Denise Building the Reading Brain

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Building the Reading Brain: 

Building the Reading Brain Presented by Denise Humphries adapted from a presentation at the Tri-association Conference, Mexico City presented by Pat Wolfe, Ed. D

The State of Literacy in the United States: 

The State of Literacy in the United States The development of reading skills serves as the primary foundation for all school-based learning. 38% of 4th graders cannot read at a basic level. Some states actually predict future needs for prisoners by the 4th grade reading rates. Nearly 50% of youths with a history of substance abuse have reading difficulties.

Reading is an Unnatural Act for the Human Brain!: 

Reading is an Unnatural Act for the Human Brain! Humans have used oral language for approximately 4 million years. The ability to speak IS hard-wired in the brain. The ability to represent the sounds of language by written symbols has been around for only 4 thousand years. Reading IS NOT hard-wired in the brain. Even though reading is an acquired skill, not a natural process, most people become fluent readers….but….not without a lot of work.

Why Learning to Read is So Difficult: 

Why Learning to Read is So Difficult Learning to read is difficult…….Learning to read in English is particularly difficult! Some language systems are based on a system where each syllable is represented by a symbol. Learn the symbols and you’ve mastered the system. Spoken English contains approximately 5,00 different possible syllables. Written English uses a system of letters… alphabet…to make up a spoken syllable. A letter alone does not refer to anything. And then there’s English orthography! College………collegial……….colleague…… or ghost……..neighborhood

The Amazing Three Pound Universe: 

The Amazing Three Pound Universe How does it work?


Attention There is no way that the brain can pay conscious attention to all the sensory data that are constantly bombarding the body, therefore, it filters out information that is not relevant. Approximately 99% of all information entering through the senses is immediately dropped. When it comes to paying attention, the brain is much more like a sieve than a sponge!

Attention contd.: 

Attention contd. If the brain pays attention to something or rehearses it the information is sent to the working memory which is the conscious part of the brain. Items that are not important, or relevant or practiced simply are forgotten.

Characteristic of Working Memory: 

Characteristic of Working Memory The Cocktail Party Effect The brain can pay conscious attention to only one train of thought at a time. Limited processing space The brain can work with only a limited number of bits of information at a time. example: 5 years -2 bits 7 years – 3 bits Processing space can be increased by 'chunking'. A chunk is any coherent group of items of information that we can remember as if it were a single item. A word is a chunk of letters, remembered as easily as a single letter…but carrying much more information.

Long Term Memory: 

Long Term Memory There are two different types…procedural (unconscious thought) and declarative (conscious thought). Procedural includes things like habits and skills or experiences we don’t recall but still influence our memory. Declarative memory is divided into episodic which is our life experiences, events, memories etc. and semantic which includes general knowledge….much of what is taught in school.

Do You Remember Learning to Read?: 

Do You Remember Learning to Read? Most people do not remember more than the sketchiest details of the process they undertook in learning to read! Why is this so? What eventually happens to all fluent readers is that he process of decoding takes place without conscious thought. Reading fits under the heading of Procedural (or unconscious) memory… When first learning to read, every aspect is consciously attended to. With a great deal of practice, the brain eventually 'remembers how to decode with no help from the conscious brain.

Two Different Origins of Dyslexia: 

Two Different Origins of Dyslexia Sally Shaywitz’s conducted research on Dyslexia…..what she found is that there are 2 reasons for dyslexia. Genetic / Biological…There is a 'glitch' in the system, most likely the result of a genetically programmed error. Environmental….The brain’s systems for processing sounds and language are intact but he readers are using them.

What Sally Shaywitz found?: 

What Sally Shaywitz found? 'These persistently poor readers have a rudimentary system in place, but it’s not connected well. They weren’t able to develop and connect it right because they haven’t had that early stimulation. If you can provide these children early on with effective reading instruction, these children can really learn to read.' Sally Shaywitz, 2002

The Foundations of Reading Begins at Birth!: 

The Foundations of Reading Begins at Birth! The language pathway forms the foundation for the reading pathway, therefore the development of language sets the stage for reading! The fetus has already began to listen to the sounds of the language. At birth, the baby has the neural pathways for over 6000 languages. Infants begin to practice the language long before they begin to speak. Babies are imitators… they are 'scientists in the crib'.

The Beginning of Language: 

The Beginning of Language Around two to three months, the motor areas of the cortex are matured sufficiently to allow babies to begin to vocalize in what we call babbling. Amazingly, babies babble in the phonemes of their own language. Over time, certain connections in the brain are pruned to adapt the child’s brain to the language the child hears repeatedly. Infants comprehend words and phrases long before they are able to speak and most begin to communicate using signs.

1-3 Years,the Language Explosion: 

1-3 Years,the Language Explosion The early years are a critical period in the development of the child’s language skills, especially in the building of vocabulary. This period coincides with the time when synapse formulation and glucose use are at their highest levels in the cortex. 10-12 years 4 years birth aged At age 2 – between 100 and 200 words but spoken in 'telegraphic speech', short phrases containing basic information. 'All gone' 'Daddy play ball' Between 2 and 3, sentences become longer and they begin to add 's' for plurals and 'ed' for past tense.

Elements of a Literacy Nurturing Environment: 

Elements of a Literacy Nurturing Environment Parents who talk to their children The child’s brain needs a rich language culture. Children of mothers (fathers) who talk a lot to them: Have 33 more vocabulary words at 14 months Have 131 more vocabulary words at 16 months Have 295 more vocabulary words at 20 months Talking to children not only increases vocabulary, it develops background knowledge. Parents who read to their children Children who are read to from an early age are more successful at learning to read. Reading to children: Reinforces familiar words Helps acquire familiarity with the reading process Identifies reading as a pleasurable experience.

Elements of a Literacy Nurturing Environment Cont’d: 

Elements of a Literacy Nurturing Environment Cont’d Parents who teach their children nursery rhymes Nursery rhymes and songs help children: Hear patterns and rhythms of language Identify sounds that are alike or different Increase their vocabulary

Literacy and Precursors to Writing: 

Literacy and Precursors to Writing Literacy is much broader than just being able to decode print. It involves writing, spelling and other creative and analytical acts involving print. First there is the scribbling stage. Next letter-like forms. Followed by random letters or letter strings.

Maturation of the Four year-old: 

Maturation of the Four year-old The child at age four is burning glucose at twice the rate of the adult brain. Broca’s area and Wernickes’s area are now matured allowing children to reach new heights in their language development. Between three and five children’s vocabularies go from about 900 words to between 5,000 to 8,000 words. In addition they: Speak in more complex sentences Enjoy listening to and talking about stories Are beginning to identify familiar signs and labels Probably understand that print carries a message Particpate in rhyming games Use language to meet personal and social needs May be ready to EXPLORE what it means to become a reader and a writer

Developmentally Appropriate Activities: 

Developmentally Appropriate Activities Earlier is not necessarily better! The preschool years are not a time to push 'academics.' Linguistic awareness is best developed within the context of the child’s work and play. The home or preschool environment should provide many opportunities to hear and play with language, and should not stress isolated skill development or formal instruction in phonics. The preschool child’s environment is rich with opportunities to develop language and emergent literacy skills……. Things for parents Shopping for groceries, sorting clothes, preparing a meal Visiting museums or the park Going to the library

Conversations to Develop Language Skills: 

Conversations to Develop Language Skills At four, most children have the capability to engage in a dialog with adults. The quality of adult-child discourse and the amount of time allotted to conversations, appear to be critical factors in literacy learning. Ways to enhance children’s language skills during the course of normal conversations……. Rephrase and extend the child’s words ('I see a doggie' 'Yes, that is a special kind of dog called a poodle') Ask a clarifying question ('I saw a man' 'What did he look like' Can you describe him?') Model more complex vocabulary or sentence ('I built a building' 'I see you built a tall skyscraper with lots of windows so people can see the city') Ask open-ended questions or curiosity questions ('What was your favorite part of the story?' 'Where do you think the potatoes we’re eating come from?')

Reading Aloud to Children: 

Reading Aloud to Children Reading to children develops two important literacy skills: print exploration and comprehension. One of the major advantages is that it develops a sense of story….Beginning, middle, and end. This is a key skill for future reading and comprehension of text. Additional functions served by reading aloud: Promotes positive feelings about books. Develops children’s background knowledge. Creates opportunities to introduce new words and concepts. Provides an opportunity to engage the child in inferential thinking.

Print Awareness: 

Print Awareness Children’s performance on tests designed to measure print awareness is a predictor of future reading. It is important for children to understand the many ways print is used and the functions it serves. Print is print no matter where it is found. It can be black or white or in color. It can be on television or on clothing. Print can be produced by anyone with any medium on almost any surface. Print is different from pictures and other patterns. Print holds information: stories in books, phone numbers, directions on how to operate equipment, and when a movie starts. Print symbolizes language, and what we say can be written.

Phonological Processing Activities for the Preschool Child: 

Phonological Processing Activities for the Preschool Child Rapid letter naming – fluency and speed in identifying individual letters…not just singing the Alphabet Song. Word and syllable counting –should be done with an adult reading and child not looking at the words. Rhyming – ability to hear rhymes and alliterations. Focus on literature that deals playfully with speech sounds. Oddity tasks – ability to tell whether sounds are alike or different. Advanced oddity tasks ask the child to determine whether beginning or ending sounds are the same or different. All these tasks should be done in an environment of playfulness, not with formal lessons or workbooks.

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