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Your Child

Students Do Better on Tests After Short Break

2:00

As the school day wears on, kids can begin to suffer from mental exhaustion. A new study suggests that students do better on test scores if the testing starts earlier in the day or they are allowed a short break before testing begins.

The study found that students aged 15 and under suffered from mental fatigue as the school day progressed, and that their test scores dipped later in the day. The effect appeared to be the greatest on those who scored the poorest; a hint that tests later in the day might hurt struggling students the most.

They also found that kids who were given a short break before they took the test scored higher.

Many school administrations have toyed with the idea of extending the school day.

"If policymakers want to have longer days, then they should consider having more frequent breaks," said study co-author Francesca Gino, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School in Boston.

The researchers also suggested that standardized tests be given at the same time of day to avoid giving some students an advantage over others and skewing the results in favor of children who are tested earlier in the day. If testing times must be spread out, then the study’s author recommend that students who test later in the day be given time to relax and recharge before the test begins.

The new study is unusual because it's so large and because it explores the role played by breaks during the day, Gino said.

The researchers reviewed results from about 2 million national standardized tests taken by kids aged 8 to 15. The children attended public schools in Denmark from 2009-2010 and 2012-2013.

The findings revealed that test performance decreased as the day progressed. As each hour went by, scores declined. But they improved after breaks of 20 minutes to 30 minutes, the research showed.

Gino described the effect as "small, but significant."

"We found that taking the test one hour later affects the average child the same way as having 10 days less of schooling," she said.

Gino blames "cognitive fatigue" -- essentially, tiredness that affects thinking. "But a break can counterbalance this negative effect. For example, during a break, children can have something to eat, relax, play with classmates or just have some fresh air. These activities recharge them."

Even though the test score differences were not huge, Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Tubingen in Germany, believes they were still significant. They could be consequential if they affect a student’s chances of getting into college, he said.

Other academic experts also found the findings had an important message. Pamela Thacher, an associate professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., endorsed the study. She agreed with Randler that small differences in test scores could be important to a student's future.

As for the value of breaks, she said the findings make sense. "Rest restores the ability to perform," she said. "These results are consistent with virtually every study we have that has spoken to the brain's requirements for best performance."

The study appears in the February issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/kids-score-better-on-tests-earlier-in-day-study-finds-708062.html

 

 

 

 

Your Child

Study: Exercise, Once Again, Improves Kid’s Learning Skills

2:00

While the debate on whether to bring back recess to school curriculums continues across the U.S., a small study from the Netherlands once again shows that adding exercise to a child’s school day can improve their learning skills.

Researchers worked with 500 children in second and third grade, giving half of them traditional lessons while the rest received instruction supplemented with physical activity designed to reinforce math and language lessons.

The approach was a creative and unique way to helping children better comprehend math and spelling.  Instead of taking a recess break – exercise was actually incorporated into the lesson.

After two years, children who got the physically active lessons had significantly higher scores in math and spelling than their peers who didn't exercise during class.

"Previous research showed effects of recess and physical activity breaks," said lead study author Marijke Mullender-Wijnsma, of the University of Gronigen in The Netherlands.

"However, we think that the integration of physical activity into academic lessons will result in bigger effects on academic achievement," Mullender-Wijnsma added in an email to Reuters Heath.

Mullender-Wijnsma and colleagues developed a curriculum that matched typical lessons in academic subject matter but added physical activity as part of instruction. They tested it in 12 elementary schools.

Here’s how it worked.

Lessons involved constant practice and repetition reinforced by body movements. For example, children jumped in place eight times to solve the multiplication problem 2 x 4.

Children in the exercise group received 22 weeks of instruction three times a week during two school years. These lessons were up to 30 minutes long, and evenly split between math and spelling instruction.

During the first year of the study, there wasn’t a great deal of difference found between the students receiving exercise during the class and those that didn’t, when speed was the focus in the math tests.

However, after two years, children who received exercise-based instruction had significantly higher scores on the math speed exams than students who didn't. The difference over two years equated to more than four months of additional learning for the students who had physically active lessons.

When the focus was on lesson comprehension, students receiving exercise outperformed students who did not receive the exercise instruction in both the first and second year. Again, the progress amounted to about four more months of learning.

For spelling, there wasn't a significant difference between the student groups after one year. But by the end of the second year they did have significantly better test scores, once again, adding an additional four more months of learning.

For reading, there wasn’t much difference between the two groups. It's possible that physical activities may be more beneficial to learning that involves repetition, memorization and practice of lessons from previous classes, the researchers conclude.

Researchers did point out that there were limitations that could have impacted the results of the study during the first year. The exercise group received specially trained teachers and individual schools administered the tests.

The research team did not examine why exercise might have helped students do better during tests.

 Sara Benjamin Neelon, of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues write in an accompanying editorial that it’s not clear whether these types of classes would work in countries where the population is larger, more diverse and students come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

"However, the take-home message for parents and teachers is that physically active lessons may be a novel way to increase physical activity and improve academic performance – at the same time," Benjamin Neelon said by email.

More and more studies show that exercise appears to help the brain function better in children and adults. Whether all U.S. school administrations will see adding recess or exercise back into school curriculums is anybody’s guess, but according to science – it sure couldn’t hurt and might even help students develop stronger learning skills.

The study was published in the online journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-fitness-learning-idUSKCN0VX26V

Your Child

Good Sleep Habits Help Kids Succeed in School

1:30

If you’ve ever been sleep deprived, you know how difficult it can be to focus and get through the demands of the day.

So it’s not surprising that a new study says that children, who have good sleeping habits by the age of five, do better when they start school.

However, what may surprise you is that according to the National Sleep Foundation, a 2004 poll revealed that 69 percent of children 10 and under experience some type of sleep problem such as insomnia, nightmares, restless legs syndrome, sleep terrors, sleepwalking and sleep apnea.

For this study, researchers reviewed the sleep behavior of nearly 2,900 children in Australia from birth until they were 6 or 7. They found that one-third had mounting sleep problems in their first five years that put them at added risk for attention disorders and emotional and behavioral problems in school.

"The overwhelming finding is it's vital to get children's sleep behaviors right by the time they turn five," researcher Kate Williams said in a Queensland University of Technology news release. Williams is on the faculty in its School of Early Childhood.

For many families, today’s social and home environment is a roller coaster ride; creating solid routines, winding down and focusing on good sleep habits has almost become a lost art.

Williams and her team found that children with increasing sleep problems in early childhood were apt to be more hyperactive and to have more emotional outbursts in the classroom.

"If these sleep issues aren't resolved by the time children are 5 years old, then they are at risk of poorer adjustment to school," she noted.

There are lots of online tips for helping children develop good sleeping habits. These are usually in every list:

·      No video games, TV or electronic gadgets for at least an hour before bed.

·      Set a bedtime and stick to it that allows for plenty of sleep.

·      Follow a routine – brush teeth, wash hands and face and settle in for sleep. Reading a book to your little one can help relax them.

·      Make sure their room is dark and cool when it’s time for light’s out.. If your child needs a night light, place it in the hallway or bathroom and leave the door ajar. Turn it off once they are asleep.

·      Avoid giving your child candy or food right before bedtime. Certain foods can be stimulating and creating the habit of eating before bed or during the night is a hard one to break.

·      Make sure your child is comfortable. Pajamas should not restrict movement. Blankets shouldn’t be so heavy as to cause them to be hot or too warm.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/education-news-745/children-sleep-school-qut-release-batch-2570-708848.html

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep

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