(203) 453-5067 Laura@HandleEducation.com

Improving Critical Thinking

How important are critical thinking skills? College professors and business leaders complain that their students and employees lack these skills. Developers of the ACT and the SAT are reacting to these concerns by altering the current  forms of the tests, so that they l emphasize mastery of critical thinking skills. Available samples of the new SAT indicate that the “plug and chug” method of answering multiple choice questions math questions will not be enough to attain a high score. One section of the new format will disallow calculator use.  Instead, students will have to  apply concepts rather than perform simple computation of formulas .Furthermore, both the ACT and the SAT are placing more emphasis on critical thinking for the essays.  Both exams will require students to read texts (some of which are historical documents) and then analyze the writer’s methods of achieving the argument. In addition the other sections of both exams  will include charts and graphs that a student must analyze. But how and where are students learning these skills? One way of helping students to develop critical thinking is through writing. Providing students with opportunities to produce informational writing that analyzes, criticizes, or explains helps them engage in “”meta-cognition” or thinking about thinking. A recent abstract in “Life Sciences Education“ indicates, “As an instructional method, writing has long been perceived as a way to improve critical thinking.”  Students enrolled in a general biology laboratory course who wrote about the experiment outperformed those in the same course who were in the “non-writing” group.  “Results indicated that the writing group significantly improved critical thinking skills whereas the non-writing group did… Read More »

For Better Sleep, SHUT those Gadgets!

Many parents, educators, and physicians are concerned about the sleep patterns of teenagers. In previous articles, I have cited the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control that teens sleep at least nine hours to function at an optimal level. When I canvass my students, I find that their average nightly sleep reflects the troubling pattern of between six to seven hours.  School districts are beginning to respond to the call  to alter the daily class schedule and avoid early morning class times.  Districts that have initiated later starting times report positive results: fewer fatigued students, fewer auto accidents, and higher SAT scores.  In fact, Guilford is in the forefront of Shoreline towns that will establish later school starting times in the near future. However, despite the best efforts of adults, teens are ultimatelly reponsbile for their personal well-being.  Later class times should not be an invitation to stay up engaged with their electronic gadgets. A recent study from Norway reveals the detrimental effects of having a smart phone or tablet on the night table.  The results, as reported by NBC, indicate that the screens emit a light that may affect sleep hormone production.  Communicating online at bedtime also contributes to less sleep time. The study followed 10,000 boys and girls from ages 16-19.  Those who had four or more hours of daytime “screen time” had an almost 50% higher risk of taking more than an hour to fall asleep. Teens who engaged with their gadgets for at least two hours after school experienced more tossing and turning and shorter sleep time as well. Furthermore, teens who used two… Read More »

The “Secret” of Raising Successful Children

  If someone were to ask which personal characteristics can predict a child’s happiness and satisfaction when he was an adult, what would you respond?  Would you consider intelligence, creativity, athletic ability, or some other quality?  Dr. Leonard Sax, MD, PhD, has posed that question in his new book, The Collapse of Parenting.  The answer, based on long term scientific studies, is none of those qualities.  Rather, it’s self-control. During the previous century, psychologists discovered that personality has five dimensions: conscientiousness, openness, extroversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability.  Of these five traits, the one that most often correlates with happiness, wealth, and life satisfaction is conscientiousness.  Dr. Sax states, “Individuals who are more conscientious earn and save more money, even after researchers adjust for intelligence, race, ethnicity, and education. . . , (they) are also significantly happier than individuals who are less conscientious, and they are substantially more satisfied with their lives..” (119) Research studies have also found that these individuals are less likes to suffer obesity or Alzheimer’s. Is self-control genetic, or can parents instill this quality into their children?  The answer: “Conscientious is not hardwired. It is not determined at birth. It is something you can influence. It is something you can change.” (125) Parents can teach self control to young children as well as teens.  In order to do so, they must become more authoritative. They need to act like what they are– parents, not friends! They need to establish firm guidelines. Their imperative is “to implement a simple program that builds self control . . . Put your toys away after you play with them. No cell phone… Read More »

The Benefits of Taking Notes by Hand

One of the key elements to successful retention of learning material is note-taking. With the advent of computers, tablets, and smart phones, many students rely on their keyboards  for note-taking.  However, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal may have some re-thinking their note-taking strategies.  Data from research studies at Princeton and UCLA demonstrate that hand-written notes enable students to retain more information for longer periods than do typed notes. The Princeton study, as quoted in NJ.com states, “Note-takers who used laptops created nearly verbatim records of the lectures in the study, but scored lower on tests of retention than those who wrote their notes longhand. Even when students were given a week’s delay before a test on the same lecture, those who used laptops performed below that of longhand writers.” Two years ago The Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching published a review of note-taking that indicates that many students entering the university come unprepared to take effective notes.  It set forth suggestions and procedures for effective note-taking and responded to the question regarding the optimal note-taking method.  Keyboarding may allow students to generate more content than hand-writing, However, “if  learners choose to transcribe everything the instructor says,their WM (words/minute) will be taxed greatly by production procedures and reduce their ability to comprehend content during class. . .In contrast, writing notes in (a learner’s) own words reduces some of the burden on WM associated with production processes, in favor of learners focusing more on comprehension.” Thus, the effort of taking notes long-hand appears to have the benefit of allowing students to think more intensely and comprehend the material.  The ability to take verbatim notes using… Read More »

If schools were permitted to have just one training, this is the one!

This training will help to raise test scores for your students, decrease discipline challenges, and improve classroom rapport. You will learn how to meet students where they are and lead them where they need to be, capture attention, and promote deeper learning.