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Thread: Children should play longer.

  1. #1 Children should play longer. 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    An opinion piece in the 16 November New Scientist, written by David Whitebread and Sue Bingham - experts on child psychology.

    They criticise the British habit of starting school young. They cite research showing that children should not start formal education till age 7, which is 3 years later than at present. It appears that very young children accomplish more through play than through being taught. Indeed, they claim that actual harm is caused by formal education at too young an age.

    Research here in NZ showed that children who start formal learning at age 7 can read at age 11 just as well as those who start at age 5, and showed a greater love for reading. On the other hand, there is evidence showing that an early start leads to higher levels of stress and mental health problems.

    If you had a young child, what would you want for them?


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    Speaking as one who teaches 6 year olds to read, and write, and draw, when they've "fallen behind" at school, I'd say starting formal schooling later would work quite well for many children, especially boys. But, there's a big but ....

    The biggest influence on primary school failure is (lack of) parental language in the home. It comes from research - in the 60s! - and it's called The 30 Million Word Gap.
    They found that the sheer number of words heard varied greatly along socio-economic lines. On average, children from families on welfare were provided half as much experience as children from working class families, and less than a third of the experience given to children from high-income families.

    In other words, children from families on welfare heard about 616 words per hour,

    while those from working class families heard around 1,251 words per hour,

    and those from professional families heard roughly 2,153 words per hour.

    Thus, children from better financial circumstances had far more language exposure to draw from.


    What that adds up to is a 30 million word difference by the time a child is four years old.

    And the content of what is said differs a great deal in different families as well.

    In addition to looking at the number of words exchanged, the researchers also looked at what was being said within these conversations. What they found was that higher-income families provided their children with far more words of praise compared to children from low-income families.
    Conversely, children from low-income families were found to endure far more instances of negative reinforcement compared to their peers from higher-income families.

    Children from families with professional backgrounds experienced a ratio of six encouragements for every discouragement.

    For children from working-class families this ratio was two encouragements to one discouragement.

    Finally, children from families on welfare received on average two discouragements for every encouragement.


    So we finish up with the not very remarkable notion that people in difficult circumstances and experiencing negative life experiences are much less likely to be upbeat and positive and encouraging with children.

    The established connection between what a parent says and what a child learns has more severe implications than previously anticipated. Though Hart and Risley are quick to indicate that each child received no shortage of love and care, the immense differences in communication styles found along socio-economic lines are of far greater consequence than any parent could have imagined. The resulting disparities in vocabulary growth and language development are of great concern and prove the home does truly hold the key to early childhood success.

    Rice University Center for Education

    So that indicates that a system that starts formal schooling later could be giving the students with the biggest hill to climb an even steeper task. Because ...

    Researchers found that measures of accomplishment at age three were highly indicative of performance at the ages of nine and ten on various vocabulary, language development, and reading comprehension measures.


    The best education system anyone knows is (or at least was) in Finland. They start at a later age. However, they invest in the first few school years in a major, major way that no English speaking system has ever done. Basically, every sign that a student is struggling is taken as a signal to put more resources into that particular child. And if that doesn't work, they put in even more. And again, and again. So you never get a 10 year old unable to read, and then someone like me finds out they need glasses or special coaching because they can't even see the words on the page. All those issues are resolved at the first sign of any problem at all. And you never have a student move to high school unable to understand science because their vocabulary and their reading comprehension aren't up to the job.


    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    It's hard to get cultural context. For example, for many elementary programs in the US play=formal education until the children approach 8 or 9 years old. And even my twin teacher education programs for middle school 6-8 grade and high school 9-12, often show methods that include play can be among the most powerful ways to teach (aka, be formal) until adulthood.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    I had a teaching gig(sculpture) at a local high-school, knowing nothing about teaching, I asked a friend/dean at the local jc for some insights and advice.
    The high school was a "special school" which originally had a student body that was sentenced to go there, but was now over 1/2 voluntary(choice). So the dean(she) said: there are 3 recognized learning skills. Some learn best from reading the material, some learn best by hearing the material, and some learn best by being able to walk about as they are receiving the material. She went on to say that I would likely encounter the latter 2 at that high school.

    It would seem that any educational environment that would best serve the student should be designed to:
    Teach to the students learning abilities and strengths
    and Teach when the student was ready to learn.

    Both of these mean a less regulated educational environment.
    and a higher teacher to student ratio.

    Development happens at different times and at different rates.
    I doubt that any "one educational rule" is applicable to all children.
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    So the dean(she) said: there are 3 recognized learning skills. Some learn best from reading the material, some learn best by hearing the material, and some learn best by being able to walk about as they are receiving the material.
    She's wrong.

    See Dan Willingham on this Daniel Willingham's Learning Styles FAQ - Daniel Willingham

    This is the video (not very long) where he makes his point quite simply. Learning Styles Don't Exist - YouTube

    In brief, learning styles are appropriate for the subject not for the learner. You can't learn swimming or ballet by reading or listening, you can't learn Mandarin to speak a language just by reading, you can't learn maths by focusing on listening.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  7. #6  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    ...She's wrong. ... .
    I suspect that you are making a declarative statement for a field of science that remains unsettled.

    Imho Dan Willingham's argument is far from convincing.
    He seems to rely on contrasting either-or scenarios rather than as a continuum on a gray scale which is what much of modern psychology recognizes.
    His meaning based concept is close to accurate, but contrasting learning from a map rather than a description of the map is just silly.
    I do not see much well reasoned methodology to his claims, and find his declarative statement to be well overshooting the science.
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    Read MOAR Dan Willingham. He's excellent.

    Start with all his material on maths learning and teaching and go from there. A lot of his stuff appears in American Educator, easy to search - and if his approach doesn't appeal there are others who might. I've only come across a couple I thought were on the wrong track and that was only in maths. AFT - A Union of Professionals - American Educator, Current Issue
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    Forum Masters Degree Tranquille's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    An opinion piece in the 16 November New Scientist, written by David Whitebread and Sue Bingham - experts on child psychology.

    They criticise the British habit of starting school young. They cite research showing that children should not start formal education till age 7, which is 3 years later than at present. It appears that very young children accomplish more through play than through being taught. Indeed, they claim that actual harm is caused by formal education at too young an age.

    Research here in NZ showed that children who start formal learning at age 7 can read at age 11 just as well as those who start at age 5, and showed a greater love for reading. On the other hand, there is evidence showing that an early start leads to higher levels of stress and mental health problems.

    If you had a young child, what would you want for them?
    Being a parent of two young children within the age bracket being discussed, I think it depends on each child.

    By the time each my kids started prep here in Australia, they could count to 100, knew the alphabet and could spell many of the sight words they are taught in grade one. It wasn't forced on them. The counting and the alphabet was something I used to do in play and while singing and they just picked it up and would really get into it. Plus I read to them extensively, even while they were babies. By the time they were 5, we could see they were bored and would keep peppering us with questions on how to spell this and that. By the time both started grade one respectively, they could read well past their age bracket, mathematics was off the charts. Although my youngest has better reading and writing skills than his older brother, my eldest is more mathematical and scientifically minded and is already getting bored with the basic maths he is doing in grade 2 at the moment but he is also at the top of his class in reading and writing, although his teacher did complain once that after he does his maths in class, he tries to break it down by doing division and subtraction with random numbers from his answers, while the others are still half way through their addition and times tables. Thankfully both their teachers recognise this and actually challenge them with slightly harder work as well, only both are kind of past that already, so they are talking advance classes for next year for both of them if they want it. It is up to them.

    The fundamental start of it was through play and continues to be through play. And in a way, the internet is a bonus with this. When they play outside and find a particular bug (and there are many ) or worm (ugh), they ask us and we google it and find appropriate pages and they have an interest in reading it, to learn more. To them it is a game but their minds are like little sponges. I can't say it's an age thing, I think it's just that each child is very different. Reading is a big thing in my household and they never go to bed without a story read to them and usually, I will stop reading and ask one of them to read the next paragraph or page, which they do with gusto . If they were not interested in reading or showed interest in something else, then they would learn through that instead while playing.

    I do think play is vital and kids learn so much through play, pretty much all of the basic fundamentals my kids learned before they started school and when they started school was through play. Some kids are not suited to starting school at 4-5 while some are. I do think it should depend on each child instead of an arbitrary age. I do agree however that play is probably one of the most important parts of their education.
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    The children learn from play. Yes. But, they meet friends at school. Children will not play if they do not have friends.
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    This talk about play is interesting, and I think I'm leaning with the folk that think Formal Education and Play should have a stronger link. Between Education and the possibility of additional time spent with media, I think that more compulsory play should simply be offered through the institution. Media take up almost as much of a Child's time per annum as education, and at its peak in early adolescence takes up more of a Child's per annum time than education. In Low Socioeconomic Status families children are more likely to spend more time interacting with media than average and high SES families.

    The concern here is the practical application of "more playtime". If it isn't in an institutional setting, play is not any more likely than bombardment of consumerism, stereotypes, violence, and other negative influences. If more play is good for the formation of Prosocial Attitudes, then it ought to be promoted through the schools.
    "Cultivated leisure is the aim of man."
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    I do not agree. I went to school as 7 years old kid and i wanted more studying! School wasn't enough for my mind. I feel same thing nowadays...
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    Learning begin at home. I believe formal schooling in children shouldn't start in a very early age. In my experience, the hardest ages to teach was children ages 2 - 4. They easily distracted by environment. Most pre-school teachers have this attention span learning problems. Children can listen to their teacher for just minutes then afterwards they won't listen anymore.
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    I believe formal schooling in children shouldn't start in a very early age.
    I agree - sort of. Siddup, shuddup and listen type learning should be left for a while. But formally constructed learning objectives based on good child development theory should inform play-based activities.

    There are a lot of things a child needs to learn that aren't academic subjects but must be mastered in order to allow effective learning. The "objective" for parents and teachers here is mainly to observe, encourage and record progress in such matters. Toilet training is imperative as is learning to recognise your own name written down and your own image in a mirror or photograph. Being able to take turns and to wait your turn is very important for a lot of activities and for reasonable behaviour in a school setting. The other basic skill is being able to manage your own shoes and clothing (recognising your own name and distinguishing not-my-name-not-my-stuff on labels) is essential. For children who can't tie shoelaces, parents need to know that other shoe types are required until they can.

    The basic school skills are also essential. Knowing the names of colours is a good start. Also it's good for children to learn how to handle books - bursting into tears if they drop a book and the pages flip open and the child fears punishment for the overwhelming catastrophe of breaking something shouldn't happen. Don't laugh, a small minority of children don't know anything at all about books, including how pages turn over. But small minorities in populations add up to quite a few children for education systems.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  15. #14  
    Forum Sophomore Estheria Quintessimo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    An opinion piece in the 16 November New Scientist, written by David Whitebread and Sue Bingham - experts on child psychology.

    They criticise the British habit of starting school young. They cite research showing that children should not start formal education till age 7, which is 3 years later than at present. It appears that very young children accomplish more through play than through being taught. Indeed, they claim that actual harm is caused by formal education at too young an age.

    Research here in NZ showed that children who start formal learning at age 7 can read at age 11 just as well as those who start at age 5, and showed a greater love for reading. On the other hand, there is evidence showing that an early start leads to higher levels of stress and mental health problems.

    If you had a young child, what would you want for them?
    I recall seeing a documentary about feral children about a decade ago, which said the following (not quoting, as I do not recall it exactly):

    'Studies from feral children have been shown too proof, that if a child does not learn a language before puberty (approx 12), than it never will,... most likely because at that time the brain will have been developed too much too allow the language skills to be' intergrated within the brain.'

    Which thus concluded,... would mean the basic skills of (atleast) language, has to be learned by the developing chilbrain under the age of 12.

    It ofcourse says nothing about the very young brain, be that of babies to toddler...

    Anyway ... I thought I'd mention it.

    To note,... the feral child not having learned a human language before the age of 12 is not dumb. It will at that age simply lack the capacity to learn a full language. It can learn some words, but it will never become a fully member of society.

    ... as I said... I do not recall the documentary I saw this in. So I cant back it up as I do not have reference material for people to look into.

    I think the documentary was about feral children observed in the USSR, or perhaps even later post USSR, Russia. But I am not sure. I recall cases of feral children that lived with pack dogs in rural area's of Russia. But those children, if I recall correctly, where taken away from the pack dogs before the age of 12,... so they could not have been the source of this documentary.
    Last edited by Estheria Quintessimo; December 20th, 2013 at 04:50 PM.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I am responsible for teaching adults with science and engineering degrees to be more effective employees by enhancing their technical knowledge. I am having my team focus, as far as practical, on making the learning process fun. In other words, as other posters have noted, play is a form of learning and learning is more rapid when it is achieved via play.
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  17. #16  
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    Very interesting thread.

    I think the major thing to remember is that different children learn at different rates, and some need more help than others. It really depends on your brain wiring at birth. I was always a bit of a dreamer at school, not really into the academic lessons. But I was a very practical child, and when I was staring out of the window instead of writing my essay, I was thinking about the sun's shadow moving and the rotation of the earth, and the solar system. I was thinking about the ants I could see running up the window frame and how their society was organised. So I was thinking about science at a very early age, and have gone on from that to being an electronics and communications engineer to being an airline pilot. So I got there in the end, but was a slow starter academically.

    The system in Finland sounds excellent and should be adopted everywhere. If a child is struggling, they should get more and more help, not less and less. In the UK - for some reason that I cannot fathom - there is a trend towards less and less help, and just putting all children into the same school. This is a disaster, and the result of this is that the bright ones still get through, but the ones that need help are left further and further behind. This causes the general dumbing down in society where the majority cannot spell or do mental arithmetic, and seem to be obsessed with the tabloid newspapers and air-headed celebrities. Oh, and you get comments from contestants on Big Brother, (who I agree are not chosen for their IQ's), such as: "I always thought the sun and the moon were the same thing" (yes, really).

    Sometimes, tragically, the child does not do well because their eyesight is poor and they can't see the board, or they can't hear properly, BUT NO ONE HAS EVER CHECKED. As a result, they can't follow the lessons and eventually lose interest - often becoming one of the delinquents disrupting lessons from the back of the class.

    It should be mandatory to test each child's hearing and eyesight at a very early age. Children should also be streamed into the appropriate school for their ability, or if this is too prejudicial, then some way of giving extra help to those who need it should be developed.


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