The importance of self-regulation and cognitive development in the early years is something that many teachers know about but few truly understand. In the age of testing and academic advancement, the focus on early cognitive development and social skills is often overlooked. These skills include the ability for children to process the world around them, read and respond to social cues, as well as regulate their own actions. However, in many schools, including one I worked at a few years back, children as young as kindergarten age sit in rows of desks and listen to a teacher lecture, even if this is not the most efficient way for them to really learn. Therefore, finding ways to encourage children’s cognitive development is essential if we want to produce not only high test scores, but an intelligent population. Along those lines, this week I want to share with you a podcast from the New America Foundation’s Early Ed Watch. In this 25 minute presentation, Lisa Gurnsey interviews educator and researcher Carole Copple, who is also the editor of a new book which discusses the benefits of establishing cognitive foundations in early childhood (approximately birth to age 8). Among the book’s findings is the importance of teachers in presenting social modeling to students in the early years. Copple also stresses the importance of what she calls high-level dramatic play in learning self-regulation and social interaction among young children. She also discusses the success of the Tools of the Mind curriculum, which has successfully been used to teach cognitive lessons to children from all backgrounds. This podcast and the book it covers is worth a listen no matter if you are a teacher, parent, or both. The lessons it repeats on the importance of cognitive learning are a good reminder about what really matters in the early years and it isn’t scores on tests. Podcast Summary From New America’s Early Ed Watch Children undergo tremendous changes in how they think about the world throughout their pre-kindergarten and early elementary school years, presenting a challenge for educators who work in this age span. In a new book, Growing Minds: Building Strong Cognitive Foundations in Early Childhood, an array of experts expound on the development of children's understanding and thought processes, while also providing ideas for fostering this growth in ways that match what is known about human cognitive development. The book is comprised of articles from Young Children, one of the magazines published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, as well as from previous NAEYC books on cognitive growth in young children. In this podcast we talk with Carol Copple, the book's editor and NAEYC's former publications editor, about many of the ideas in the book, including a focus on the importance of helping children learn to self-regulate (control their impulses, complete tasks) as well as an explanation of what is meant by an opaque phrase that is often used in child development conversations: "approaches to learning." Our discussion also touches on how children develop the ability to take the perspective of others and how and when they are able to think in the abstract -- two cognitive moments that are tied up in children's growth in moving from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" by the end of third grade. Listen to the podcast here.
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