Friday, February 27, 2009

Kid Writing

While searching for a drawing to use for my last post, I found a story that my daughter wrote in kindergarten. Her school uses a curriculum called "Kid Writing." Every day the students were instructed to draw a picture in their Kid Writing Journal and then write a sentence or two about it. They were taught to write any letters that they heard in the words (phonic based spelling). Then, an adult (teacher or parent volunteer) helped them translate it into "adult writing". Once a child became an independent writer (no longer needed help to compose sentences) the teacher required more, such as a paragraph.

When I saw this story, I just had to share it with you. Given Jason's writing skills and his recent sci-fi vignette, it is quite apparent that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! LOL! Most of the kids write about something that their family did recently, describe a beloved pet, or draw a picture of their house. Not our kid-- she writes multichapter stories!

(Chapter 2: The Curse of the Aliens)

Abby and I were on the twirling bar. The aliens put a remote in the baby's brain. He took over the baby and made the baby scatter buttons around the world. Karen came. She didn't know about the buttons. She stepped on one. A box appeared. I opened the box! I didn't know it was Pandora's box. And all the sadness and sickness came out.

And, to further demonstrate the power of DNA-- here is a poem our other daughter wrote in second grade. (Jason can rest easy that his genes have been passed on!)

Love is like a rainbow in my heart.
Love is red like the first rose of the season.
Love is orange like a skinny pumpkin that grows in my garden.
Love is yellow like the first stars you see at night.
Love is green like a fresh bunch of grapes that came from the garden.
Love is blue like the crystal blue sky.
Love is indigo like the night sky with bright stars.
Love is violet like the beautiful flowers I pick in the meadow.
Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Through a Child's Eyes

~drawing by my youngest daughter at age 5

I've been reading a book about infant brain development and I discovered a little fact that I'd never heard before: vision develops differently in boys and girls.

There are several different types of cells that send visual information from the retina to the brain. One is called parvocellular (or P cells) which link to the cones--they transmit information about color and shape of stationary objects. Another type is called magnocellular (or M cells) which link to the rods--they carry information about depth and motion.

Researchers have found that girls have more P cells and boys have more M cells. So, girls are born with a better skill in seeing shape and color (or "what something is"), whereas boys have an advantage in seeing motion, depth, and shades of gray (or "where something is"). I can easily see the evolutionary link here-- female gatherers need to recognize plants by shape and color, male hunters need to process the motion of prey to make a successful kill. But I digress…

The impact of this anatomy on preschool function is what I found so interesting. Girls tend to use many bright colors to draw things (like houses, flowers, people, or animals). While boys tend to use a few crayons, often black, gray, silver, and blue, to draw actions (car crashes, airplanes, etc.)

Just imagine the psychological impact on little Sam when his teacher (mostly females in preschool settings) inadvertently criticizes him for not using more color, or asks him to draw more "happy people." He'll get the message that he's not doing something right or somehow lacking.

And, his feeling of failure is more important than we realize. Other studies have demonstrated that children decide whether they like school by the end of their first year and that their decision remains stable throughout their lifetime!

Ack!-- I hope preschool and kindergarten teachers have heard about this! I don’t have any sons, so I haven't seen this play out. Have any of you?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Communication (Personality Talk, part 7)

Do you ever feel frustrated when someone doesn't seem to hear a request you've made? Or perhaps you have been labeled "bossy" despite your best intentions. Maybe you know someone who seems to be so passive-aggressive that you just want to shout at them "will you just ask for what you actually want already?!"

These communication issues may be explained by personality theory!

There are two styles of communication: informing and directing. And guess what? We each have a natural preference for one or the other, and it tends to coincide with our other thinking preferences (see previous personality posts for the type functions).

How do you ask for something? There are many ways to communicate a simple request. Suppose you are asking your spouse to get bread when they go to the store. How would you phrase that request?

We're out of bread.
We need bread.
Would you be able to get us some bread?
We're out of bread and I was wondering if you could get us some?
We're out of bread. Would you please get us some?
Would you please get us some bread?
Please get us some bread.
Get some bread.

This list illustrates the continuum from informing to directing style. The styles are rather self-explanatory. The intent of directing is to direct the actions of others to accomplish a task, often by telling or asking. The intent of informing is to give information in order to engage others in the process.

As with all cognitive functions, we have a natural preference for one style. We all use both styles for different purposes, but one style feels more comfortable. Often, our natural style can be heard when we are relaxed, whereas when under stress we may awkwardly use the non-preferred style. Also, life experiences can train us to use the non-preferred style, sometimes making it difficult to determine our natural style. For example any naturally "informing" person who undergoes military officer training is going to become very competent with the directing style. Likewise, many counselors are trained to use an informing style.

What can really interfere with communication, though, is how we also prefer to receive communication in our preferred style. Thus, when we are talking to someone of the opposite style, all manner of miscommunication can happen! A directing person may not even hear the request imbedded in an informer's statement. Imagine the frustration of an informing mother who tells her directing daughter that "the laundry is finished" with the intent that the daughter will fold the clothes. I can just hear the daughter twenty minutes later when mom is upset: "but you didn't ask me to fold the clothes!" And how about a directing girl telling her informing friend "Let's color! Go get the crayons." Her friend may start to feel that she's too bossy and stop playing with her.

The examples I've been using are clearly one style or the other. But, sometimes it's difficult to determine what style is being used. A directing person may try to soften their request by adding "please" or "would you mind" and an informing person may think they are being directive by saying "we need to go now!", but both are still using their preferred style. More examples of each style can be found here.

Ideal communication incorporates both styles -- it simultaneously provides information and tells the listener what's wanted of them. For example: "Please open the door because the guests are here." OR "The guests are here so please open the door." Only saying, "The guests are here" provides insufficient information, while only saying "Please open the door" seems rather bossy without the accompanying explanation.

So, have you figured out what your natural style is? Here's what personality theory predicts. If your preferences are: I/ENFJ, I/ENTJ, I/ESTJ, or I/ESTP you probably prefer directing. And if your preferences are I/ENFP, I/ENTP, I/ESFJ, or I/ESFP you probably prefer informing.

So (in my natural style), go forth using this knowledge and communicate more successfully with your friends and family! (please?)

(back to part 6)