Sunday, August 07, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The seeds of a smart baby

Smart Baby: Seeds

In this section of the book, Medina goes into the history of IQ tests and the study of brains and intelligence.  One thing he covers is the fact that your IQ is not a fixed number, but can vary with your circumstances and environment.  The genetic contribution to intelligens is about 50%.  Medina sees intelligence as more than IQ.  LIke Howard Gardner, he believes there are multiple facets to it.

7 Basic ingredients of Intelligence

1.  Memory (crystallized intelligence): the ability to record information

2.  Improvisation (fluid intelligence): the ability to apply information to new situations, or being able to reason, problem solve, and learn from our mistakes

3.  The Desire to Explore: the willingness to experiment and ask questions - my husband has this in spades - as do many of the middle school students I teach.  (What if? Why not? How come you're doing it this way?)

4.  Self-control: Executive functions, which control planning, foresight, problem solving, and goal setting, are a better predictor of academic success than IQ.  One test researchers did was to see how long kids could delay gratification (eat one cookie now, or wait and you can have 2 cookies later).  Having self-control means that they can filter out distractions and stay on task.  Some of this is developed through time, some is genetic, but kids can also work to get better at this skill.

5.  Creativity: The ability to see relationships between things, to come up with new ideas, to take risks, to cope with ambiguity

6. Verbal communication: Babies are "born with the capacity to speak any language," but can only distinguish between the sounds of languages they have been exposed to in the past 6 months by the time they are a year old.  This exposure also has to come from contact with a real person speaking the language directly to the child, and not from an audio or video recording.  Therefore, the relationships a baby has are important to their learning.  (This doesn't mean you can't learn new languages later on, but it will certainly take a lot more effort.) 

7.  Decoding nonverbal communication:  Scientists have found a connection between fine motor skills and verbal communication.  They have found that learning sign language can help improve focus, spatial abilities, memory, and visual discrimination.  Again, babies benefit from interacting face to face with others because it helps them learn to read faces and the non-verbal communications that they make.  Being able to interpret gestures and facial expressions (emotions) help children to work better in groups and generally be more successful socially (in terms of networking and understanding other people's behaviors or nonverbal signals).

Next up, the soil for a smart baby.

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