Saturday, 3 December 2016

Boys Who Sit Still Have a Harder Time Learning to Read

Especially in the early years



Anybody who has watched little boys for even five seconds knows that they are exhausting. At school, they tear around the playground, bolt through corridors and ricochet off classroom walls. According to a new Finnish study, this is all helping them to be better at reading.

The study, released Nov. 30 in the Journal of Medicine and Sport, found that the more time kids in Grade 1 spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. In first grade, a lot of sedentary time and no running around also had a negative impact on their ability to do math.

Among girls, sitting for a long time without moving much didn’t seem to have any effect on their ability to learn.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland analyzed studies that measured physical activity and sedentary time of 153 kids aged six to eight. The studies used a combined heart rate and movement sensor, and researchers gave kids standardized tests in math and reading. “We found that lower levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity, higher levels of sedentary time, and particularly their combination, were related to poorer reading skills in boys,” the study says.

While the test group was small and Scandinavian (the Finnish school system‘s freaky success is almost legendary), the study offers some evidence for what parents have been thinking for a long time: we may not be educating boys the right way.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Norway’s First Youth-Only Library for kids ages 10 to 15. Adults not allowed!


Forget what you think about libraries! Biblo Tøyen, one of Oslo Public Library’s (Deichmanske bibliotek) newest additions, is breaking and changing all the library rules! This is a unique and innovative space, created for young people ages 10 to 15.


Why 10 to 15?

Christian Bermudez, a librarian at Biblo Tøyen explains, “Norwegian schools have an after school program called SFO (Skolefritidsordning) where children can stay at school until 5 pm. There they can play, do homework, or other activities. But this program is only available for kids from 1st to 4th grades so, Biblo Tøyen is a great option for older kids to come and enjoy staying here after school.”

Biblo Tøyen: new concept=great solution

The design team went directly to the source to begin their mission to rethink and redesign the library space. They held focus groups with young people to find out their wants and needs. The youth said they wanted a place to hang out, relax, and escape parents and siblings. In addition, they needed a safe place to socialize and said it should be a space where they can create and do things together. The library has achieved these goals by creating a cool and comfortable ‘third’ space between school and home where youth can learn, explore, and be themselves.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

How kids can benefit from boredom




From books, arts and sports classes to iPads and television, many parents do everything in their power to entertain and educate their children. But what would happen if children were just left to be bored from time to time? How would it affect their development?

I began to think about boredom and children when I was researching the influence of television on children’s storytelling in the 1990s. Surprised at the lack of imagination in many of the hundreds of stories I read by ten to 12 year-old children in five different Norfolk schools, I wondered if this might partly be an effect of TV viewing. Findings of earlier research had revealed that television does indeed reduce children’s imaginative capacities.

For instance, a large scale study carried out in Canada in the 1980s as television was gradually being extended across the country, compared children in three communities – one which had four TV channels, one with one channel and one with none. The researchers studied these communities on two occasions, just before one of the towns obtained television for the first time, and again two years later. The children in the no-TV town scored significantly higher than the others on divergent thinking skills, a measure of imaginativeness. This was until they, too, got TV – when their skills dropped to the same level as that of the other children.

The apparent stifling effect of watching TV on imagination is a concern, as imagination is important. Not only does it enrich personal experience, it is also necessary for empathy – imagining ourselves in someone else’s shoes – and is indispensable in creating change. The significance of boredom here is that children (indeed adults too) often fall back on television or – these days – a digital device, to keep boredom at bay.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Simplicity of Thought: 4 Ways to Teach Kids How to Meditate

As a parent, I want to cultivate a culture of meditation for my children, so that no matter what happens outside of their control, they will be emboldened with a quiet confidence to handle the task or situation. Meditation with children doesn’t need to look like an Ashram. No robes necessary. But these four techniques will arm your children to live lives of patience, love, generosity, and compassion.




Rhythm meditation

Meditation doesn’t have to be limited to quiet words and thoughts. Sometimes the best way to teach children to notice what’s going on inside is to get them loud and moving. 

Begin by handing your child whatever schoolhouse instrument or improvised instrument you have on hand. Maracas, shakers, hand drums, or old coffee cans work great. Ask your child to play for you what “happy” sounds like. Then ask them to play you what “sad” sounds like. Move through several emotions before asking them to play you what they feel like right now.

Engage with this through the week asking them at random intervals to play you what their feelings sound like at that moment. Over time, kids will learn to be attuned to their feelings and know that it’s safe to express whatever those feelings may be.

“That Kid” and the loving-kindness meditation

Once kids hit school, they seem to always have That Kid in their class: the kid who is always irritating to your child. That kid is the perfect opportunity to teach your child the loving-kindness meditation or the “metta bhavana.” As adapted for children, here’s how it works:

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Lost in translation: five common English phrases you may be using incorrectly




English is a language rich with imagery, meaning and metaphor – and when we want to express ourselves we can draw upon a canon replete with beautifully turned phrases, drawing from the language’s Latin, French and Germanic roots, through Chaucer and Shakespeare right up to myriad modern wordsmiths – not to mention those apt aphorisms that English has appropriated from other languages.

So why is it we so regularly misuse some of these phrases? Here are five of the most common sayings that have somehow become lost in translation.

The proof is in the pudding

This is a confusion of a proverb first recorded in 1605 in its correct form: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. One of the reasons for the confusion is that the word “proof” is being used in the older sense “test” – preserved today in a proofreader who checks the test pages (or “proof”) of a book before publication. Confusion was further encouraged by the tendency for people to use a shortened version of the proverb – the proof of the pudding.

Since the word “proof” is today more commonly used to mean “evidence”, the phrase was reworded as if it implied that the evidence for some claim can be located in a pudding. The true explanation of this phrase is quite simple – especially for fans of the Great British Bake-Off – it doesn’t matter how fancy the decoration and presentation, the true test of a pudding is in how it tastes. Or, more generally, the success of something can only be judged by putting it to its intended use.

The exception that proves the rule

This phrase is most commonly used to argue that something that doesn’t conform to a rule somehow validates it. This can hardly be the correct use, however, since the claim that all birds can fly is invalidated rather than confirmed by the discovery of penguins or emus. This confusion is often attributed to an incorrect understanding of the word “prove”, which it is claimed is here being used to mean “test”. According to this explanation, the phrase means that an exception is the means by which a rule is tested. If the exception cannot be accounted for, the rule must be discarded.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Animation brings 2500-year-old vase to life




Oxford academics have teamed-up with an animator to bring ancient Greek vase scenes to life.

The images on this 2,500-year-old vase have been animated to show what life was like in ancient Greece.

The Classics in Communities project, which is led by Mai Musié of Oxford University to encourage the teaching of ancient languages like Latin and Greek, has teamed up with the Panoply Vase Animation Project following an award from the Oxford University Knowledge Exchange Fund.

The animation is freely available to watch online, and its creators hope it is used by teachers and lecturers to support their teaching of topics related to ancient Greece.


'Our animation features a cup that would once have been used at ancient drinking parties 2,500 years ago,' says Dr Sonya Nevin, co-director of the Panoply Vase Animation Project.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

How Libraries Save Lives

One woman’s story of how a bookmobile transported her away from a deadly life and toward her human potential.



“Knowledge sets us free, art sets us free. A great library is freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the sacredness of public libraries. “If librarians were honest, they would say, No one spends time here without being changed,” Joseph Mills wrote in his ode to libraries. “You never know what troubled little girl needs a book,” Nikki Giovanni wrote in one of her poems celebrating libraries and librarians.

A beautiful testament to that emancipating, transformative power of public libraries comes from one such troubled little girl named Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, had her life profoundly changed, perhaps even saved, by a library bookmobile, and went on to become a librarian herself. She tells her story in this wonderful oral history animation by StoryCorps:



The piece was adapted into an essay in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work(public library) — the collection of tender, touching, and deeply humane stories edited by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay that also gave us pioneering astronaut Ronald McNair, who perished in the Challenger disaster, remembered by his brother.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

How mentoring can improve modern languages uptake in schools




For some time, there have been many stories told of the “crisis” in modern languages in secondary schools and universities. There is hard evidence to support this. Even though there have been upsurges in modern languages provision – following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate for example – pupil numbers continue to fall.

In Wales, where modern languages are still an optional choice at GCSE, research shows that the number of pupils studying a foreign language declined by 44% between 2002 and 2015. The number of pupils taking French in 2015 was less than half those who took it in 2002.

But why are pupils put off taking a language at GCSE level, and how can we improve attitudes to the subjects? As a bilingual country, it seems counter-intuitive that Welsh pupils cannot see the benefits of studying languages. However, research from an engagement project we have recently been running suggests a range of things are influencing pupils’ decisions not to study a language.

Choosing languages (or not)

The mentoring project saw undergraduate modern language students from four Welsh universities trained to work with year eight and nine pupils (aged 13 and 14) in 28 schools. The students helped the pupils to practice their language, build confidence and knowledge, and teach them how modern languages can aid personal and professional development.

Our work was part of a push by the Welsh government, to arrest and reverse the decline in modern languages study by 2020.

In its first year, with 32 students mentoring 254 pupils, the project had a clear impact not only on the schoolchildren who were mentored, but on whole cohorts within the project schools. Over half of the schools reported increased numbers for GCSE language classes, including one school where a modern language GCSE class is now running for the first time in three years.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Seven myths about dyslexia put to rest





As researchers who study dyslexia, we often read articles or overhear conversations that completely misunderstand what dyslexia is – or how it can be treated.

Dyslexia is the term used to describe someone with reading difficulties – and it affects up to 10% of Australians.

A reader with dyslexia may have difficulty in reading unusual words like yacht; have difficulty with nonsense words like frop; misread slime as smile; struggle to understand passages; or struggle in a number of other ways when reading.

To coincide with Dyslexia Empowerment Week – aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the disorder – we highlight the seven most common misconceptions about dyslexia.

Myth 1: I’m a bad speller because I’m dyslexic

Some researchers and organisations include spelling problems in their definition of dyslexia. This can be a problem because spelling and reading are different skills even if they are both based on written language.

There are some processes involved in both spelling and reading, so some people will have problems with both skills. But research has clearly shown that many people are good readers, but poor spellers; or good spellers, yet poor readers.

To avoid grouping different kinds of problems together, it is less confusing to use the distinct terms dysgraphia (or spelling impairment) for problems in spelling, and dyslexia (or reading impairment) for reading problems.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Schools aren't teaching the most important subject for kids




Not too long ago, Jana Mohr Lone was at an education workshop in her hometown of Seattle when someone gave her a note.

The note was written by a fifth-grade girl. As Mohr Lone read it, the girl's words began to fill her with joy.

"Ever since you left, I've been looking at my surroundings more and being careful about who I'm talking to and what I'm saying," Mohr Lone later recalled, reading the note over the phone. "I'm thankful because you made me think deeper about things and care more about life."

Mohr Lone isn't a guidance counselor or a therapist. She's a philosophy teacher, the founding director of the University of Washington's Center for Philosophy for Children, and the 20-year president of PLATO, a nonprofit focused on bringing philosophy to schools.

She had spent an hour each week for the last year visiting the girl's school to teach the ancient discipline. And now, just a couple months later, she was already seeing her impact firsthand.

Schools' essential function (at least in theory) is to give kids the skills they need to navigate adult life. Amid the heavy focus on math, science, and reading, however, they've skipped over one of the oldest intellectual pursuits.

While programs have been spreading across US high schools over the last several years, when it comes to elementary education one question still lingers: Why don't more schools teach philosophy?

The surprising benefits of kids asking questions

The questions philosophy raises about life merit it a spot in the school schedule, but it's the wide-ranging benefits to other school subjects that make it so valuable for students.

Numerous studies have found that kids who take philosophy go on to excel in reading and math, too.