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Let’s Play Outside! Kids Who Play Outside Are Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

summertime_babyHere’s another article on the importance of outdoor play, this one by Laura Markham. She starts off by outlining the benefits to kids’ health, intelligence, and happiness: kids are calmer, more optimistic, healthier, more creative, and more successful at school when they spend lots of time outdoors. Read more

Intelligent Questions

Sometimes parents ask kids well-intentioned questions like, “What did you do in school today? ” (I dunno. Lots.) Or, “How was your day?” (OK. Fine.) Or, “What’s new?” (Nothing much.)

The kinds of questions we ask generate the kinds of answers we receive. Vague inquiries will often prompt vague responses. More specific inquiries can lead to more specific replies – and these tend to be more informative and insightful.

Many instructors routinely ask teachers-in-training to write “reflections” about their experiences working with students in school. The papers are supposed to be about the aspiring teacher’s thoughts and feelings, their experiences in classrooms, and their developing understandings about learning processes. These reflection tasks are a way of getting people to think about day to day occurrences, and the significance of them, so they can use that information going forward. The premise is excellent. However, the process becomes more valuable when there’s a framework to help get past broad generalizations like, “What was it like teaching?” or “How was the experience?” Questions like these can prompt shallow answers, or over-arching ones. If the goal is to stimulate thought and get down to the nitty-gritty, then prompts have to be targeted more carefully. A little bit of guided inquiry can spark more meaningful reflection, and more intelligent thought. 

And, so it is with kids. 

I share here some guidelines that generated spirited dialogue among “student teachers” who were asked to reflect on their four weeks of practicum placements in secondary school classrooms. Subject areas differed, and included math, technology, physical education, and others. If you think of the questions as being like bridges leading from a place of doing to a place of reviewing, the doing (the experiences) became the springboard, the questions provided the direction, and the reviewing (the answers) were thoughtful, and inspiring. Best of all, they gave rise to different perspectives, new ideas, and additional questions! Discussion ended up revolving around the importance of choice, rapport, extra opportunities to stretch oneself, respect for individual differences, autonomy, and more. And, although these topics related to what student-teachers felt they valued in their own learning, the areas of focus apply to ALL students.

So, with that in mind, parents are welcome to use the following four prompts to generate some reflection among children and adolescents who may be reticent to respond to questions, or who just may not know where to begin when talking about school or day-to-day happenings. These have been adapted, and can be targeted more specifically as well. (A few possible alternatives are in brackets.)

1. What was the most exciting (inspiring, creative, unusual) thing you saw (or did) at school?

2. Who or what made you happiest?

3. Did you feel frustrated (bored, confused, overwhelmed, disappointed, annoyed) at all? Why? What did you do about it? (Heads-up: Yes/No questions just lead to Yes/No answers unless you add on to them.)

4. What do you wish you’d done differently? Why?

Thoughtful reflection is just the beginning. Thoughtful action matters, too!

For more information and related articles, go to www.raisingsmarterkids.net

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Outdoor Play: 20 Ways it Contributes to Raising Smarter Kids

rsz_1rsz_kids_outside_runningUnstructured playtime is an essential part of developing many dimensions of intelligence and creativity. And if that playtime happens outdoors—preferably in a natural setting, even if it’s a small urban park—that’s even better. Outdoor playtime opens up a world of possibilities for kids that can expand their imagination, stimulate all their senses, and free their spirits in ways that structured indoor activities and screentime can never do. Read more