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June 25, 2013

Kids’ Reading Success Boosted by Long-Term Individualized Instruction

Students who consistently receive individualized reading instruction from first through third grade become better readers than those who don’t, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

These findings come after a three-year study that followed several hundred Floridian students, who received varying amounts of individualized instruction, from first to third grade.

Our results show that children need sustained, effective instruction from first through third grade if they are going to become proficient readers,” said psychological scientist Carol McDonald Connor of Arizona State University, who led the research team.

Kirtland Peterson

Language Intervention Levels Playing Field for English Language Learners

A new approach to teaching pre-kindergarten could take a bite out of the achievement gap and level the playing field for America’s growing population of English language learners, according to a recently published study by researchers at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development.

“We are excited that we have helped teachers develop ways of teaching that result in such remarkable gains among children,” David K. Dickinson, professor of education and one of the project's leaders, said.

“Our teachers are committed to continuing using the approaches that are working, which means that many more children will benefit from being in their classrooms.”

Kirtland Peterson

June 24, 2013

Giving children non-verbal clues about words boosts vocabularies

The clues that parents give toddlers about words can make a big difference in how deep their vocabularies are when they enter school, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

By using words to reference objects in the visual environment, parents can help young children learn new words, according to the research.

It also explores the difficult-to-measure quality of non-verbal clues to word meaning during interactions between parents and children learning to speak.

For example, saying, “There goes the zebra” while visiting the zoo helps a child learn the word “zebra” faster than saying, “Let’s go to see the zebra.”

Differences in the quality of parents’ non-verbal clues to toddlers (what children can see when their parents are talking) explain about a quarter (22 percent) of the differences in those same children’s vocabularies when they enter kindergarten, researchers found.

Kirtland Peterson

June 20, 2013

Student Engagement More Complex, Changeable Than Thought

Pitt research paves way toward giving educators tools to recognize, correct disengagement among students

“Enhancing student engagement has been identified as the key to addressing problems of low achievement, high levels of student misbehavior, alienation, and high dropout rates.” – Pitt professor Ming-Te Wang

A student who shows up on time for school and listens respectfully in class might appear fully engaged to outside observers, including teachers.

But other measures of student engagement, including the student’s emotional and cognitive involvement with the course material, may tell a different story—one that could help teachers recognize students who are becoming less invested in their studies, according to a new study coauthored by a University of Pittsburgh researcher.

Kirtland Peterson

Narrowing the achievement gap: parents are the key

Schools know how important it is to engage parents in their child’s learning – and that this is not always easy.

A new study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Oxford University Press (OUP) aims to help schools with this perennial challenge by highlighting the latest evidence on what makes for successful home-school relationships.

Evidence shows that parental engagement in education can improve academic performance among disadvantaged youngsters and that schools can contribute significantly to enabling this.

The most effective approaches take into account parents’ gender, cultural, linguistic or socio-economic background, and see schools working closely with other support agencies and experts to effect positive change for whole families such as improvements in literacy and employment opportunities.

Kirtland Peterson

June 19, 2013

Mindfulness can increase wellbeing and reduce stress in school children

Mental training could reduce symptoms of stress and depression and promote wellbeing among school children...

Mindfulness – a mental training that develops sustained attention that can change the ways people think, act and feel – could reduce symptoms of stress and depression and promote wellbeing among school children, according to a new study published online by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

With the summer exam season in full swing, school children are currently experiencing higher levels of stress than at any other time of year.

The research showed that interventions to reduce stress in children have the biggest impact at this time of year.

There is growing evidence that mindfulness-based approaches for adults are effective at enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

However, very few controlled trials have evaluated their effectiveness among young people.

Kirtland Peterson

June 18, 2013

Not All Reading Disabilities Are Dyslexia: Lesser-Known Reading Disorder Can Be Easily Missed

A common reading disorder goes undiagnosed until it becomes problematic, according to the results of five years of study by researchers at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development in collaboration with the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dyslexia, a reading disorder in which a child confuses letters and struggles with sounding out words, has been the focus of much reading research.

But that’s not the case with the lesser known disorder Specific Reading Comprehension Deficits or S-RCD, in which a child reads successfully but does not sufficiently comprehend the meaning of the words, according to lead investigator Laurie Cutting, Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair at Peabody.

Kirtland Peterson

June 17, 2013

Fiber-optic pen helps see inside brains of children with learning disabilities

For less than $100, University of Washington researchers have designed a computer-interfaced drawing pad that helps scientists see inside the brains of children with learning disabilities while they read and write.

The device and research using it to study the brain patterns of children will be presented June 18 at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping meeting in Seattle.

A paper describing the tool, developed by the UW’s Center on Human Development and Disability, was published this spring in Sensors, an online open-access journal.

Scientists needed a tool that allows them to see in real time what a person is writing while the scanning is going on in the brain,” said Thomas Lewis, director of the center’s Instrument Development Laboratory.

“We knew that fiber optics were an appropriate tool. The question was, how can you use a fiber-optic device to track handwriting?”

Kirtland Peterson

June 14, 2013

From the mouths of babes: The truth about toddler talk

The sound of small children chattering away as they learn to talk has always been considered cute – but not particularly sophisticated.

However, research by a Newcastle University expert has shown that toddlers’ speech is far more advanced than previously understood.

Dr Cristina Dye, a lecturer in child language development, found that two to three- year-olds are using grammar far sooner than expected.

Kirtland Peterson

June 13, 2013

Yale researchers unravel genetics of dyslexia and language impairment

In previous studies, Gruen and his team found that dopamine-related genes ANKK1 and DRD2 are involved in language processing.

In further non-genetic studies, they found that prenatal exposure to nicotine has a strong negative affect on both reading and language processing. They had also previously found that a gene called DCDC2 was linked to dyslexia.

In this new study, Gruen and colleagues looked deeper within the DCDC2 gene to pinpoint the specific parts of the gene that are responsible for dyslexia and language impairment.

They found that some variants of a gene regulator called READ1 (regulatory element associated with dyslexia1) within the DCDC2 gene are associated with problems in reading performance while other variants are strongly associated with problems in verbal language performance.

Kirtland Peterson

June 12, 2013

An evaluation of Poetry Train

Key Findings:

Student teachers who participated in Poetry Train demonstrated significantly greater improvement in knowledge of and enthusiasm for poetry, confidence in teaching poetry, and acquisition of teaching skills than a comparison group.

Key factors in the effectiveness of the programme were: the poet educators, who motivated and inspired the student teachers with creative ways to teach poetry; and the timetabled opportunities for students to share ideas and experiences.

The findings from the pupil survey (Poetry Train students’ pupils) suggested they had benefited from and enjoyed learning about poetry.

Kirtland Peterson

June 6, 2013

Brain Imaging Study Eliminates Differences in Visual Function as a Cause of Dyslexia

A new brain imaging study of dyslexia shows that differences in the visual system do not cause the disorder, but instead are likely a consequence.

The findings... provide important insights into the cause of this common reading disorder and address a long-standing debate about the role of visual symptoms observed in developmental dyslexia.

Dyslexia is the most prevalent of all learning disabilities, affecting about 12 percent of the U.S. population.

Beyond the primarily observed reading deficits, individuals with dyslexia often also exhibit subtle weaknesses in processing visual stimuli. Scientists have speculated whether these deficits represent the primary cause of dyslexia, with visual dysfunction directly impacting the ability to learn to read. The current study demonstrates that they do not.

Kirtland Peterson

June 5, 2013

Teacher Collaboration, Professional Communities Improve Many Elementary School Students' Math Scores

Many elementary students' math performance improves when their teachers collaborate, work in professional learning communities or do both, yet most students don't spend all of their elementary school years in these settings, a new study by UNC Charlotte researchers shows. The U.S. Department of Education funded the study, which the journal Sociology of Education recently published.

As school districts work to improve math scores and narrow racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, many schools may have overlooked the impact of teacher collaboration and professional community on student success.

Collaboration involves teachers working together to promote student achievement.

A professional community exists when teachers feel a sense of belonging to a school, take pride in the school, understand and accept the school’s mission, and are constantly learning strategies to improve student achievement.

The research shows that some schools have developed strong professional communities that strive to help students succeed but have not fostered an environment where teachers are constantly collaborating, or working together, to plan their lessons and discuss student needs.
Kirtland Peterson