I have been reading Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman and I HIGHLY recommend it to parents and educators. I just finished reading Chapter 8, and I thought I’d jot down some of my impressions.
The chapter focuses on a Preschool and Kindergarten program called Tools of the Mind. The author describes the program, explains its benefits, and finally (in a much too short conclusion) explains how you can apply elements of the program to parenting and educational settings.
Tools of the Mind employs strategies such as a “play hour.” This sounds very similar to “center time” in most preschool or kindergarten rooms, but the difference is in the childrens’ play plans. Before the play hour begins, the students write down their play plan. Younger children scribble or draw their play plan, while older children write as much as possible. Then, for the next 45 minutes, the children STICK TO IT.
Other strategies include encouraging “private speak” by modeling it out loud. As the students practice writing a letter with the teacher, they describe their pencil strokes out loud. Gradually, they whisper what they’re doing, and eventually, they no longer speak out loud – it has become “private speak.” This is something that adults do regularly (think through things in their heads) but kids do not all do this.
One of my favorite components is that the teachers show the children how to evaluate their own (and others’) work. The teacher will write four versions of the same letter on the board and ask kids to pick the “best.” Kids “grade” each other’s penmanship by circling the best example of each letter.
And the program is WILDLY successful – increasing students’ executive function, vocabulary, IQ, abstract and symbolic thinking, concentration, cognitive control and self-regulation.
So what can teachers and parents take from this?
- Have children write a plan for how they will spend their time, and make them stick to it. This could be during studyhall, an afternoon at home, a visit to the library, or anywhere.
- Encourage children to use “private speech” when learning to do something. “Start at the top and draw a line down.” or “Cross the laces, and put this one underneath.”
- Instead of pointing out specific mistakes, be more general. “There is a mistake in the second paragraph.” “Something you just read didn’t make sense.”
- Have students evaluate their own work.
Any other ideas?