Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How repetition helps a child's vocabulary

This article from today's New Zealand Herald, originally featured in The Independent, highlights the importance of repetition as a means of building a child's vocabulary.

It may be boring for parents - but reading the same book over and over again to children is the best way to develop their vocabulary.
Researchers at Sussex University have found that repetition is more likely to help them improve their reading skills.
"What we think is happening with reading is that each time a child hears the book, they are picking up new information," said psychologist Dr Jessica Horst, who conducted the research.
She added: "We know that children who watch the same television programme over and over again do better in comprehension tests afterwards."
The researchers devised an experiment with three-year-olds in which they were exposed to two new words to test the theory.
Each word was a made-up name for an unfamiliar object - such as a "sprock", a hand-held device for mixing food.
Over the course of a week, one group heard three different stories with the same new words. The second heard only one story with the words. Each contained a drawing of the new objects.
Those who had heard just one story were much better at remembering and recalling the new words when tested at the end of the week compared with those who had been read the three different stories.
"We know that the more books you have at home, the higher the academic achievement," said Dr Horst.
"But what we haven't understood is actually how that learning happens.
"This research shows that it's not the number of books but the repetition of each book that leads to the greater learning."
Margaret Morrissey, of the parents' pressure group ParentsOutloud, said: "To a degree I could go along with that. The most important thing is taking the time to read to your children every night in the first place."
She added: "It is important, too, to allow them to choose the story to read. If you do that, nine times out of 10 they will probably choose the same one."
However, she warned that it was imperative there were enough books in the home to allow the child a choice.
The research is by Dr Horst, Kelly Parsons and Natasha Bryan and is being published in Frontiers in Psychology later this month.
By Richard Garner 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to get boys to write

This article from the New Zealand Herald (originally from The Independent in the UK) provides an interesting and apparently successful strategy to get boys to write through the use of blogging.  The programme has been used for children as young as five.

Mystery solved: How to get boys to write

By Richard Garner
2:25 PM Friday Feb 11, 2011

A British primary school has turned young boys onto storywriting through blogging. Photo / Thinkstock

BRITAIN - Blogging may have solved one of the most pressing problems that has perplexed the education world for years: how to get boys to write properly.
A pioneering approach adopted by a primary school in Bolton has seen a remarkable rise in pupils' test scores.
The biggest impact has been on boys - who are happily churning out 5,000-word stories for their blogs in the classroom. The school, Heathfield primary, is now being used as a role model to encourage others around the country to adopt its methods. The turnabout has seen the percentage of pupils getting a higher than average score ("level five") in national curriculum writing tests for 11-year-olds soar from just seven per cent to 63 per cent.
It all started during the heavy snowfalls last year. "I got really frustrated at the bad press teachers were getting [for school closures]," said David Mitchell, the school's deputy head. "I threw out an idea about hosting online lessons."
The school texted all the pupils' parents saying there would be online lessons while they were kept at home. On the school website a blogging platform had been set up and soon most pupils were busily blogging in response to requests to go out into their back garden and report on the depth of the snow.
"Blogging was cool and fulfilling," said Mr Mitchell. "After this there was no looking back."
Blogging was then officially introduced to the curriculum with even five-year-olds being encouraged to write what they thought about their lessons. The school set up links internationally with other schools allowing their youngsters to exchange blogs with places as far apart as Canada and Australia. It also introduced a "blog of the week" prize for the most exceptional piece of writing.
Youngsters were encouraged to write their own short stories - with many producing 5,000-word essays at whim. "It is now a part of everyday life and the way our pupils like to communicate," said Mr Mitchell. "They will produce their work in class and then quite happily and eagerly go home and do a blog. It's now cool to be writing - especially for the boys. It's the boys who were coming up with the 5,000-word articles first."
Writing is the skill that pupils have least mastery of in tests for 11-year-olds, with only 71 per cent reaching the required standard, compared with 86 per cent in reading. The gap between girls' and boys' performance can be seen as early as seven - with the last tests for that age group showing one in four boys failed to reach the required standard compared with just 13 per cent of girls. Teachers find it remarkable that their pupils are now so enthusiastic over writing, something that was once considered a chore.
Paul Hynes, head of technology at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, said: "It's amazing what they've achieved in such a short space of time."
He added that other schools which had followed in Heathfield's footsteps had noted the same phenomenon - that it improved boys' writing skills.
Ministers have ploughed millions of pounds into trying to solve the problem of boys' writing and reading standards, creating a "boys into books" scheme which introduced more fact-based books for boys to read in the classroom and a "reading champions" programme in which Premier League footballers spoke about their favourite books. Neither, though, seem to have had as big an effect as the opportunity to blog at Heathfield primary school.
By Richard Garner

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Study shows top students excelling but others need more support

This article from the New Zealand Education Gazette re-emphasizes the success of New Zealand 15 year old students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).  What I particularly like about this article is how it takes a more positive spin on the concerning gap between the highest and lowest achievers, as highlighted in this quote:

“The size of this spread is not only because of the under performance of our lowest achieving students but also due to the great success of students at the highest level.”

Although the gap is a concern, it is good to see a glass half full view.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One school's positive iPad journey

This article is well worth a read.  It's about the success that one school has had with the deployment of iPads for it's students.  The four areas where the iPad has had the most impact are:

1. Differentiation
2. Engagement
3. Hardware
4. Content Creation 
To find out how each area has been positively impacted, read the full article.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New perspectives on recipes for learning

This TED talk from Charles Leadbeater is thought provoking and well worth viewing.  It looks at education in environments outside of the norm (in terms of western culture), and ideas from innovative programmes in these settings that could be applied to the betterment of students everywhere.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Government heading to the clouds

I remember when Lakeview School looked to use cloud computing there were doubts about the security of student work.  There were also some doubts about students learning a new system that wasn't compatible with what was going on in the 'real world'.

It's great to see that we were ahead of our time, with students having secure password protected access to their work wherever there is an Internet connection, and cloud computing becoming more and more widely used.  This is even more evident when a significant organisation, such as the New Zealand Government, starts to look towards the cloud for it's ICT services.  Check out this article 'Big shake up has Govt looking into the clouds' from the New Zealand Herald.