7 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Chess

11 01 2015
7 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Chess E-mail
Written by Jenna Savage
Thursday, 25 October 2012 20:11
benifits of chessGrandmaster and world chess champion Bobby Fischer is famously quoted as saying, “Chess is life.”But can this two-player game, consisting of a square checkered board and playing pieces that are moved in different ways depending on their royal or military designation, benefit your mental and physical health?

Absolutely! Check out these seven surprising health benefits of playing chess and then consider your next move.

1. Grows dendrites:

benifits of chess

Dendrites conduct signals from the neuron cells in your brain to the neuron they happen to be attached to. Learning and playing a game like chess actually stimulates the growth of dendrites, which in turn increases the speed and improves the quality of neural communication throughout your brain. Increased processing power improves the performance of your body’s computer, the brain.

2. Exercises both sides of the brain:

benifits of chess

To get the most benefit from a physical workout, you need to exercise both the left and right sides of your body. Studies show that in order to play chess well, a player must develop and utilize his or her brain’s left hemisphere, which deals with object recognition, as well as right hemisphere, which deals with pattern recognition. Over time, thanks to the rules and technique involved in the game, playing chess will effectively exercise and develop not one but both sides of your brain.

3. Prevents Alzheimer’s disease:

benifits of chess

A medical study involving 488 seniors by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine shows that playing chess, which stimulates brain function, measurably decreases the risk of dementia and combats its symptoms. Instead of letting the brain deteriorate, keeping the brain functioning at a normal rate, especially with a mind exercising activity like chess, will reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well as depression and anxiety.

4. Helps treat schizophrenia:

benifits of chess

Doctors at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience in Bron, France, found that schizophrenic patients who were directed to play chess on a daily basis showed improvement in their condition when compared to patients who did not play. The chess-playing patients exhibited increased attention, planning, and reasoning abilities and interestingly, elected to continue playing chess as part of their daily routine, even after the study had concluded.

5. Improves children’s thinking and problem-solving skills:

benifits of chess

A child who is introduced to chess at a young age is likely to do better in school for years to come. Research shows that playing chess improves a child’s thinking, problem-solving, reading, and math scores. Educators and chess experts generally agree the second grade is the ideal time to introduce children to chess, although some as young as four or five may be ready to learn and play.

6. Builds self-confidence:

benifits of chess

With role models that include the young Norwegian grandmaster Mangus Carlsen as well as hip-hop producer RZA, the game of chess only seems to get cooler with every generation. But no matter what your age, playing chess will build up your self-esteem. When you play, you’re on your own, and if you lose, you have to take stock and analyze just where you went wrong. Playing and analyzing why you lost or won a game increases the level of mental strength and self-confidence that you bring to the world beyond the chessboard.

7. Helps with rehabilitation and therapy:

benifits of chess

Chess can be used to help rehabilitate patients recovering from stroke or a physically debilitating accident and as a form of therapy for those with autism or other developmental disabilities. Moving chess pieces across the board can help develop and fine tune a patient’s motor sills, while the mental effort required to play the game can improve cognitive and communication skills. Playing can also stimulate deep concentration and calm, helping to center and relax patients who are experiencing different degrees of anxiety.

Reprinted on TheChessWorld.com with a permission from the publisher. Original can be found here.





5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students

11 01 2015

My first year teaching a literacy coach came to observe my classroom. After the students left, she commented on how I asked the whole class a question, would wait just a few seconds, and then answer it myself. “It’s cute,” she added. Um, I don’t think she thought it was so cute. I think she was treading lightly on the ever-so shaky ego of a brand-new teacher while still giving me some very necessary feedback.

So that day, I learned about wait/think time. And also, over the years, I learned to ask better and better questions.

Many would agree that for inquiry to be alive and well in a classroom that, amongst other things, the teacher needs to be expert at asking strategic questions, and not only asking well-designed ones, but ones that will also lead students to questions of their own.

Keeping It Simple

I also learned over the years that asking straightforward, simply-worded questions can be just as effective as those intricate ones. With that in mind, if you are a new teacher or perhaps not so new but know that question-asking is an area where you’d like to grow, start tomorrow with these five:

#1. What do you think?

This question interrupts us from telling too much. There is a place for direct instruction where we give students information yet we need to always strive to balance this with plenty of opportunities for students to make sense of and apply that new information using their schemata and understanding.

#2. Why do you think that?

After students share what they think, this follow-up question pushes them to provide reasoning for their thinking.

#3. How do you know this?

When this question is asked, students can make connections to their ideas and thoughts with things they’ve experienced, read, and have seen.

#4. Can you tell me more?

This question can inspire students to extend their thinking and share further evidence for their ideas.

#5. What questions do you still have?

This allows students to offer up questions they have about the information, ideas or the evidence.

In addition to routinely and relentlessly asking your students questions, be sure to provide time for them to think. What’s best here, three seconds, five, or seven? Depending on their age, the depth of the material, and their comfort level, this think time will vary. Just push yourself to stay silent and wait for those hands to go up.

Also be sure to vary your tone so it genuinely sounds like a question and not a statement. When we say something in a declarative way, it is often with one tone and flat sounding. On the other hand, there is a lilt in our voice when we are inquiring and questioning.

To help student feel more comfortable and confident with answering questions and asking ones of their own, you can use this scaffold: Ask a question, pause, and then invite students to “turn and talk” with a neighbor first before sharing out with the whole group. This allows all to have their voices heard and also gives them a chance to practice their responses before sharing in front of the whole class.

How do you ask questions in your classroom? What works well with your students? Please share with us in the comment section below.





8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success

11 01 2015

 

 8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success by Marilyn Price-Mitchell PhD

Teachers who transform lives understand not only how to teach curriculum, but also how children develop into capable, caring, and engaged adults. They see beyond quantitative measurements of success to the core abilities that help students live healthy, productive lives.

Famous educator Maria Montessori wisely remarked, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher. . . is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'”

The world has changed dramatically since the early 1900s when Montessori made her mark in education. Yet the same goal remains: scaffolding children toward self-sufficiency. How does this occur today, particularly when test results often seem more important than the development of a child ready to tackle career-life challenges?

In a nutshell, it happens when we understand how children and teens successfully mature to adulthood and how we impact their growth in key developmental areas. Based on decades of research in child and adolescent development, neuroscience, education, and psychology, we know that relationships with teachers, parents, and other supportive adults determine how school-age children acquire their personal guidance systems, full of interconnected abilities and pathways to success. When we envision those abilities as an internal compass, it’s easy to see how education and development go hand in hand — how children navigate successfully through school and life.

I created The Compass Advantage™ model as a visual, research-based, engaging way for families, schools, and communities to apply the principles of positive youth development. A framework for understanding why kids need these interconnected abilities and how they’re nurtured in different contexts, it’s also a call to act on behalf of children who deserve to live full, meaningful lives beyond external measures of success.

This is the first in a series of nine posts on how teachers develop these internal abilities in the classroom. Each month, we’ll take a deeper dive into one of these eight compass attributes:

Curiosity

Curiosity is the ability to seek and acquire new knowledge, skills, and ways of understanding the world. It is at the heart of what motivates kids to learn and what keeps them learning throughout their lives. Curiosity facilitates engagement, critical thinking, and reasoning.

We nurture children’s curiosity and other life-long learning skills when we encourage them to identify and seek answers to questions that pique their interests. When we help them recognize failure as an opportunity for exploration, we encourage experimentation and discovery. We help them understand the tenets of engaged learning when we recognize the different ways they explore — touching, tasting, climbing, smelling, etc. — and praise them for their perseverance in finding answers. When we show them how parts connect and influence the whole of society, they discover that curiosity improves relationships, fuels innovation, and drives social change.

Sociability

Sociability is the joyful, cooperative ability to engage with others. It derives from a collection of social-emotional skills that help children understand and express feelings and behaviors in ways that facilitate positive relationships, including active listening, self-regulation, and effective communication.

We impact children’s sociability when we help them understand that the words they choose make a difference to the relationships they create. When we teach them that every social interaction is tied to an emotional reaction, we help them avoid impulsive behavior and think through difficult situations before acting. We also build their capacity for collaborative teamwork.

Resilience

Resilience is the ability to meet and overcome challenges in ways that maintain or promote well-being. It incorporates attributes like grit, persistence, initiative, and determination.

We build resilience when we push students gently to the edges of their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical comfort zones. Our support and encouragement as they take risks, overcome challenges, and grow from failure helps them learn to bounce back from life’s ups and downs.

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to examine and understand who we are relative to the world around us. It’s developed through skills like self-reflection, meaning making, and honing core values and beliefs. It’s situated at “true south” on the compass to symbolize that introspection is about looking into ourselves. Self-awareness impacts children’s capacity to see themselves as uniquely different from other people.

We stimulate students’ self-awareness when we engage them in reflective conversations about values, beliefs, attitudes, and moral dilemmas. By encouraging them to understand and attend to their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical selves, we let them know that we value their full human potential.

Integrity

Integrity is the ability to act consistently with the values, beliefs, and principles that we claim to hold. It’s about courage, honesty, and respect in one’s daily interactions — and doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

We shape children’s integrity by treating them with respect and dignity, and listening to their feelings and concerns without judgment. When we praise students for demonstrating their values, beliefs, and principles through actions, we remind them of their value as ethical human beings, beyond a grade or test score.

Resourcefulness

Resourcefulness is the ability to find and use available resources to achieve goals, problem solve, and shape the future. It draws on skills like planning, goal setting, strategic thinking, and organizing.

We encourage students to be resourceful when we set high expectations and support them to accomplish their goals. When we teach them to be strategic thinkers and adaptable problem solvers, they learn to live without rigid rules or preconceived ideas.

Creativity

Creativity is the ability to generate and communicate original ideas and appreciate the nature of beauty. It fosters imagination, innovation, and a sense of aesthetics.

We inspire creativity when we encourage young people to express themselves through writing, poetry, acting, photography, art, digital media, unstructured play, etc. When we notice and praise them for thinking outside the box and taking risks, their imaginations blossom.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to recognize, feel, and respond to the needs and suffering of others. It facilitates the expression of caring, compassion, and kindness. It’s situated at “true north” on the compass to symbolize the outward impact of educating young citizens committed to creating a just, sustainable world.

We influence children’s abilities to care for others beyond themselves by creating meaningful relationships with them, ensuring that they are seen, felt, and understood regardless of how they learn. When we expose them to different worldviews, engage them with community projects, and bring service learning into the classroom, we develop greater empathy and compassion.

The Compass Advantage views education and child development as integrated processes nurtured through the collaborative efforts of parents, teachers, and out-of-school programs. When we attend to the development of these eight abilities, the results are transformative. Not only do children become lifelong learners, they become what Maria Montessori envisioned — self-sufficient navigators of their own lives.





Why some teachers just don’t “get it” about gifted education

11 01 2015

Gifted Challenges

“Beyond intellect: Exploring the social and emotional aspects of giftedness.”

  • Gail Post, Ph.D.

  • Most teachers care about their work. Most would like nothing better than to be able to meet each child’s educational needs, teach creatively and instill a love of learning in their students. Then why are gifted children so frequently overlooked, undereducated and unstimulated? Why do so many parents feel that their child’s teacher just doesn’t “get it” about gifted education?

At first glance, you might think that teaching a gifted child would be a pleasure. Who wouldn’t want to teach a curious, deep-thinking learner who absorbs information like a sponge? And while many teachers embrace all children, including their gifted students, some offer little support for the much-needed enrichment and acceleration these students require.
Why some teachers don’t “get it”

  1. Competing demands

Teachers are increasingly burdened with meeting administrative, state and federal standards. Meeting these requirements, teaching to the test, and ensuring that struggling students don’t fall behind are paramount. Many are faced with large, heterogeneous classrooms, and asked to “differentiate” instruction, an often impossible expectation. With time constraints and competing demands, it is understandable that “teaching to the middle” saves time and energy. It also makes sense that children with more significant learning needs get most of their attention. The 2011 Fordham Institute report affirms this; when teachers were asked where they would direct their energy if they had time available for individualized attention, 80% claimed that they would attend to their struggling students, whereas only 5% stated that their advanced learners would receive attention. In a hectic classroom with limited time and resources, gifted education is less likely to be a priority.

  1. Inadequate training

Many teachers have little training in gifted education. The National Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development study of 3rd and 4th grade teachers found that 61% had not received any staff development or training in gifted education. Without adequate training, a teacher may try to find some “enrichment” to enhance a child’s learning, but the plan may be arbitrary and not necessarily tailored to the child’s academic needs. If the school district lacks a formalized gifted program, there may be even less structure or oversight available. Teachers often have little understanding of the social and emotional needs of the gifted, and may make assumptions based on stereotypes. For example, one study1 reported that teachers believed acceleration was a beneficial option for academic reasons. However, they assumed that it would have a negative emotional effect, so failed to consistently recommend it as an option for the gifted students.

  1. Low priority

Teachers may be responding to a socially accepted culture of widespread neglect toward gifted children. According to a 2012-2013 report from theNAGC about the state of gifted education, the educational needs of the gifted are still marginalized.  Large discrepancies exist between states with respect to whether gifted education is mandated or warrants funding. And there is little support or expectation for additional teacher training. For example, only three states require that general education teachers have some training in gifted education, and only 17 states require that teachers in gifted programs obtain some form of credentialing in gifted education. If educators, administrators, and governing bodies fail to endorse the importance of gifted education, it may be hard for teachers to appreciate it as well.

Furthermore, many teachers are concerned about equity and the appearance of elitism. They don’t want to “favor” gifted children; after all, they are viewed as having already lucked out by merely possessing abilities that surpass their peers. Many worry about how parents in the community will react, and whether less talented children will feel criticized if gifted children receive different services. For example, Gallagher and colleagues1, found that while teachers acknowledged that ability grouping would be beneficial, they failed to recommend it because of concerns about how the community would react, how other children in the classroom might feel, and whether it would be viewed as elitist.

  1. Attitudes, stereotypes, and resentment

Just like anyone else, teachers possess their own subjective attitudes and opinions about gifted students. In light of the relative absence of training in gifted education, most are left to call upon their own personal experiences to formulate opinions about gifted education, gifted children and their families. In a review of the literature, McCoach and Siegel2 reported contradictory findings from studies of teachers’ attitudes toward gifted students, with some studies finding positive and others identifying negative attitudes toward gifted children. They also found widely discrepant attitudes among teachers in their own study, ranging from highly positive to extremely negative.

Teachers also may be as influenced by cultural stereotypes as the rest of us. Researchers Geake and Gross3 summarized the literature and theorized that widespread appreciation of sports and performing arts abilities in our culture is consistent with a view that developing these talents serves others, as it can potentially bring enjoyment to the community. However, the development of intellectual talent is perceived as selfish, leading to benefits solely for the individual. In addition, the authors pointed out that teachers may have negative perceptions of gifted students because of stereotypes that portray gifted people as arrogant, self-centered and overly confident. They suggest that these entrenched belief systems hamper progress in gifted education. Their study regarding the effects of training offered a hopeful note, however, as teachers who completed a professional development program in gifted education developed more positive perceptions of gifted students.

Some teachers may have their own conscious or unconscious reactions to gifted individuals that are then reenacted in the classroom. These may reflect feelings they have about their own abilities, personal experiences from childhood, or lingering resentment from prior confrontations with parents of gifted children. Teaching is a demanding job, and some teachers may be overwhelmed just trying to keep students in line, manage behavioral problems, and address struggling students who lag behind their peers. They may feel resentment in the face of these competing demands when parents expect them to challenge their gifted child.

So why should you care?

Understanding your child’s teacher and how giftedness is perceived is invaluable. What, you say? Isn’t it this person’s job to teach? Why should I have to worry about the teacher’s opinions and viewpoint? Well, there are good reasons to care. The more you understand the classroom dynamics, administrative demands, and the teacher’s professional experience with gifted education, the more effectively you can collaborate and communicate about your child’s needs. While you may never know the teacher’s personal opinions, gaining knowledge about the school culture, administrative policies and classroom stressors can give you a clearer sense of direction and help you decide which battles to wage. You may not like it, but you are your child’s bestadvocate, and your child is best served when you form a partnership with the teacher and school. Next blog post: how to communicate with your child’s teacher.

Related blog posts on this topic: Myths and misunderstanding; Top ten ways to annoy a gifted child.

References

1Gallagher, S., Smith, S., & Merrotsy, P. (2007). Teachers perceptions of the socioemotional development of intellectually gifted primary aged students and their attitudes towards ability grouping and acceleration. Gifted and Talented International, 26, 11-24.

2McCoach, D., & Siegle, D. (2007). What predicts teachers’ attitudes toward the gifted? Gifted Child Quarterly, 51, 246-255.

3Geake, J. & Gross, M. (2008). Teachers’ negative affect toward

academically gifted students: An evolutionary psychological study. Gifted Child Quarterly, 52, 217-231.





Can Schools Cultivate a Student’s Ability to Think Differently?

11 01 2015

by Luba Vangelova

Flickr/Marko

Entrepreneurship is often associated with people who assume the risk of starting a business venture for financial gain. However, entrepreneurs exist in many forms: They may be writers, carpenters, computer programmers, school principals or fundraisers, to name just a few examples.

What they have in common is an “entrepreneurial mindset” that enables them to see opportunities for improvement, take initiative and collaborate with others to turn their ideas into action. Everyone is born with some propensity for entrepreneurship, which at its core is about solving problems creatively, according to Yong Zhao, a professor at the University of Oregon’s College of Education. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.”

Unfortunately, the current education system doesn’t support the development of an entrepreneurial mindset, Zhao says, because of its reliance on standards, tests and a prescribed curriculum, which are all fundamentally incompatible with entrepreneurial thinking. Studies have shown an inverse relationship between countries’ academic test scores and entrepreneurship levels, and between years of schooling and entrepreneurship levels.

“Students are treated like employees of a big company, who don’t bear the risk if the company fails,” he says. “They are paid with grades and are not treated as being responsible for their learning.”

Instead of building on existing education reform plans, such as Common Core, Zhao supports an altogether different education paradigm to prepare children to thrive in our rapidly changing world, which will put a premium on entrepreneurship in all fields of endeavor.

A mashup of democratic and project-based learning would enhance the characteristics that lie at the heart of the entrepreneurial mindset. Zhao envisions schools that combine three essential elements: a freedom-based, non-coercive environment (as can be found at England’s democratic Summerhill School); enhanced project-based learning opportunities (such as those offered at New Technology High in Napa, California); and interaction with the larger world (as practiced by a program that allows students at the Cherwell School in Oxford, England, to collaborate with students at the Gcato School in Eastern Cape, South Africa).

A democratic school such as Summerhill shifts the responsibility to the learner and honors the natural variety that exists among individuals. As long as the students follow the general rules of behavior (which they themselves have developed on an equal footing with the staff), they are free to spend their time as they choose, taking only the classes that interest them. Nurturing what interests and excites each child benefits both society and the individual, Zhao says — the world needs all kinds of talents and skills, and this method effectively harnesses each child’s intrinsic motivation to learn what makes sense for him or her.This extends to whatever is needed to achieve their goals: “When a child has a reason to learn, the basics will be sought after, rather than imposed,” Zhao wrote in his previous book, “World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.” “If they are true basics, they are hard to avoid.”

This also allows children to build on their strengths, which is what successful entrepreneurs do, he says, instead of wasting their efforts to try and become like everyone else. “We should give all children confidence, and an alternative space to find something to be good at,” he says. “We overemphasize the deficits of children, and that’s not a good starting point. … If we let people flourish in their own ways, hopefully everyone will find something they want to do.”

But freedom in learning is not sufficient, Zhao says. The underlying environment must be characterized by flexibility, diversity (with access to a variety of adults and learning opportunities both inside and outside the school), and agency (so that students are “citizens of a democratic society who help to shape the society,” Zhao writes, instead of “subjects of a kingdom built by adults”). And then on top of that, “for learning how to be a disciplined, creative entrepreneur, you need a product, and you need practice,” he says.

So to the foundation of a democratic school, he would add the offerings of a New Technology High School, which takes project-based learning to another level. Most project-based learning environments use projects to teach prescribed content and skills, and the teacher retains most (if not all) of the control. Much more valuable is what Zhao calls the “entrepreneurial model” of project-based learning, which places the emphasis on the product rather than the project— students create products or services that meet authentic needs, and build knowledge and skills in the process. The teachers facilitate the process, but the students decide what products to make.

The third and final layer involves establishing a global consciousness, which can be done in numerous ways. It can include learning foreign languages, collaborating with students on the other side of the world (for example, the Cherwell School and Gcato School students jointly established a chicken business), or teaching foreign students about things in your area and vice versa.

The Path From Here to There

These changes will require giving up entrenched beliefs and the sense of comfort offered by a system that emphasizes order, control and immediate tangible results in the form of test scores, Zhao says. But the high unemployment rate among recent college graduates is causing people to rethink their assumptions and question whether the current model of education is serving children’s best interests.

Zhao has observed some elements of the changes for which he’s advocating appearing in more innovative public schools, primarily in suburban areas with smaller school districts and more local control. And in many ways, he says, he’s advocating for the United States to return to its roots.

“America thrived on democracy and trying to celebrate diversity, and allowing individuals to flourish. … It can look very messy,” he says, but the payoff is worth it.