Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, recommended reading this book by Ellen Galinsky. 
She believes there are seven essential life skills that children need.  These skills are:
 1.  Focus and self control
 2.  Perspective taking
 3.  Communicating
 4.  Making connections
 5.  Critical thinking
 6.  Taking on challenges
 7.  Self-directed, engaged learning
I'm going to give a summary of each of these seven skills, both what they are and how to promote them. Here are my notes on the first one.

Skill One: Focus and Self Control
     Executive function could be just as important as IQ - kids with good attention skills are more successful in reading and math
     This skill includes:
        a.  Focus
        b.  Cognitive flexibility: being able to shift attention from one thing to another, adjust to a change in demands or priorities, or switch perspectives
        c.  Working memory: allows you to do mental arithmetic, relate one idea to another,or prioritize what you need to do
        d.  Inhibitory Control: this allows you to pay attention despite distractions, stick with something even when its challenging, and to think before you act

     How to promote focus:
       1.  Help teach them to how bring themselves under control
       2. Games that help them focus by learning to pay attention:
           - guessing games
           - I Spy
           - puzzles
           - red light, green light
           - musical chairs
           - bell game: everyone walks around carrying a bell - the goal is that the bell doesn't make a sound
       3.  Read stories in a way that encourages them to listen
       4.  Select video games and tv shows that help children pay attention
       5.  Background television can be disruptive and distracting
       6.  Make sure they are well rested and have breaks, as this will improve their attention and self-control.
       7.  Teach by example!

    How to promote cognitive flexibility:
      1.  Play sorting games with changing rules: sort different types of objects (for example flowers and cars in three different colors) - This suggestion reminds me of the card game SET!
      2.  Encourage them to pretend and make up stories
      3.  Give them puzzles

   How to promote working memory:
      1.  Play games that have rules
      2.  Encourage children to pretend
      3.  Have them make plans, follow the plans, and discuss what they accomplished

   How to promote inhibitory control:
      Play games where the rules force them to inhibit what they would do automatically
       - peg tapping: This is a game where you must do the opposite of the other person.  For example, if you tap one, the other person taps twice, and vice versa.
        - Day-Night: When shown a picture, you say the opposite of what it shows.  For example, you see a picture of daytime, and say night, and vice versa.
        - Have cards with names of colors written in different colors - the goal is for them to say the color they see, rather than read the word itself
        - Simon says, but do the opposite: for example, sit when they say stand

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