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Civic Minds in The Seattle Times

Program Content for September 26, 2014


Civic Minds in The Seattle Times

Date:  Friday, September 26, 2014

e-Edition Date:  Monday, September 22, 2014

Article Title:  Lessons on learning, from inside children’s brains

Section:  Main, A1


Vocabulary Review: Turnkey


“Your kid’s brain is not a turnkey system; it really does require you to talk and play and challenge cognitively.”


Please look up the definition of both turnkey and use them in a sentence, using your own words.






Comprehension Questions


1.      On a recent afternoon, a 10-yearold girl with long, blond, curly hair, gave UW researchers a peek inside her ______________.


2.      Lying flat on her back inside a machine that looks like a big doughnut, Shelter Gimbel-Sherr read individual letters presented on a video screen and then wrote the one that would come next in the alphabet on a special pad. All the while a scanner generated images of her ____________  ____________.


3.      They are at the forefront of what kind of brain research?


4.      In early childhood, a complex blending of genetics and early experiences — good and bad — wires the brain’s cells and regions together, forming what?


5.      The brain’s extraordinary flexibility during children’s first five years primes them for learning about their world, but it also makes them vulnerable if they don’t get what?


6.      Berninger and Patricia Kuhl, who codirects the university’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, are two of the prominent researchers at the UW exploring how children’s brains develop for _____________.


7.      Their discoveries already are helping parents — and schools and preschools — strengthen what?


8.      But they are building on other studies that show teaching 4- and 5-year-olds to write and name the letters of the alphabet improves what?


9.      What is the “basic idea”?


10.    What kind of pre- and post-tests do Berninger and Richards give the children?


11.   When children with language-learning disabilities read and write, those tasks activate what?  


12.   An adult brain has an estimated ____ billion neurons, which can each have as many as ________ to _______ connections with other neurons.


13.   What is phonological awareness?


14.   How can parents/caregivers strengthen those connections?


15.   Children who have even one adult spending time with them like that can form those connections, regardless of ________________________ and ______________________.


16.   What should preschool be about?



Class Discussion Questions and Essay Prompts:







·        Have you studied much about your brain in school?  Why or why not?

·        Are you interested in learning more about it?  Why or why not?

·        Did your parents/caregivers read to you as a young child?

·        Did you enjoy reading?  Do you enjoy reading now?  Are your answers the same?  Different?  If different, what changed? 

·        How important is reading and writing to a person’s success in life?



That’s because our brains aren’t naturally wired for reading and writing (or multiplying and dividing). Infants aren’t born with the neural pathways needed for those skills.


·        Were you surprised that infants aren’t born with the neural pathways needed for skills that are so important in school, college, work?  Why or why not?


Our capacity for learning lasts throughout our lifetime, so it’s not as if a window of opportunity slams shut on a child’s fifth birthday.



But we don’t learn all things equally well at all ages, and that brain circuitry becomes harder to change as children get older. So it’s better to get it right the first time, when efforts to strengthen weak connections stand their best chance for success.  


·        Do you agree or disagree with this?  Why?



Berninger and Richards’ prior research showed that after dyslexic children received specialized reading and writing instruction, those brain differences often disappeared and their reading and writing improved.



Now they want to explore those changes in more detail to see if computerized reading and writing instruction can “normalize” not only the activity of different parts of the brain, but the connections between them.


   “It’s not a fancy toy or a television set; it’s you and your time,” Kuhl said. “Your kid’s brain is not a turnkey system; it really does require you to talk and play and challenge cognitively.”


“Reading is magic.”


·        Is reading magic?  What do you think? 

·        How do you view reading and its importance?





Is brain research in the field of education important?  Why or why not? 

Newspaper-related CBA activity:  U.S. Policy


How the United States government interacts with the world affects people across the globe.  Analyze and evaluate the causes and effects of US foreign policy on people in the United States and across the world.


·        Using The Seattle Times e-edition, find an article from this week that deals with world politics or foreign policy. 

·        What are the main points of view from someone living in that particular country?  How is that “view” similar and different than your own opinion, regarding the specific issue the article is discussing?

·        Why is it important to study and learn about foreign policy?  How does it help you understand the world we live in, using current issues and events?  





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