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Re: [xmca] Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?

Everyone re-frames to suit themselves, and hopes that it sticks. We stand on
the backs of giants by climbing up on them, unbidden, and shouting from a
higher position... until the giant disintegrates, either vanguished by some
new giant or nibbled to death by ducks.

I do not know about you, but I am running many messages behind the


On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 9:47 AM, Ageliki Nicolopoulou <agn3@lehigh.edu>wrote:

> Thanks, Mike. I can now see why you see it in terms of re-framing.  I just
> wasn't sure which side you were seeing as re-framing the issues. (And yes to
> some degree I have followed the Learning Sciences and Vygotsky
> discussion).--Ageliki
> mike cole wrote:
>> I am pushed to get ready for classes monday, Ageliki.
>> I would be glad to discuss the issue I referred to as re-framing within
>> the
>> context of the discussion of learning sciences and vygotsky just to keep
>> it in the bounds of time constraints-- have you read that discussion?
>> Otherwise my comments will make no sense.
>> Within that context, I might start with executive functioning as a
>> "neuroscience term," the discourse on 0-3 and ways to make babies brains
>> develop more quickly (see xmca discussion of brain and education),and the
>> linkages to no-child-left behind. Seems a long way from Kharkov in the late
>> 1930's, or 1990's, or the recent (to the NYTimes) discovery of Vygotsky.
>> mike
>> Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 9:15 AM, Ageliki Nicolopoulou <agn3@lehigh.edu<mailto:
>> agn3@lehigh.edu>> wrote:
>>    Hi Mike,
>>     Can you explain a bit what you mean by re-framing and why you see
>>    it as an issue of re-framing?
>>    Thanks,
>>    Ageliki
>>    --    **********************************************
>>    Ageliki Nicolopoulou
>>    Professor
>>    Department of Psychology, Lehigh University
>>    17 Memorial Drive East
>>    Bethlehem, PA  18015-3068
>>    Personal Webpage:      http://www.lehigh.edu/~agn3/index.htm<http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Eagn3/index.htm>
>>    <http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Eagn3/index.htm>
>>    Departmental Webpage:
>>     http://www.lehigh.edu/~inpsy/nicolopoulou.html<http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Einpsy/nicolopoulou.html>
>>    <http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Einpsy/nicolopoulou.html>
>>    **********************************************
>>    mike cole wrote:
>>        Thanks Peter-- I was just about to forward this story. Apart
>>        from its
>>        considerable intrinsic interest to members of this group, it
>>        seems relevant
>>        to the prior discussion the origins of learning sciences and
>>        the ways in
>>        which re-framing can operate to change the terms of discourse.
>>        mike
>>        On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 7:36 AM, Peter Smagorinsky
>>        <smago@uga.edu <mailto:smago@uga.edu>> wrote:
>>            September 27, 2009 The NY Times Magazine Section
>>            The School Issue: Preschool
>>            Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?
>>            By PAUL TOUGH
>>            "Come on, Abigail."
>>            "No, wait!" Abigail said. "I'm not finished!" She was bent
>>            low over her
>>            clipboard, a stubby pencil in her hand, slowly scratching
>>            out the letters
>>            in
>>            the book's title, one by one: T H E. . . .
>>            "Abigail, we're waiting!" Jocelyn said, staring forcefully
>>            at her
>>            classmate.
>>            Henry, sitting next to her, sighed dramatically.
>>            "I'm going as fast as I can!" Abigail said, looking
>>            harried. She brushed a
>>            strand of hair out of her eyes and plowed ahead: V E R Y.
>>            . . .
>>            The three children were seated at their classroom's
>>            listening center, where
>>            their assignment was to leaf through a book together while
>>            listening on
>>            headphones to a CD with the voice of a teacher reading it
>>            aloud. The book
>>            in
>>            question was lying on the table in front of Jocelyn, and
>>            every few seconds,
>>            Abigail would jump up and lean over Jocelyn to peer at the
>>            cover, checking
>>            what came next in the title. Then she would dive back to
>>            the paper on her
>>            clipboard, and her pencil would carefully shape yet
>>            another letter: H U N.
>>            .
>>            . .
>>            Henry fiddled with the CD player. Like Abigail and
>>            Jocelyn, he was a
>>            kindergarten
>>            <
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/e/education_pr
>>            eschool/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier<
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/e/education_pr%0Aeschool/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier
>> >>
>>             student in Red Bank, a small town
>>            near the New Jersey shore. The students at the elementary
>>            school came
>>            mostly
>>            from working-class and low-income families, and, like the
>>            town itself, the
>>            student population was increasingly Hispanic. Jocelyn,
>>            with flowing dark
>>            hair, was the child of immigrants from Mexico; Henry was
>>            Hispanic with a
>>            spiky haircut; Abigail was white and blond.
>>            "Abby!" Henry said. "Come on!" He and Jocelyn had long ago
>>            finished writing
>>            the title of the book on their lesson plans. They already
>>            had their
>>            headphones on. The only thing standing between them and
>>            the story was the
>>            pencil clutched in their classmate's hand.
>>            G R Y. . . .
>>            "O.K., we're starting," Jocelyn announced. But they didn't
>>            start. For all
>>            their impatience, they knew the rule of the listening
>>            center: You don't
>>            start listening to the story until everyone is ready.
>>            "Oh, man," Henry said. He grabbed his face and lowered his
>>            head to the desk
>>            with a clunk.
>>            C A T E R. . . .
>>            "Let's begin!" Jocelyn said.
>>            "I'm almost done!" Abigail was hopping up and down now.
>>            "Don't press it!"
>>            She bounced from foot to foot, still writing: P I L. . . .
>>            "I'm pressing it!" Henry said. His finger hovered over the
>>            play button on
>>            the CD player . . . but it did not fall, not until Abigail
>>            etched out her
>>            last few letters and put on her headphones. Only then,
>>            finally, could the
>>            three of them turn the pages together and listen to "The
>>            Very Hungry
>>            Caterpillar."
>>            When the CD finished, each child took a piece of paper and
>>            drew three
>>            pictures to illustrate what happened at the beginning, in
>>            the middle and at
>>            the end of the book. Then they captioned each one, first
>>            drawing a series
>>            of
>>            horizontal lines under the pictures, one for each word,
>>            and then writing
>>            out
>>            each word, or an approximation thereof: For "butterfly,"
>>            Abigail wrote
>>            "btrfli." Their language skills were pretty impressive for
>>            kindergarten
>>            students. But for the teachers and child psychologists
>>            running the program
>>            in which they were enrolled, those skills were considered
>>            secondary - not
>>            irrelevant, but not as important as the skills the
>>            children displayed
>>            before
>>            the story started, when all three were wrestling with
>>            themselves, fighting
>>            to overcome their impulses - in Abby's case, the
>>            temptation to give up on
>>            writing out the whole title and just submit to the pleas
>>            of her friends;
>>            for
>>            Jocelyn and Henry, the urge to rip the pencil out of
>>            Abby's hand and start
>>            the CD already.
>>            Over the last few years, a new buzz phrase has emerged
>>            among scholars and
>>            scientists who study early-childhood development, a phrase
>>            that sounds more
>>            as if it belongs in the boardroom than the classroom:
>>            executive function.
>>            Originally a neuroscience term, it refers to the ability
>>            to think straight:
>>            to order your thoughts, to process information in a
>>            coherent way, to hold
>>            relevant details in your short-term memory, to avoid
>>            distractions and
>>            mental
>>            traps and focus on the task in front of you. And recently,
>>            cognitive
>>            psychologists have come to believe that executive
>>            function, and
>>            specifically
>>            the skill of self-regulation, might hold the answers to
>>            some of the most
>>            vexing questions in education today.
>>            The ability of young children to control their emotional
>>            and cognitive
>>            impulses, it turns out, is a remarkably strong indicator
>>            of both short-term
>>            and long-term success, academic and otherwise. In some
>>            studies,
>>            self-regulation skills have been shown to predict academic
>>            achievement more
>>            reliably than I.Q. tests. The problem is that just as
>>            we're coming to
>>            understand the importance of self-regulation skills, those
>>            skills appear to
>>            be in short supply among young American children. In one
>>            recent national
>>            survey, 46 percent of kindergarten teachers said that at
>>            least half the
>>            kids
>>            in their classes had problems following directions. In
>>            another study, Head
>>            Start teachers reported that more than a quarter of their
>>            students
>>            exhibited
>>            serious self-control-related negative behaviors, like
>>            kicking or
>>            threatening
>>            other students, at least once a week. Walter Gilliam, a
>>            professor at Yale
>>            <
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/y/yale_un
>>            iversity/index.html?inline=nyt-org<
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/y/yale_un%0Aiversity/index.html?inline=nyt-org
>> >>
>>            's child-study center, estimates that
>>            each year, across the country, more than 5,000 children
>>            are expelled from
>>            pre-K programs because teachers feel unable to control them.
>>            There is a popular belief that executive-function skills
>>            are fixed early
>>            on,
>>            a function of genes and parenting, and that other than
>>            medication, there's
>>            not much that teachers and professionals can do to affect
>>            children's
>>            impulsive behavior. In fact, though, there is growing
>>            evidence that the
>>            opposite is true, that executive-function skills are
>>            relatively malleable -
>>            quite possibly more malleable than I.Q., which is
>>            notoriously hard to
>>            increase over a sustained period. In laboratory studies,
>>            research
>>            psychologists have found that with executive function,
>>            practice helps; when
>>            children or adults repeatedly perform basic exercises in
>>            cognitive
>>            self-regulation, they get better at it. But when
>>            researchers try to take
>>            those experiments out of the lab and into the classroom,
>>            their success rate
>>            is much lower. Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the
>>            University of
>>            <
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/univers
>>            ity_of_pennsylvania/index.html?inline=nyt-org<
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/univers%0Aity_of_pennsylvania/index.html?inline=nyt-org
>> >>
>>             Pennsylvania, has spent the
>>            last seven years trying to find reliable, repeatable
>>            methods to improve
>>            self-control in children. When I spoke to her recently,
>>            she told me about a
>>            six-week-long experiment that she and some colleagues
>>            conducted in 2003
>>            with
>>            40 fifth-grade students at a school in Philadelphia.
>>            "We did everything right," she told me: led the kids
>>            through self-control
>>            exercises, helped them reorganize their lockers, gave them
>>            rewards for
>>            completing their homework. And at the end of the
>>            experiment, the students
>>            dutifully reported that they now had more self-control
>>            than when they
>>            started the program. But in fact, they did not: the
>>            children who had been
>>            through the intervention did no better on a variety of
>>            measures than a
>>            control group at the same school. "We looked at teacher
>>            ratings of
>>            self-control, we looked at homework completion, we looked
>>            at standardized
>>            achievement tests, we looked at G.P.A., we looked at
>>            whether they were late
>>            to class more," Duckworth explained. "We got zero effect
>>            on everything."
>>            Despite that failure, Duckworth says she is convinced that
>>            it is possible
>>            to
>>            boost executive function among children - she just thinks
>>            it will require a
>>            more complex and thoroughgoing program than the one that
>>            she and her
>>            colleagues employed. "It's not impossible," she concludes,
>>            "but it's damn
>>            hard."
>>            Which is why Abigail, Henry and Jocelyn are potentially so
>>            important. They
>>            and their classmates are enrolled in Tools of the Mind, a
>>            relatively new
>>            program dedicated to improving the self-regulation
>>            abilities of young
>>            children, starting as early as age 3. Tools of the Mind is
>>            based on the
>>            teachings of Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist who died
>>            of tuberculosis
>>            in 1934, at age 38, and whose educational theories and
>>            methods were, until
>>            recently, little known in the United States. Over the past
>>            15 years,
>>            Deborah
>>            Leong and Elena Bodrova, scholars of child development
>>            based in Denver,
>>            have
>>            turned Vygotsky's philosophy into a full-time curriculum for
>>            prekindergarten
>>            and kindergarten students, complete with training manuals
>>            and coaches and
>>            professional-development classes for teachers. Tools of
>>            the Mind has grown
>>            steadily - though its expansion has sped up in the past
>>            few years - and it
>>            now is being used to teach 18,000 prekindergarten and
>>            kindergarten students
>>            in 12 states around the country. Leong and Bodrova say
>>            they believe they
>>            have found the answer to the problem that has bedeviled
>>            Duckworth and other
>>            psychologists for so long. Their program, they say, can
>>            reliably teach
>>            self-regulation skills to pretty much any child - poor or
>>            rich; typical
>>            achievers as well as many of those who are considered to
>>            have special
>>            needs.
>>            (They make the claim that many kids given diagnoses of
>>            A.D.H.D. would not
>>            need Ritalin
>>            <
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics
>>            /ritalin_drug/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier<
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics%0A/ritalin_drug/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier
>> >>
>>             if they were enrolled in
>>            Tools of the Mind.) And if Leong and Bodrova are right,
>>            those improved
>>            self-regulation skills will lead not only to fewer
>>            classroom meltdowns and
>>            expulsions in prekindergarten and kindergarten; they will
>>            also lead to
>>            better reading and math scores later on.
>>            At the heart of the Tools of the Mind methodology is a
>>            simple but
>>            surprising
>>            idea: that the key to developing self-regulation is play,
>>            and lots of it.
>>            But not just any play. The necessary ingredient is what
>>            Leong and Bodrova
>>            call "mature dramatic play": complex, extended
>>            make-believe scenarios,
>>            involving multiple children and lasting for hours, even
>>            days. If you want
>>            to
>>            succeed in school and in life, they say, you first need to
>>            do what Abigail
>>            and Jocelyn and Henry have done every school day for the
>>            past two years:
>>            spend hour after hour dressing up in firefighter hats and
>>            wedding gowns,
>>            cooking make-believe hamburgers and pouring nonexistent
>>            tea, doing the
>>            hard,
>>            serious work of playing pretend.
>>            Over the last decade or so, the central debate in the field of
>>            early-childhood education has been between one group that
>>            favors what you
>>            might call a preacademic approach to prekindergarten and
>>            kindergarten and
>>            another group that contends that the point of school in
>>            those early years
>>            is
>>            not to prepare for academic study; it is to allow children
>>            to explore the
>>            world, learn social skills and have free, unconstrained
>>            fun. The
>>            preacademic
>>            camp began to dominate the debate in the late 1990s,
>>            drawing on some
>>            emerging research that showed that children's abilities at
>>            the beginning of
>>            kindergarten were powerful predictors of later success. If
>>            a child reached
>>            his 5th birthday well behind his peers in measures of
>>            cognitive ability,
>>            this research showed, he would most likely never catch up.
>>            The good news in
>>            the research was that if you exposed struggling children
>>            to certain
>>            intensive reading and math interventions in
>>            prekindergarten and
>>            kindergarten, when their minds were still at their most
>>            pliable, you could
>>            significantly reduce or even eliminate that lag. And so
>>            the answer, to many
>>            scholars and policy makers, was clear: there was no time
>>            to waste in those
>>            early years on Play-Doh and fingerpainting, not when kids,
>>            and especially
>>            disadvantaged kids, could be making such rapid advances in
>>            the critical
>>            cognitive skills they needed.
>>            More recently, though, a backlash has been growing against
>>            the preacademic
>>            approach among educators and child psychologists who argue
>>            that it misses
>>            the whole point of early-childhood education.
>>            "Kindergarten has ceased to
>>            be
>>            a garden of delight and has become a place of stress and
>>            distress," warned
>>            a
>>            report released in March by a research group called the
>>            Alliance for
>>            Childhood, which is advised by some of the country's most
>>            esteemed
>>            progressive-education scholars. There is now too much
>>            testing and too
>>            little
>>            free time, the report argues, and kids are being forced to
>>            try to read
>>            before they are ready. The solution, according to the
>>            report's authors, is
>>            a
>>            return to ample doses of "unstructured play" in
>>            kindergarten. If kids are
>>            allowed to develop at their own paces, they will be
>>            happier and healthier
>>            and less stressed out. And there will still be plenty of
>>            time later on to
>>            learn how to read.
>>            On the surface, Bodrova and Leong would seem to belong to
>>            the second camp.
>>            They say, after all, that play should have a central place in
>>            early-childhood classrooms. And they do find fault with
>>            the academic
>>            approach, arguing that in practice, many of the
>>            early-childhood academic
>>            initiatives that have been introduced in the No Child Left
>>            Behind
>>            <
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/n/no_child_lef
>>            t_behind_act/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier<
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/n/no_child_lef%0At_behind_act/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier
>> >>
>>             era have failed to produce
>>            any significant improvement in academic skills. At the
>>            same time, they
>>            don't
>>            agree that the solution is unstructured free play. The
>>            romantic idea that
>>            children are born with flowering imaginations and a
>>            natural instinct for
>>            make-believe is simply wrong, they say. Especially these
>>            days, they
>>            contend,
>>            when children spend more time in front of screens and less
>>            time in
>>            unsupervised play, kids need careful adult guidance and
>>            instruction before
>>            they are able to play in a productive way.
>>            Bodrova and Leong began working together with
>>            early-childhood teachers in
>>            1992, soon after Bodrova immigrated from Russia to be a
>>            visiting professor
>>            at Metropolitan State College of Denver, where Leong was a
>>            professor of
>>            child development. When they visited local classrooms,
>>            they were struck by
>>            how out of control things often seemed. It was a period
>>            when preschool and
>>            kindergarten teachers were taught to "follow the child's
>>            lead," to let
>>            children guide the learning process with their own
>>            interests and unfettered
>>            imaginations. In practice, Bodrova and Leong observed,
>>            classrooms were
>>            often
>>            chaotic free-for-alls.
>>            Bodrova and Leong had both studied Vygotsky, and they
>>            discussed whether
>>            some
>>            of his methods might help improve the climate of these
>>            classrooms. For
>>            Vygotsky, the real purpose of early-childhood education
>>            was not to learn
>>            content, like the letters of the alphabet or the names of
>>            shapes and colors
>>            and animals. The point was to learn how to think. When
>>            children enter
>>            preschool, Vygotsky wrote, they are "slaves to their
>>            environment," unable
>>            to
>>            control their reactions or direct their interests,
>>            responding to whatever
>>            shiny objects are put in front of them. Accordingly, the
>>            most important
>>            goal
>>            of prekindergarten is to teach children how to master
>>            their thoughts. And
>>            the best way for children to do that, Vygotsky believed,
>>            especially at this
>>            early age, is to employ various tools, tricks and habits
>>            that train the
>>            mind
>>            to work at a higher level. So Tools of the Mind students
>>            learn to use
>>            "private speech" - to talk to themselves as they do a
>>            difficult task (like,
>>            say, forming the letter W), to help themselves remember
>>            what step comes
>>            next
>>            (down, up, down, up). They use "mediators": physical
>>            objects that remind
>>            them how to do a particular task, like CD-size cards, one
>>            with a pair of
>>            lips and one with an ear, that signify whose turn it is to
>>            read aloud in
>>            Buddy Reading and whose turn it is to listen. But more
>>            than anything, they
>>            use play.
>>            Most of Vygotsky's counterparts in the field of child
>>            psychology, including
>>            influential figures like Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori,
>>            held that
>>            imaginary play was an immature form of expression, a
>>            preliminary stage of
>>            development. But Vygotsky maintained that at 4 or 5, a
>>            child's ability to
>>            play creatively with other children was in fact a better
>>            gauge of her
>>            future
>>            academic success than any other indicator, including her
>>            vocabulary, her
>>            counting skills or her knowledge of the alphabet. Dramatic
>>            play, he said,
>>            was the training ground where children learned to regulate
>>            themselves, to
>>            conquer their own unruly minds. In the United States, we
>>            often associate
>>            play with freedom, but to Vygotsky, dramatic play was
>>            actually the arena
>>            where children's actions were most tightly restricted.
>>            When a young boy is
>>            acting out the role of a daddy making breakfast, he is
>>            limited by all the
>>            rules of daddy-ness. Some of those limitations come from
>>            his playmates: if
>>            he starts acting like a baby (or a policeman or a
>>            dinosaur) in the middle
>>            of
>>            making breakfast, the other children will be sure to steer
>>            him back to the
>>            eggs and bacon. But even beyond that explicit peer
>>            pressure, Vygotsky would
>>            say, the child is guided by the basic principles of play.
>>            Make-believe
>>            isn't
>>            as stimulating and satisfying - it simply isn't as much
>>            fun - if you don't
>>            stick to your role. And when children follow the rules of
>>            make-believe and
>>            push one another to follow those rules, he said, they
>>            develop important
>>            habits of self-control.
>>            Bodrova and Leong drew on research conducted by some of
>>            Vygotsky's
>>            followers
>>            that showed that children acting out a dramatic scene can
>>            control their
>>            impulses much better than they can in nonplay situations.
>>            In one
>>            experiment,
>>            4-year-old children were first asked to stand still for as
>>            long as they
>>            could. They typically did not make it past a minute. But
>>            when the kids
>>            played a make-believe game in which they were guards at a
>>            factory, they
>>            were
>>            able to stand at attention for more than four minutes. In
>>            another
>>            experiment, prekindergarten-age children were asked to
>>            memorize a list of
>>            unrelated words. Then they played "grocery store" and were
>>            asked to
>>            memorize
>>            a similar list of words - this time, though, as a shopping
>>            list. In the
>>            play
>>            situation, on average, the children were able to remember
>>            twice as many
>>            words. Bodrova and Leong say they see the same effect in
>>            Tools of the Mind
>>            classrooms: when their students spend more time on
>>            dramatic play, not only
>>            does their level of self-control improve, but so do their
>>            language skills.
>>            In the past, when psychologists (or parents or teachers or
>>            priests) tried
>>            to
>>            improve children's self-control, they used the principles
>>            of behaviorism,
>>            reinforcing good and bad behaviors with rewards and
>>            punishments. The
>>            message
>>            to kids was that terrible things would happen if they
>>            didn't control their
>>            impulses, and the role of adults, whether parents or
>>            preschool teachers,
>>            was
>>            to train children by praising them for their positive
>>            self-control ("Look
>>            at
>>            how well Cindy is sitting!") and criticizing them for
>>            their lapses. And in
>>            most American prekindergartens and kindergartens,
>>            behaviorism, in some
>>            form,
>>            is still the dominant method. But Bodrova and Leong say
>>            that those
>>            "external
>>            reinforcement systems" create "other-directed regulation"
>>            - good behavior
>>            done not from some internal sense of control but for the
>>            approval of
>>            others,
>>            to avoid punishment and win praise and treats. And that,
>>            they say, is a
>>            kind
>>            of regulation that is not particularly valuable or
>>            lasting. Children learn
>>            only how to be obedient, how to follow orders, not how to
>>            understand and
>>            regulate their own impulses. The ultimate goal of Tools of
>>            the Mind is not
>>            emotional or physical self-regulation; it is cognitive
>>            self-regulation -
>>            not
>>            the ability to avoid grabbing a toy from the kid next to
>>            you (though that's
>>            an important first step), but the much more subtle ability
>>            to avoid falling
>>            for a deceptively attractive wrong answer on a test or to
>>            concentrate on an
>>            arduous mental task. And those abilities are more
>>            difficult to affect by
>>            other-directed regulation. Because the abilities are more
>>            abstract, they
>>            are
>>            less likely to be elicited by rewards. Kids are rarely
>>            able to organize
>>            their thoughts better in order to get an ice-cream cone.
>>            As a result, many practices that most prekindergarten
>>            teachers consider
>>            essential are more or less banned from Tools of the Mind
>>            classrooms. There
>>            are no gold stars, no telling the class that they are all
>>            going to have to
>>            wait until Jimmy is quiet; even timeouts are discouraged.
>>            When there is a
>>            conflict - when, say, Billy grabs a toy from Jamal - the
>>            Tools of the Mind
>>            teacher's first questions are supposed to be: What was it
>>            in the classroom
>>            that made it hard for Billy to control himself? And what
>>            mediators could
>>            help him do better next time? The teacher does remind
>>            Billy that there is a
>>            rule and he broke it, but she doesn't make a big deal out
>>            of the incident.
>>            "We pretty much try not to use this whole concept of
>>            misbehavior," Bodrova
>>            told me. "These kids are not born criminals. Even if they
>>            do something that
>>            is completely out of bounds, they do it because they can't
>>            stop
>>            themselves."
>>            There are not yet firm experimental data that prove that
>>            Tools of the Mind
>>            works. But two early studies that began in the late 1990s
>>            in Denver showed
>>            some promising results: After a year in the program,
>>            students did
>>            significantly better than a similar group on basic
>>            measures of literacy
>>            ability. And more recent studies, including one overseen
>>            by Adele Diamond,
>>            a
>>            professor at the University of British Columbia who is one
>>            of the most
>>            prominent researchers in the field of cognitive
>>            self-control, have shown
>>            that Tools students consistently score higher on tests
>>            requiring executive
>>            function. Angela Duckworth told me that when she read
>>            Diamond's report,
>>            which was published in Science in 2007, "I got very
>>            excited." Her failed
>>            2003 study had persuaded her that the usual approach to
>>            self-control in
>>            early-childhood education, a brief intervention here or
>>            there, wouldn't
>>            work. But Tools of the Mind was clearly a different
>>            strategy. "It's an
>>            immersion approach," she said. "It's not that these kids
>>            are pulled out and
>>            they do self-control for half an hour a day. Everything is
>>            about
>>            self-regulation, every single moment. Everything about the
>>            culture that the
>>            classroom creates reinforces that."
>>            It's one of the reasons that visiting a Tools of the Mind
>>            classroom can
>>            cause moments of cognitive dissonance. While there's a lot
>>            of dressing up
>>            and playing with blocks, plenty of messing around with
>>            sand tables and
>>            Legos
>>            and jigsaw puzzles, there are also a few activities that
>>            seem not just
>>            grown-up but protocorporate, borrowed directly from the
>>            modern office.
>>            Every
>>            morning, before embarking on the day's make-believe play,
>>            each child takes
>>            a
>>            colored marker and a printed form called a play plan and
>>            draws or writes
>>            his
>>            declaration of intent for that day's play: "I am going to
>>            drive the
>>            choo-choo train"; "I am going to make a sand castle"; "I
>>            am going to take
>>            the dollies to the beach." At the beginning of
>>            prekindergarten, children
>>            are
>>            coached on dramatic play - called Make-Believe Play
>>            Practice - with the
>>            teacher leading the children, step by step, through the
>>            mechanics of
>>            pretending. (The training manual describes how a teacher
>>            might coach a
>>            child
>>            to feed a baby doll: "I'm pretending my baby is crying. Is
>>            yours? What
>>            should we say?") In kindergarten, every student carries
>>            around a clipboard
>>            with the day's activities on it - that's what Abigail was
>>            writing on at the
>>            listening center - and each Friday, every child has a 5-
>>            or 10-minute
>>            "learning conference" with his teacher, a mini-performance
>>            review in which
>>            the children discuss what they accomplished in the last
>>            week, where they
>>            fell short and what skills they want to work on in the
>>            week to come. All of
>>            these practices, along with plenty of others that fill the
>>            day, are
>>            designed
>>            to reinforce habits of self-control.
>>            This comprehensiveness creates an extra level of
>>            complication for
>>            researchers examining Tools of the Mind. There are now
>>            four separate
>>            large-scale long-term experimental studies under way
>>            across the country.
>>            But
>>            even if the researchers do find, in a few years, that the
>>            program has
>>            long-term effects on executive function and school
>>            performance, they still
>>            won't know exactly which techniques in the Tools of the
>>            Mind package are
>>            the
>>            most useful, or whether they all need to be employed in
>>            concert in order to
>>            have an effect. Stephanie M. Carlson, a professor of child
>>            psychology at
>>            the
>>            University of Minnesota
>>            <
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/univers
>>            ity_of_minnesota/index.html?inline=nyt-org<
>> http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/univers%0Aity_of_minnesota/index.html?inline=nyt-org
>> >>
>>             who studies executive function,
>>            told me she is impressed with what she has seen so far of
>>            Tools of the
>>            Mind.
>>            But, she pointed out, "it's a really heavy-hitting
>>            approach, and there are
>>            a
>>            lot of different techniques used during the course of the
>>            day. What we
>>            don't
>>            know is what the secret ingredient is." It might be all
>>            the dramatic play,
>>            but it also might be the literacy practice, or the
>>            learning conferences, or
>>            something else entirely.
>>            In the end, the most lasting effect of the Tools of the
>>            Mind studies may be
>>            to challenge some of our basic ideas about the boundary
>>            between work and
>>            play. Today, play is seen by most teachers and education
>>            scholars as a
>>            break
>>            from hard work or a reward for positive behaviors, not a
>>            place to work on
>>            cognitive skills. But in Tools of the Mind classrooms,
>>            that distinction
>>            disappears: work looks a lot like play, and play is
>>            treated more like work.
>>            When I asked Duckworth about this, she said it went to the
>>            heart of what
>>            was
>>            new and potentially important about the program. "We often
>>            think about play
>>            as relaxing and doing what you want to do," she explained.
>>            "Maybe it's an
>>            American thing: We work really hard, and then we go on
>>            vacation and have
>>            fun. But in fact, very few truly pleasurable moments come
>>            from complete
>>            hedonism. What Tools does - and maybe what we all need to
>>            do - is to blur
>>            the line a bit between what is work and what is play. Just
>>            because
>>            something
>>            is effortful and difficult and involves some amount of
>>            constraint doesn't
>>            mean it can't be fun."
>>            _______________________________________________
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> --
> **********************************************
> Ageliki Nicolopoulou
> Professor
> Department of Psychology, Lehigh University
> 17 Memorial Drive East
> Bethlehem, PA  18015-3068
> Personal Webpage:        http://www.lehigh.edu/~agn3/index.htm<http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Eagn3/index.htm>
> Departmental Webpage:  http://www.lehigh.edu/~inpsy/nicolopoulou.html<http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Einpsy/nicolopoulou.html>
> **********************************************
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