The majority of my private practice is devoted to helping parents and teachers understand that a child’s intelligence comes in all shapes and sizes. If you learn anything from my book it will be to look at the child’s learning brain from many different angles. It could be looked at developmentally or in stages. That is, the child’s learning brain should be defined individually and not by the average for that age group. In other words, not all children can ride a two-wheeler at four years of age. One group of four-year-olds might have no problem and another group of four-year-olds will need training wheels and so forth. In other words, why not apply this concept to the learning brain as well?
In addition, children’s brains represent different intelligences. Some are gifted in math, others are gifted verbally, and still other physically or kinesthetically. In short, when you teach to the child’s interest or passion, you are also teaching to his particular intelligence?
Author, Joseph Pearce (Magical Child), equates high intelligence and learning with the heart. When you discover the child’s true passion and interest you are actually connecting his heart to the emotional mid brain. The hippocampus located in the mid-brain or limbic system is responsible for bonding. When the child’s brain bonds with any learning experience, you are setting a direct path for higher intelligence or the executive centers of her brain. However, when children reject learning, another part of the mid- brain or the amygdala goes into a fight or flight response and the learning process is short circuited.
Furthermore, Brain Smart – The Learning Brain, serves readers with many different interests and venues. For parents, the articles can provide enrichment and knowledge that can help parents become more attuned to their child’s developing brain. For teachers, the articles present up-to-date information that can be used to support class lectures, curriculum development and even parent conferences. Finally, college students often contact with me about my articles and seek follow-up research for term papers, examinations etc.
Our first section represents “Early Childhood” with each successive section progressing through “Late Childhood,” “Early Adolescence,” “Adolescence,” and finally “Adulthood.” Further, the articles are written from many different perspectives. One perspective could simply be their titles. For example, Article # 34, “Intelligence and the Lost Art of Cursive Writing,” attempts to alert readers to the possibility that cursive writing should be viewed not only as an art form, but also as a stimulant to intelligence, particularly school intelligence and learning. In my opinion, cursive writing is being lost to other forms of written expressions (printing, keyboarding, texting etc.) that could negatively affect the child’s learning brain. I hope that such a title plants a seed of curiosity about cursive writing and why it should be taught in our schools? Also, since my articles were written for a newspaper and/or blog, it is imperative that I grab the reader immediately with the hope that when you read the title, you will want to read the article.
Moreover, I use research to solve or change the direction of how we should deal with the child’s learning brain. Again, with cursive writing, I cite research that shows that children’s brains can improve when they are taught to use cursive writing in school. I became further convinced as a teacher of learning disabled children when I saw that much of my student’s academic improvement could be connected to my daily cursive writing exercises.
Also, my articles often cite examples from other schools or teaching philosophies, such as Waldorf and Montessori Education. Such school programs support cursive or calligraphy as an approach to writing, reading and higher levels of learning.
In addition, my articles are written in a clear and succinct style so that you, the reader, can easily understand the connection between research and how you can actually implement a cursive writing program with you own children or students.
For example, each section attempts to personalize the role of parent, teacher and/or layperson and their relationship to each developmental period. That is, how do you teach cursive writing to late childhood or to students, ages seven through eleven? Lastly, readers can identify each article from a numerical list that is included at the end of each article’s title. (Intelligence and the Lost Art of Cursive is #3 located on page 23 in the table of contents for easy review.
Section Two, “Late Childhood,” continues our developmental journey and takes a significant step towards techniques that could effectively produce brain smart children. Late childhood begins at about age seven and proceeds to about age eleven. This second period of learning addresses this critical developmental period by identifying the different levels of the child’s learning brain. There is a certain percentage of children at one end of the learning curve or about 15%. Another percentage, about 70%, in the middle, and then another 15 % at the opposite end of the learning curve. Educators describe these percentages as bell-shaped and it can be a critical component toward understanding your child’s learning brain. Again, this important concept should help us in our understanding the child’s learning brain by acknowledging that most school and/or class make-up of learners comes in different shapes and sizes. Such approaches attempts to support the notion that children will not only learn at their own rate of speed, but also learn according to their level of cognitive development or maturity.
For instance, about 15% of students are often identified as cognitively delayed because their academic skills are not fully developed for their age or grade level. However, the same child might be the most coordinated in PE and exhibit high kinesthetic intelligence. Therefore, the sagacious teacher or parent should take note of such differences as it could be another pathway to the child’s learning brain or intelligence.
What makes the seven to eleven-year-old age group so important is that this period is an antecedent age that leads into abstract or higher order thinking. The reason long division is so challenging to the fourth grade child’s learning brain (most schools teach long division in fourth grade) is because long division is a formal operational act and requires the child to entertain four plus operations (divide, multiply, subtract, bring down etc.), including knowing their math facts. Unfortunately, many fourth graders’ brains are still reasoning at concrete operations level. They are only capable of entertaining two operations at one time, which is usually regrouping of addition, subtraction or short division. Again, the reason is often developmental. A side note to cognitive delays is that some children who struggle to master long division can develop a negative perception of math that can carry over to most of their academic careers.
Section Three, “Early Adolescence,” begins with Article #34, “Transitioning to Middle School,” and recognizes our need to understand the adjustment of the child’s learning brain and the transition to higher order thinking. Transitioning to middle school from elementary school is no different than moving from concrete operational thinking (entertain only two ideas) to formal operational thinking (three or more ideas). The brain moves from the emotional midbrain to the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher order thinking. Again, the difference between short division and long division.
In middle school, instead of one teacher, your student is now faced with six teachers! Instead of one boss, they now have five or six bosses, with five or six different offices, as well as different communication styles. The challenge for your child’s learning brain will be to think at a formal operational level or three plus operations at one time.
With early adolescence comes a host of potential problems that can affect learning as well as social development? Children will be faced with more comprehensive testing, which is why I included the article, “How Would Hemmingway Deal with Test Anxiety.” The early adolescent’s school adjustment problems could be why some studies show that only 35% of adolescents think at a formal operational level while the reality is that middle and high school curriculums are formal operational. A follow-up article #5, “When Homework Becomes Potholes for Failure,” studies the research of Feldmen, who alludes to the theory that children have different learning styles that can affect their learning ability, particularly school and homework assignments. For example, the reflective learner requires extra time as he plods along, but almost always gets his work completed on time. On the other hand, there are students called sensors who speed through school assignments. Both type of students get their homework done, but with a different style. The importance for parents and teachers is to respect both learning styles.
The fourth section, “Adolescence,” identifies the potential for higher order thinking, as well as the effect certain emotional pitfalls or baggage can have on this group. One key to this chapter will be whether or not the adolescent’s brain can successfully make the transition to a positive identity as a student, family member or, on the other hand, slip into a negative role and consequent confusion. The many pitfalls and challenges affecting this age group can affect all aspects of their personal life: academic, behavioral, moral and social. Failure to find a successful identity can lead to school dropouts and at-risk behavior and a compromised learning brain.
Article # 26, “Vocational Intelligence – Just Ask Bill Gates,” describes one strategy to help at-risk adolescents in need of a positive identity. During my five years as a juvenile hall consultant, I had the opportunity to meet with countless juveniles who felt misplaced in the academic world, contributing to the estimated 45% school drop-out rate and/or an equally high percentage for at-risk behavior. Such students did not lack intelligence, only possessed other skills that were not recognized. If placed in the right learning environment, they could succeed.
I administered vocational assessments to over 100 juvenile offenders and I discovered valuable information that could prevent school failure and/or law breaking. My assessments linked their particular vocational intelligence or personality with a career. For the males, their test results consistently showed an interest in a conventional, enterprising and social vocational personality. The assessments also defined males who exhibited a high kinesthetic/logical intelligence associated with vocational interests as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, sales etc. For the females, the assessments consistently showed similar patterns: high kinesthetic, social intelligences and artistic personalities associated with vocational interests as hairdressers, preschool teachers, etc. These adolescents did not fit into the traditional academic curriculum, but would excel in a vocational high school, which could support their particular vocational interests and intelligence.
Section Four, “For Adults Only,” changes the direction of this book. At this point in the book, we have looked at the child’s learning brain developmentally: His physical brain, his social and his moral behavior, and all the possible pitfalls that can challenge children from early childhood to late adolescence. This chapter presents articles that look into the adult world and offer suggestions as to how adults can create a more positive effect with the child’s learning brain. For example, Article #8, “School Volunteers and Cognitive Stimulation,” describes how the aging adult’s brain can profit when they participate in the children’s world as school volunteers. We examine research to support brain fitness and the different approaches brain scientists have suggested to slow-down our brain’s aging process, particularly the impact of dementia.
Article # 23, “How Many Books Do You Have in Your Home,” illustrates the connection between reading and school success. This article looks at a 20-year study by Evans (2005) who found that the number of books in a home can impact the educational levels of children in the home. For instance, the difference between the educational levels of children raised in a bookless home as compared to homes with a 500-book level was significant, regardless of parent’s education level. In short, having a 500 book library raised a child 3.2 years in education. Also, the study describes that having as few as 20 books in the home had a significant impact on moving a child to a higher level of education.
In China, 500 books in the home increased the education level to 6.6 years. In the USA, the affect was 2.4 years, less that the 3.2-year average experience across all 27 counties. Still Evans points out that 2.4 years is still significant. Bookish homes help children enjoy school and see their teachers as valuable coaches. Evans explains, “success in performance in school, leads to a positive relationship with school and education, encouraging young students to continue in education even when the going gets tough.”
Again, A Guide to How Your Child Learns – From Infancy to Early Adulthood, serves readers with many different interests and venues. For parents, the articles can provide enrichment and knowledge that can help you become more attuned to your child’s developing learning brain. For teachers, the articles present information that can be used in class lectures to support important topics to stimulate student thinking. etc.
David P. Sortino, 2016