Monday, March 01, 2010

Teen Brains

I have known since I was a teacher that kid's brains just have to reach certain developmental milestones before they are physically capable of doing certain things. Algebra, for example. Before about 7th grade, the brain actually physiologically doesn't have the ability to abstract that is required for algebra, so teaching early will be more difficult and frustrating for the kids. Granted, some kid's brains develop faster--so they can do algebra earlier--but generally speaking, you just have to hit that plateau of development before it's even worth trying. Understanding this helps immensely when you are teaching your children.

It's one of the things I wish we could tell schools!

We've seen it recently with Benji. Benji LOVES language, letters, sounds, words. He knows the letter-sound correlations (all of them), and can spell and read words he's memorized ("w-e-n-t  WENT!" and "at", for example). But, as a 2 year old, there is some vital connection missing. So when I said, "He has the skills to learn to read; let's try it," I was disappointed. He reads like this, pointing at each letter and saying it's sound as he goes: "cuh--aa--tuh. Cuh-a-tuh. It says Splat!" He just guesses a random word--sometimes rhyming, sometimes not. Intellectually, he's ready. Developmentally? Not so much. I'm waiting for the "click" when the brain connections form and suddenly he gets it. It'll happen. Caleb got it before he potty trained at 3 1/2, but Benji might not click until age 5. You never know.

Sometimes I wonder if kids who need reading remediation just weren't developmentally ready to read when they were initially taught how. It's one of my concerns with them pushing age 3-4 kindergarten and then trying to teach the kids to read that early. Sure my kids did it, but they developed fast. Not everyone--and I'd wager mostly nobody--is developmentally prepared at that point to read. It's a lot of frustrated hard work that is unnecessary when we would do better to be teaching to the developmental level the child is on--which is full of storytelling, imagination, kinesthetic  play--all of which teaches just as much as letters.

So, anyway, I ran across this article. Apparently they've discovered that teenager's frontal lobes are only moderately connected to the rest of their brains--so you get that exasperating problem that parents of profoundly gifted kids face from day 1: intellectually, you can do it. Developmentally, you can't.

I suppose parents of profoundly gifted kids are frustrated all those years because they're raising two-year-old teenagers!

Anyway, good article:

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