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To Improve Self-Regulation,
Creativity and Problem-Solving:
Let Children Play!
Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC
Canada Research Ch...
I fear that activities needed
for children to thrive are
being cut from school curri-
cula and from children’s lives.
Some of the most important
skills
both for HAPPINESS
and for SUCCESS
in school and in life are
EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS
Almost all of those
can be
learned, practiced, and
improved
through PLAY
While training and challenging EFs
is needed for them to improve
that alone is probably not enough
to achieve the best res...
I predict that the activities that will
most successfully improve
Executive Functions,
the VERY BEST activities for
improv...
will not only work on directly
improving Executive Functions by
training and challenging them, but
will indirectly support executive
functions by lessening things that
impair executive functions
(like stress or loneliness...
PLAY does exactly that.
Besides directly
training & challenging
executive functions,
PLAY also nourishes us
socially, emot...
What’s
the evidence?
1. Inhibitory
Control
2. Working
Memory
3. Cognitive
Flexibility
The
3 core
Executive
Functions
Inhibitory
Control
involves resisting a
strong inclination to do
one thing,
and instead do what
is most appropriate
or nee...
Inhibitory
Control
includes:
Focused Attention
and
Self-Control
Focused
Attention
Inhibitory control
at the level of
attention:
Self-Control
Inhibitory control
at the level
of behavior:
FOCUSED ATTENTION
• Screening out distractions
FOCUSED
ATTENTION
Being able to
concentrate
and
• stay focused
An activity for 1 to 20
persons of ANY and ALL
ages (3 or older):
Everyone (even the
grown-ups) gets a bell and
walks in a...
FOCUSED ATTENTION
FOCUSED ATTENTION
Example: Singing a song as a Round
We tend to underestimate how
capable young children really are.
Next you’ll see 3-year-old
displaying truly outstanding
pe...
Focused
Attention
There’s Inhibitory
control at the level of
attention:
Inhibitory control
at the level
of behavior:
Self-...
SELF-CONTROL
resisting temptations,
not acting impulsively,
thinking before you speak or act
Examples of when you need
SELF-CONTROL
• wait your turn, raise your hand, don’t grab another
child’s toy, don’t pee in you...
Examples of when you need
SELF-CONTROL
• wait your turn, raise your hand, don’t grab another
child’s toy, don’t pee in you...
Discipline & Perseverance
resisting the many temptations to quit and not
finish what you started
to keep working at it des...
Evidence shows that discipline
accounts for over twice as much
variation in final grades as
does IQ, even in college.
(Duc...
Self-control saves us from putting our foot in our
mouth or making a social faux pas.
Think of all the trouble you would g...
There are many ways we can
help children succeed despite
having weak
inhibitory control:
Young children are often capable of
responding correctly -- if some way
can be found to cause them to delay
responding for...
THE DAY-NIGHT TASK
“Day” “Night”
Semantically conflicting labels
(Gerstadt , Hong, & Diamond, 1994)
Requires holding 2 rul...
Experimenter sings a little ditty
 think about the answer, don’t tell me 
before the child responds.
Imposes time betwee...
89%
56%
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Song Standard
Percentage of Correct Responses by 4-Year-Old
Children on the Song and Stand...
VIDEO
VIDEO
In the PATHS program, children are taught that when
they get upset they should stop and hold themselves
tightly with arms ...
1. Inhibitory
Control
2. Working
Memory
The
3 core
Executive
Functions
Working
Memory
Holding
information in
mind
to work or
play with it
Working Memory is absolutely critical
for REASONING and for
CREATIVE PROBLEM-SOLVING
for those require holding ideas and
i...
Working memory is critical for
making sense of anything that
unfolds over time, for that always
requires holding in mind w...
Challenge children’s Working Memory so it
improves (e.g., w/ Storytelling)
EFs need to be continually challenged to
see im...
I’m a huge fan of Storytelling
Storytelling requires and invites a child’s
rapt attention for extended periods
(sustained, focused attention), and workin...
A researcher (Gallets, 2005) randomly
assigned children in Kindergarten & Grade 1
to storytelling or story-reading -- 2x a...
Vocabulary assessed at
age 3 strongly predicts
reading comprehension
at 9-10 years of age
The more interaction between an adult
reading or telling a story and the child, the
more vocabulary improves.
The conversa...
REFERENCES for:
The conversation that takes place in the
context of reading seems to have more benefit
than the reading it...
Maybe one reason is that when
you are reading to, or with, a child
you are looking down at the page
at least part of the t...
While Story-reading is
wonderful
I predict that
Storytelling
should improve
attention and working memory more
because it t...
A fun game for practicing
and improving
Working Memory
When you see
a circle, do this: (Hold your hands up)
What should you do when you see this?
When you see a
square, do this:
(Hold your arms out
with your palms up)
What should you do when you see this?
What should you do when you see this?
When you see a
triangle, do this:
(Put your hand to
your chest in a fist.)
What should you do when you see this?
and this?
and this?
and this?
GREAT! Now you are ready to
play for real.
Make the movement that goes with
shape the arrow is pointing to.
You can add demands on
Inhibitory Control and Cognitive
Flexibility by:
Changing the
mappings,
for example:
When you see a circle:
clap your hands once
When you see a
square, do this:
(Put one hand in front of
you, with the palm facing
up; make a fist with your
other hand a...
When you see a
triangle, do this: (Salute)
Now you’re ready to play for real.
Make the movement that goes with
shape the arrow is pointing to.
An example of how to
to help children with fragile
Working Memory:
Buddy Reading
Buddy Reading
a scaffold
Buddy Reading
Teacher explains, “Ears don’t
talk; ears listen”
Buddy Reading
Teacher explains, “Ears don’t
talk; ears listen”
Non-verbal signs and
symbols aid comprehension
and memory.
Cognitive
Flexibility
involves being
able to
..see an issue from
different perspectives
..think about something in
a whole...
Cognitive Flexibility also includes having
the FLEXIBILITY…
• …to take advantage of a sudden
opportunity (serendipity)
• …...
When one door closes, another door
opens;
but we often look so long and so
regretfully upon the closed door,
that we do no...
If there’s a problem that we haven’t
been able to solve, can you ‘think
outside the box’ to…
…conceive of the problem, fra...
If you always do
what you always did,
you’ll always get
what you always got.
- Einstein
For example,
What unusual uses can you
think of for a TABLE?
Can you creatively see the same
thing from different perspect...
You could hide under it.
Turned it on its side to keep a
door closed.
Turn it upside down to play
horseshoes.
Use it as a ...
The 3 core Executive Functions are:
• Inhibitory Control
• Working Memory
• Cognitive Flexibility
Higher-order Executive F...
Vygotsky: Engaging in social pretend play is critical for
developing executive function skills in very young children. It
...
• flexibly adjust to twists and turns
in the evolving plot (cognitive
flexibility)
-- all three of the core executive
func...
The Importance of
…Action for Learning
…Learn through Doing
at any age, but especially for
young children
Hands-on Learning
We evolved to be able to learn to help us act,
to help us do what we needed to do.
If information is not...
(My son teaching me to program
the VCR)
The same is true when we teach
children in school. They need
opportunities to conc...
“The act teaches us the
meaning of the act.”
- Abraham Heschel
Young children’s learning needs to be active
and hands on.
Many concepts can, and should, be introduced
visually and tacti...
For example, by playing with the pegboards you see
below, children learn about the concepts of height &
diameter without t...
El Sistema (Venezuela’s national system of
Youth and Children's Orchestras) was started
by José Antonio Abreu in 1975.
He ...
Provided free. It takes all children (even deaf).
Has reached over half a million children in 25
countries & 3 continents.
The National Dance Institute (NDI) was founded by
Jacques d'Amboise in 1976 to transform the lives of
troubled youth throu...
Provided free. It takes all children (even those in
wheelchairs). Has reached over half a million
children in some of the ...
Youth Circus
Social Circus
Almost 200 cities throughout the US have youth
circus programs, as do many in Europe. Youth
circus is “circus created and ...
These activities train and challenge cognitive
skills ( ‘executive functions’)
Abreu: “The person who knows 3 notes is the teacher to the
person who knows 2 notes.”
Child-to-child teaching has been found
repeatedly to produce better (often
dramatically better) outcomes than
teacher-led ...
Executive Functions depend
on Prefrontal Cortex and the
other
neural regions with
which it is
interconnected.
Prefrontal
C...
Prefrontal
cortex is the
newest area
of the brain
and the most
vulnerable.
Prefrontal
Cortex
Frontal Cortex
If you’re
• sad or stressed
• lonely or
• not physically fit
Prefrontal Cortex and Executive
Functions are the first to su...
Conversely, we show better Executive
Functions when we’re
• happy
• feel socially supported, &
• we’re healthy & physicall...
Amy Arnsten,
1998
The biology of
being frazzled
Science
Our brains work
better when we
are not
in a stressed
emotional sta...
That is particularly true
for prefrontal cortex
and executive functions.
Stress impairs Executive Functions
and can cause anyone
to look as if
he or she has an EF impairment
(like ADHD)
when that...
You may have noticed that
when you’re stressed
you can’t think as clearly
or exercise as good self-control.
Stress and Prefrontal Cortex
(Roth et al., 1988)
Even mild stress increases DA release in
PFC - but not elsewhere in the b...
Sánchez MM, Young LJ, Plotsky PM, Insel TR
(2000)
Distribution of Corticosteroid Receptors
in the Rhesus Brain.
J Neurosci...
A few weeks of stress in preparation for a
major exam disrupts communication
between PFC and other brain regions.
(includi...
Desseilles et al., 2009
von Hecker & Meiser, 2005
When we are sad we have
worse selective attention.
When we are happy we ...
THE most heavily researched predictor of
creativity in social psychology is mood.
The most robust finding is that a happy ...
It’s not that sadder people are
less creative than happier
ones, but that an individual
tends to be more creative when
he ...
It’s important that children
do things
that give them
JOY
These activities
engage children’s Passionate
Enthusiasm (‘Ruach’)
You can see the JOY
on their faces
JOY
is NOT the opposite of
SERIOUS
Serious business
(like learning) can, and
should, be JOYFUL
Research shows
we learn more and get more
done, when we’re happy.
There’s no reason why learning
can’t be joyful.
When it is, there’s no clear
distinction between ‘work’ and
‘play.’
Children need
to believe in
themselves.
These programs provide joy, building
feelings of pride & self-confidence
We need to let children know
it’s okay to make mistakes.
The only alternative to is to
stay with what you already
know, to...
Children need to feel safe
…to push the limits of what they know,
…to venture into the unknown,
…to take the risk of makin...
Making a mistake is not the worst
thing in the world.
Even the people
you most respect
make mistakes and
have done things ...
Imperfect ≠ Worthless
“Going wrong is just
something you do on the
way to going right.”
-- Marshall Marcus
Making a mistake
is NOT a problem.
Suffering embarrassment
because you made a
mistake
is a problem.
The important thing
is how you react
after you’ve made a mistake
or fallen short of a goal.
You've never failed until you've tried for the
last time, and you've never lost until you quit.
-- Samuel Proctor Massie
I...
You haven’t failed ‘til
you’ve stopped trying.
Samuel Proctor Massie was born in the
segregated South in the early 1900’s....
Loneliness:
Human Nature and
the Need for Social
Connection
2008
a book by
John Cacioppo
& William Patrick
Our brains work...
That is particularly true
for prefrontal cortex
and executive functions.
People who feel lonely, or are
focusing on anticipating being alone,
show worse EFs than people who
feel, or anticipate fe...
We are fundamentally social.
We need to belong.
We need to fit in & be liked.
Children who are lonely or
ostracized have m...
These activities address social needs, provid-ing
feelings of belonging and social support
We are not just intellects,
with emotions
and social needs,
we also have bodies
Our brains
work better
when our
bodies are
physically fit.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience
(January 2008)
“Be Smart, Exercise ...
That is particularly true
for prefrontal cortex
and executive functions.
People who are more physically
active and have better aerobic fitness
have better EFs.
That’s true for kids: Scudder et al...
The brain doesn’t recognize the same
sharp division between cognitive and
motor function that we impose in our
thinking.
T...
For example, an area of the brain
called the pre-SMA
is important for sequential tasks,
whether they are
sequential motor ...
Motor development and
cognitive development appear to
be fundamentally intertwined.
Diamond, A. (2000)
Close Interrelation...
These activities Improve
Motor Skills &
Physical Fitness
Orchestra trains visuomotor skills, bimanual
coordination, & fine...
Certainly they help
develop motor skills such
as bimanual and eye-
hand coordination,
lung
capacity
strength &
flexibility
Contrary to influential reviews
of the benefits of aerobic exercise….
Nature Reviews Neuroscience (January 2008)
“Be Smart...
Exercise without a cognitive
component and perhaps without
a social component (e.g.,
riding a stationary bike) produces
li...
Exercise alone appears not to be as
effective in improving EFs as
exercise-plus-character-develop-ment
(traditional martia...
Lakes & Hoyt (2004) randomly
assigned children in grades K thru
5 (roughly 5-11 years old) by
homeroom class to Tae-Kwon-D...
Children assigned to Tae-Kwon-Do showed
greater gains than children in standard phys.
ed. on all dimensions of EFs studied...
There’s also evidence that any benefit of
physical activity for cognition may be
proportional to how much joy the physical...
The different parts of the human
being are fundamentally
interrelated.
Each part (cognitive, spiritual,
social, emotional,...
The best and most
efficient way to foster
any one of those,
is to foster all of them.
We have to care about children’s
emotional
social &
physical well-being,
if we want them to be able to problem-solve,
exer...
If a child is stressed,
sad,
lonely,
or not physically fit,
the very academic performance a school
is trying to improve wi...
Returning to my prediction:
Activities will
most successfully
improve Executive Functions
will not only work on directly
improving Executive Functions by
training and challenging them, but
will indirectly support executive functions
by lessening things that
impair them (like stress or loneliness)
and enhancing...
What activities directly
train and challenge
executive functions and
indirectly support them by also
addressing our social...
Traditional
Activities
that have been around
for millennia.
For 10's of 1,000's of years, across all
cultures, storytelling, dance, art, music &
play have been part of the human
cond...
These activities
…challenge our intellect (EFs),
…make us happy & proud,
…address our social needs, and
…help our bodies d...
Key is that the child really enjoy the
activity and really want to do it,
so s/he will spend a lot of time at it,
pushing ...
could be caring for an animal….
Free the Children
Children Changing the World
More than 1.7 million youth involved in
innovative education and develop-men...
I fear that activities needed
for children to thrive
(the arts, physical activity, & play)
are being cut from school
curri...
What if mainstream education has it all wrong?
Focusing exclusively on training cognition
(as mainstream education tends to do)
may not be the best, or most efficient, w...
Addressing children’s social, emotional, and
physical needs may be key to
whether they do well in school and in life.
Focu...
While it may seem logical that if you
want to improve academic outcomes
you should concentrate on academic
instruction alo...
To show the EFs they are capable of, to
achieve the academic outcomes they
are capable of, children need to
• feel relaxed...
If a child is emotionally, socially, and
physically nourished
that child is more likely to show the
full cognitive ability...
On the other hand,
if a child is stressed, sad,
lonely, or not physically fit,
the very academic performance a
school is t...
What nourishes the
human spirit may
also be best for
Executive Functions.
Nurturing children socially, emotionally,
cognitively, and physically
as the arts, play, and physical activity can do
may ...
My thanks to the NIH (NIMH, NICHD, & NIDA),
which has continuously funded our work since 1986,
& to the Spencer Fdn, CFI, ...
thank you so much for
your attention
adele.diamond@ubc.ca
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play
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Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play

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Adele Diamond, PhD

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Self-Regulation, Creativity, and Problem-Solving Through Play

  1. 1. To Improve Self-Regulation, Creativity and Problem-Solving: Let Children Play! Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC Canada Research Chair Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Dept. of Psychiatry, UBC
  2. 2. I fear that activities needed for children to thrive are being cut from school curri- cula and from children’s lives.
  3. 3. Some of the most important skills both for HAPPINESS and for SUCCESS in school and in life are EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS
  4. 4. Almost all of those can be learned, practiced, and improved through PLAY
  5. 5. While training and challenging EFs is needed for them to improve that alone is probably not enough to achieve the best results.
  6. 6. I predict that the activities that will most successfully improve Executive Functions, the VERY BEST activities for improving Executive Functions
  7. 7. will not only work on directly improving Executive Functions by training and challenging them, but
  8. 8. will indirectly support executive functions by lessening things that impair executive functions (like stress or loneliness) and enhancing things that support them (like joy or physical vitality).
  9. 9. PLAY does exactly that. Besides directly training & challenging executive functions, PLAY also nourishes us socially, emotionally, and physically.
  10. 10. What’s the evidence?
  11. 11. 1. Inhibitory Control 2. Working Memory 3. Cognitive Flexibility The 3 core Executive Functions
  12. 12. Inhibitory Control involves resisting a strong inclination to do one thing, and instead do what is most appropriate or needed.
  13. 13. Inhibitory Control includes: Focused Attention and Self-Control
  14. 14. Focused Attention Inhibitory control at the level of attention: Self-Control Inhibitory control at the level of behavior:
  15. 15. FOCUSED ATTENTION • Screening out distractions
  16. 16. FOCUSED ATTENTION Being able to concentrate and • stay focused
  17. 17. An activity for 1 to 20 persons of ANY and ALL ages (3 or older): Everyone (even the grown-ups) gets a bell and walks in a line or a circle. The goal is for no one’s bell to make a sound.
  18. 18. FOCUSED ATTENTION
  19. 19. FOCUSED ATTENTION Example: Singing a song as a Round
  20. 20. We tend to underestimate how capable young children really are. Next you’ll see 3-year-old displaying truly outstanding perseverance & focused attention (despite lots of distraction all around him)
  21. 21. Focused Attention There’s Inhibitory control at the level of attention: Inhibitory control at the level of behavior: Self-Control
  22. 22. SELF-CONTROL resisting temptations, not acting impulsively, thinking before you speak or act
  23. 23. Examples of when you need SELF-CONTROL • wait your turn, raise your hand, don’t grab another child’s toy, don’t pee in your pants
  24. 24. Examples of when you need SELF-CONTROL • wait your turn, raise your hand, don’t grab another child’s toy, don’t pee in your pants • resist hurting someone just because that person hurt you (cycle of ‘tit for tat’) • don’t blurt out the 1st thing that comes to mind • resist acting in the heat of the moment (don’t press ‘send’ right away) • resist jumping to a conclusion of what something must have meant or why it was done
  25. 25. Discipline & Perseverance resisting the many temptations to quit and not finish what you started to keep working at it despite boredom, initial failure, setbacks, difficulties, or more fun things calling continuing to work though the reward may be a long time in coming (delaying gratification) requires Self-Control
  26. 26. Evidence shows that discipline accounts for over twice as much variation in final grades as does IQ, even in college. (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005)
  27. 27. Self-control saves us from putting our foot in our mouth or making a social faux pas. Think of all the trouble you would get in if you ..blurted out the first thing that came to mind, ..grabbed whatever you wanted without asking or paying, or ..did other socially inappropriate or hurtful things. If we want to change, if we want to mend our ways, we need self-control.
  28. 28. There are many ways we can help children succeed despite having weak inhibitory control:
  29. 29. Young children are often capable of responding correctly -- if some way can be found to cause them to delay responding for just a few moments.
  30. 30. THE DAY-NIGHT TASK “Day” “Night” Semantically conflicting labels (Gerstadt , Hong, & Diamond, 1994) Requires holding 2 rules in mind, and inhibiting saying what the images really represent, saying the opposite instead.
  31. 31. Experimenter sings a little ditty  think about the answer, don’t tell me  before the child responds. Imposes time between presentation of stimulus and when a child can respond DITTY
  32. 32. 89% 56% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Song Standard Percentage of Correct Responses by 4-Year-Old Children on the Song and Standard Conditions of the Day-Night Task PercentCorrect Chance ~ 90%
  33. 33. VIDEO VIDEO
  34. 34. In the PATHS program, children are taught that when they get upset they should stop and hold themselves tightly with arms crossed (like a Turtle gets into its shell) and take a deep breath. This is brilliant. It imposes a short waiting period AND during that period it has children do things that reduce arousal & help them to calm down.
  35. 35. 1. Inhibitory Control 2. Working Memory The 3 core Executive Functions
  36. 36. Working Memory Holding information in mind to work or play with it
  37. 37. Working Memory is absolutely critical for REASONING and for CREATIVE PROBLEM-SOLVING for those require holding ideas and information in mind and playing with them, relating one to another, re- ordering priorities, and more
  38. 38. Working memory is critical for making sense of anything that unfolds over time, for that always requires holding in mind what happened earlier and relating that to what is happening now.
  39. 39. Challenge children’s Working Memory so it improves (e.g., w/ Storytelling) EFs need to be continually challenged to see improvements - not just used, but challenged.
  40. 40. I’m a huge fan of Storytelling
  41. 41. Storytelling requires and invites a child’s rapt attention for extended periods (sustained, focused attention), and working memory to hold in mind all that’s happened so far, different characters’ identities, story details and to relate that to the new info being revealed – without visual aids !
  42. 42. A researcher (Gallets, 2005) randomly assigned children in Kindergarten & Grade 1 to storytelling or story-reading -- 2x a week for 12 weeks. Vocabulary and recall improved more in the children assigned to STORYTELLING than in children assigned to story-reading.
  43. 43. Vocabulary assessed at age 3 strongly predicts reading comprehension at 9-10 years of age
  44. 44. The more interaction between an adult reading or telling a story and the child, the more vocabulary improves. The conversation that takes place in the context of reading seems to have even more benefit than the reading itself.
  45. 45. REFERENCES for: The conversation that takes place in the context of reading seems to have more benefit than the reading itself. Walsh, B.A., & Blewitt, P. (2006). The effect of questioning style during storybook reading on novel vocabulary acquisition of preschoolers. Early Childhood Education J., 33, 273-278. Sénéchal, M., Thomas, E., & Monker, J. (1995). Individual differences in 4-year-old children's acquisition of vocabulary during storybook reading. J. of Ed. Psychology, 87, 218-229. Kertoy, M.K. (1994). Adult interactive strategies and the spontaneous comments of preschoolers during joint storybook readings. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 9, 58- 67.
  46. 46. Maybe one reason is that when you are reading to, or with, a child you are looking down at the page at least part of the time. But when you are telling a story you are looking directly at the children & interacting more.
  47. 47. While Story-reading is wonderful I predict that Storytelling should improve attention and working memory more because it taxes them more
  48. 48. A fun game for practicing and improving Working Memory
  49. 49. When you see a circle, do this: (Hold your hands up)
  50. 50. What should you do when you see this?
  51. 51. When you see a square, do this: (Hold your arms out with your palms up)
  52. 52. What should you do when you see this?
  53. 53. What should you do when you see this?
  54. 54. When you see a triangle, do this: (Put your hand to your chest in a fist.)
  55. 55. What should you do when you see this?
  56. 56. and this?
  57. 57. and this?
  58. 58. and this?
  59. 59. GREAT! Now you are ready to play for real. Make the movement that goes with shape the arrow is pointing to.
  60. 60. You can add demands on Inhibitory Control and Cognitive Flexibility by:
  61. 61. Changing the mappings, for example:
  62. 62. When you see a circle: clap your hands once
  63. 63. When you see a square, do this: (Put one hand in front of you, with the palm facing up; make a fist with your other hand and place it on the palm with the pinky down and thumb on top.)
  64. 64. When you see a triangle, do this: (Salute)
  65. 65. Now you’re ready to play for real. Make the movement that goes with shape the arrow is pointing to.
  66. 66. An example of how to to help children with fragile Working Memory:
  67. 67. Buddy Reading
  68. 68. Buddy Reading a scaffold
  69. 69. Buddy Reading Teacher explains, “Ears don’t talk; ears listen”
  70. 70. Buddy Reading Teacher explains, “Ears don’t talk; ears listen”
  71. 71. Non-verbal signs and symbols aid comprehension and memory.
  72. 72. Cognitive Flexibility involves being able to ..see an issue from different perspectives ..think about something in a whole new way (“thinking outside the box”) ..seamlessly adjust to change or unexpected situations
  73. 73. Cognitive Flexibility also includes having the FLEXIBILITY… • …to take advantage of a sudden opportunity (serendipity) • …to change course when needs change • …to get to your desired goal despite unexpected obstacles seeming to block the way • …to admit you were wrong when you get o more information
  74. 74. When one door closes, another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. - Alexander Graham Bell An example of poor cognitive flexibility:
  75. 75. If there’s a problem that we haven’t been able to solve, can you ‘think outside the box’ to… …conceive of the problem, frame the problem, in a new way? … come up with a completely different way of attacking it?
  76. 76. If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. - Einstein
  77. 77. For example, What unusual uses can you think of for a TABLE? Can you creatively see the same thing from different perspectives?
  78. 78. You could hide under it. Turned it on its side to keep a door closed. Turn it upside down to play horseshoes. Use it as a percussion instrument. Cut it up for firewood.
  79. 79. The 3 core Executive Functions are: • Inhibitory Control • Working Memory • Cognitive Flexibility Higher-order Executive Functions are: • Problem-solving • Reasoning • Planning = Fluid Intelligence
  80. 80. Vygotsky: Engaging in social pretend play is critical for developing executive function skills in very young children. It is emphasized in Tools of the Mind. Children must plan who they want to be in a pretend scenario, and the teacher holds them accountable for
  81. 81. • flexibly adjust to twists and turns in the evolving plot (cognitive flexibility) -- all three of the core executive functions thus get exercise. • During social pretend play, children must hold their own role and those of others in mind (working memory) • inhibit acting out of character (employ inhibitory control), and
  82. 82. The Importance of …Action for Learning …Learn through Doing at any age, but especially for young children
  83. 83. Hands-on Learning We evolved to be able to learn to help us act, to help us do what we needed to do. If information is not relevant for action, we don’t pay attention in the same way (hence the difference in route memory for the driver, versus the passenger, of a car). You learn something when you NEED it for something you want to DO – when you need it for a problem you want to solve.
  84. 84. (My son teaching me to program the VCR) The same is true when we teach children in school. They need opportunities to concretely apply what they are taught.
  85. 85. “The act teaches us the meaning of the act.” - Abraham Heschel
  86. 86. Young children’s learning needs to be active and hands on. Many concepts can, and should, be introduced visually and tactilely before they are introduced using language. It helps a great deal to give children experiences with concepts first before attaching verbal labels to them.
  87. 87. For example, by playing with the pegboards you see below, children learn about the concepts of height & diameter without those words ever being used. By the time those words are introduced, children have a deep understanding of the concepts. same height differ only in heightdiffer only in diameter same diameter
  88. 88. El Sistema (Venezuela’s national system of Youth and Children's Orchestras) was started by José Antonio Abreu in 1975. He envisioned classical music training as a social intervention that could transform the lives of poor kids. El Sistema is intended as a social intervention with music at its core. Rather than aiming to produce great musicians, it aims to create community.
  89. 89. Provided free. It takes all children (even deaf). Has reached over half a million children in 25 countries & 3 continents.
  90. 90. The National Dance Institute (NDI) was founded by Jacques d'Amboise in 1976 to transform the lives of troubled youth through dance. Jacques was the best male ballet dancer in the world for 3 decades & received the National Medal of Honor. He was a high school dropout, a poor kid from a poor neighbor- hood, headed for trouble. Since dance transformed his life, he figured it might do the same for others.
  91. 91. Provided free. It takes all children (even those in wheelchairs). Has reached over half a million children in some of the poorest areas.
  92. 92. Youth Circus Social Circus
  93. 93. Almost 200 cities throughout the US have youth circus programs, as do many in Europe. Youth circus is “circus created and performed by youth, as opposed to entertainment devised for youth.” Since the 1970s, youth circuses have used circus arts to instill in young people qualities they need to survive and thrive in society, teaching them the art of life through circus, building character, and inspiring youths, especially those at-risk.
  94. 94. These activities train and challenge cognitive skills ( ‘executive functions’)
  95. 95. Abreu: “The person who knows 3 notes is the teacher to the person who knows 2 notes.”
  96. 96. Child-to-child teaching has been found repeatedly to produce better (often dramatically better) outcomes than teacher-led instruction. (review by Hall & Stegila, 2003; Miller, 2005)
  97. 97. Executive Functions depend on Prefrontal Cortex and the other neural regions with which it is interconnected. Prefrontal Cortex
  98. 98. Prefrontal cortex is the newest area of the brain and the most vulnerable. Prefrontal Cortex Frontal Cortex
  99. 99. If you’re • sad or stressed • lonely or • not physically fit Prefrontal Cortex and Executive Functions are the first to suffer, and suffer THE MOST.
  100. 100. Conversely, we show better Executive Functions when we’re • happy • feel socially supported, & • we’re healthy & physically fit
  101. 101. Amy Arnsten, 1998 The biology of being frazzled Science Our brains work better when we are not in a stressed emotional state.
  102. 102. That is particularly true for prefrontal cortex and executive functions.
  103. 103. Stress impairs Executive Functions and can cause anyone to look as if he or she has an EF impairment (like ADHD) when that’s not the case.
  104. 104. You may have noticed that when you’re stressed you can’t think as clearly or exercise as good self-control.
  105. 105. Stress and Prefrontal Cortex (Roth et al., 1988) Even mild stress increases DA release in PFC - but not elsewhere in the brain
  106. 106. Sánchez MM, Young LJ, Plotsky PM, Insel TR (2000) Distribution of Corticosteroid Receptors in the Rhesus Brain. J Neurosci, 20, 4657-4568 In humans (& primates in general) Prefrontal Cortex has more receptors for CORTISOL than any other area in the brain.
  107. 107. A few weeks of stress in preparation for a major exam disrupts communication between PFC and other brain regions. (including parietal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, the insula, and the cerebellum) Liston et al. (2009) PNAS
  108. 108. Desseilles et al., 2009 von Hecker & Meiser, 2005 When we are sad we have worse selective attention. When we are happy we have better selective attention. Gable & Harmon-Jones, 2008
  109. 109. THE most heavily researched predictor of creativity in social psychology is mood. The most robust finding is that a happy mood leads to greater creativity (Ashby et al. 1999). It enables people to work more flexibly (Murray et al. 1990) & to see potential relatedness among unusual & atypical members of categories (Isen et al. 1985, 1987). People show more creativity when they are happy
  110. 110. It’s not that sadder people are less creative than happier ones, but that an individual tends to be more creative when he or she is happier than when he or she is more miserable.
  111. 111. It’s important that children do things that give them JOY
  112. 112. These activities engage children’s Passionate Enthusiasm (‘Ruach’) You can see the JOY on their faces
  113. 113. JOY is NOT the opposite of SERIOUS
  114. 114. Serious business (like learning) can, and should, be JOYFUL
  115. 115. Research shows we learn more and get more done, when we’re happy.
  116. 116. There’s no reason why learning can’t be joyful. When it is, there’s no clear distinction between ‘work’ and ‘play.’
  117. 117. Children need to believe in themselves.
  118. 118. These programs provide joy, building feelings of pride & self-confidence
  119. 119. We need to let children know it’s okay to make mistakes. The only alternative to is to stay with what you already know, to stop growing.
  120. 120. Children need to feel safe …to push the limits of what they know, …to venture into the unknown, …to take the risk of making a mistake or of being wrong. Children can’t relax if they’re worried you might embarass them. They can’t relax if they feel a lot of pressure to always succeed and never mess up.
  121. 121. Making a mistake is not the worst thing in the world. Even the people you most respect make mistakes and have done things they regret. EVERYONE makes mistakes. Everyone is imperfect.
  122. 122. Imperfect ≠ Worthless
  123. 123. “Going wrong is just something you do on the way to going right.” -- Marshall Marcus
  124. 124. Making a mistake is NOT a problem.
  125. 125. Suffering embarrassment because you made a mistake is a problem.
  126. 126. The important thing is how you react after you’ve made a mistake or fallen short of a goal.
  127. 127. You've never failed until you've tried for the last time, and you've never lost until you quit. -- Samuel Proctor Massie It’s never over ‘til it’s over
  128. 128. You haven’t failed ‘til you’ve stopped trying. Samuel Proctor Massie was born in the segregated South in the early 1900’s. You know he encountered a lot of discrimination, setbacks, and failures. Yet he rose to become one the most highly respected and decorated chemists of the 20th century.
  129. 129. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection 2008 a book by John Cacioppo & William Patrick Our brains work better when we are not feeling lonely or socially isolated.
  130. 130. That is particularly true for prefrontal cortex and executive functions.
  131. 131. People who feel lonely, or are focusing on anticipating being alone, show worse EFs than people who feel, or anticipate feeling, more socially supported. Baumeister et al., 2002 Tangney et al. , 2004 Twenge et al., 2002
  132. 132. We are fundamentally social. We need to belong. We need to fit in & be liked. Children who are lonely or ostracized have more difficulty learning.
  133. 133. These activities address social needs, provid-ing feelings of belonging and social support
  134. 134. We are not just intellects, with emotions and social needs, we also have bodies
  135. 135. Our brains work better when our bodies are physically fit. Nature Reviews Neuroscience (January 2008) “Be Smart, Exercise Your Heart: Exercise Effects on Brain and Cognition” Charles Hillman, Kirk Erickson & Art Kramer “There is little doubt that leading a sedentary life is bad for our cognitive health.”
  136. 136. That is particularly true for prefrontal cortex and executive functions.
  137. 137. People who are more physically active and have better aerobic fitness have better EFs. That’s true for kids: Scudder et al., 2014 Hillman, Castelli, & Buck 2005 and for older adults: Boucard et al., 2012 Voelcker-Rehage, Godde, & Staudinger, 2010
  138. 138. The brain doesn’t recognize the same sharp division between cognitive and motor function that we impose in our thinking. The SAME or substantially overlapping brain systems subserve BOTH cognitive and motor function.
  139. 139. For example, an area of the brain called the pre-SMA is important for sequential tasks, whether they are sequential motor tasks or sequential cognitive tasks. Hanakawa et al., 2002
  140. 140. Motor development and cognitive development appear to be fundamentally intertwined. Diamond, A. (2000) Close Interrelation of Motor Development and Cognitive Development and of the Cerebellum and Prefrontal Cortex Child Development, 71, 44-56
  141. 141. These activities Improve Motor Skills & Physical Fitness Orchestra trains visuomotor skills, bimanual coordination, & fine motor skills. Dance improves aerobic fitness, muscle strength & flexibility, coordination, balance, & helps you move with increased grace & reduced awkwardness.
  142. 142. Certainly they help develop motor skills such as bimanual and eye- hand coordination,
  143. 143. lung capacity
  144. 144. strength & flexibility
  145. 145. Contrary to influential reviews of the benefits of aerobic exercise…. Nature Reviews Neuroscience (January 2008) “Be Smart, Exercise Your Heart: Exercise Effects on Brain and Cognition” Charles Hillman, Kirk Erickson & Art Kramer In particular, the frontal lobe & executive functions that depend on it show the largest benefit from improved fitness.
  146. 146. Exercise without a cognitive component and perhaps without a social component (e.g., riding a stationary bike) produces little or no cognitive benefit.
  147. 147. Exercise alone appears not to be as effective in improving EFs as exercise-plus-character-develop-ment (traditional martial arts) exercise-plus-mindfulness (yoga) or other exercise that requires thought (such as soccer or circus).
  148. 148. Lakes & Hoyt (2004) randomly assigned children in grades K thru 5 (roughly 5-11 years old) by homeroom class to Tae-Kwon-Do martial arts or standard physical education.
  149. 149. Children assigned to Tae-Kwon-Do showed greater gains than children in standard phys. ed. on all dimensions of EFs studied (e.g., cognitive [focused vs. distractible] and affective [persevere vs. quit] and emotion regulation). This generalized to multiple contexts and was found on multiple measures.
  150. 150. There’s also evidence that any benefit of physical activity for cognition may be proportional to how much joy the physical activity brings. (Hill et al., 2010; Raichlen, Foster, Gerdeman, Seillier, & Giuffrida, 2012; Heyman et al., 2012; Wolf et al., 2010) Boring exercise is particularly unlikely to yield cognitive benefits.
  151. 151. The different parts of the human being are fundamentally interrelated. Each part (cognitive, spiritual, social, emotional, & physical) is affected by, and affects, the others. Diamond, 2007
  152. 152. The best and most efficient way to foster any one of those, is to foster all of them.
  153. 153. We have to care about children’s emotional social & physical well-being, if we want them to be able to problem-solve, exercise self-control, or display any of the other Executive Functions.
  154. 154. If a child is stressed, sad, lonely, or not physically fit, the very academic performance a school is trying to improve will take a hit.
  155. 155. Returning to my prediction: Activities will most successfully improve Executive Functions
  156. 156. will not only work on directly improving Executive Functions by training and challenging them, but
  157. 157. will indirectly support executive functions by lessening things that impair them (like stress or loneliness) and enhancing things that support them (like joy or physical vitality).
  158. 158. What activities directly train and challenge executive functions and indirectly support them by also addressing our social, emotional, and physical needs?
  159. 159. Traditional Activities that have been around for millennia.
  160. 160. For 10's of 1,000's of years, across all cultures, storytelling, dance, art, music & play have been part of the human condition. People in all cultures made music, sang, danced, did sports, and played games. There are good reasons why those activities have lasted so long and arose everywhere.
  161. 161. These activities …challenge our intellect (EFs), …make us happy & proud, …address our social needs, and …help our bodies develop
  162. 162. Key is that the child really enjoy the activity and really want to do it, so s/he will spend a lot of time at it, pushing him- or herself to improve.
  163. 163. could be caring for an animal….
  164. 164. Free the Children Children Changing the World More than 1.7 million youth involved in innovative education and develop-ment programs in 45 countries. Educates, engages, and empowers young people to be confident young change-makers and lifelong active citizens. 97% of their students now believe they can make a difference in the world. 89% confirm that their students are more confident in their goal-setting and completion. 85% find a greater atmosphere of caring and compassion in the school. 90% of their students have demonstrated increased leadership among their peers. Educators whose students are engaged in Free the Children report: Could be a SERVICE ACTIVITY such as
  165. 165. I fear that activities needed for children to thrive (the arts, physical activity, & play) are being cut from school curricula and children’s lives.
  166. 166. What if mainstream education has it all wrong?
  167. 167. Focusing exclusively on training cognition (as mainstream education tends to do) may not be the best, or most efficient, way to improve cognition. What if mainstream education has it all wrong?
  168. 168. Addressing children’s social, emotional, and physical needs may be key to whether they do well in school and in life. Focusing exclusively on training cognition (as mainstream education tends to do) may not be the best, or most efficient, way to improve cognition. What if mainstream education has it all wrong?
  169. 169. While it may seem logical that if you want to improve academic outcomes you should concentrate on academic instruction alone, not everything that seems logical is correct.
  170. 170. To show the EFs they are capable of, to achieve the academic outcomes they are capable of, children need to • feel relaxed and happy (not stressed) • feel they are in a supportive community they can count on, and • their bodies need to be fit & healthy.
  171. 171. If a child is emotionally, socially, and physically nourished that child is more likely to show the full cognitive ability of which he or she is capable and do better in school.
  172. 172. On the other hand, if a child is stressed, sad, lonely, or not physically fit, the very academic performance a school is trying to improve will take a hit.
  173. 173. What nourishes the human spirit may also be best for Executive Functions.
  174. 174. Nurturing children socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically as the arts, play, and physical activity can do may be critical for achieving the outcomes we all want for our children.
  175. 175. My thanks to the NIH (NIMH, NICHD, & NIDA), which has continuously funded our work since 1986, & to the Spencer Fdn, CFI, NSERC, & IES for recent support our work - and especially to all the members of my lab.
  176. 176. thank you so much for your attention adele.diamond@ubc.ca

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