are in various stages of the process of transitioning from high school to the more independent setting associated with colleges and universities, including admissions, student support services, choosing a school, SAT/ACT testing issues, disability disclosure considerations, and more. Parents of students from middle school through 12th grade should find this presentation highly informative.

Finally, on Thursday, October 17, Dr. Yellin will present a special discussion on Memory and Learning. In this conversation, Dr. Yellin will aim to provide parents with a new understanding of how variation in the brain functions which control memory can impact a student's performance in school.

All of these events are free, but advance registration is required and space will be limited. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.. Events will begin promptly at 5 p.m. and conclude by 6 p.m. each night.

Register online here, or call The Yellin Center at (646) 775-6646. Please tell a friend to join you! We hope to see you there.

Download printable fliers for the events here and tack them up on your local community or school bulletin board.

-Jeremy Koren