Discourse On Method & The Principles of Philosophy (Two Books With Active Table of Contents)

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And, no doubt, the Cardinals rubbed their hands as they thought how well they had silenced and discredited their adversary. But two hundred years have passed, and however feeble or faulty her soldiers, Physical Science sits crowned and enthroned as one of the legitimate rulers of the world of thought. As a ship, which having lain becalmed with every stitch of canvas set, bounds away before the breeze which springs up astern, so the mind of Descartes, poised in equilibrium of doubt, not only yielded to the full force of the impulse towards physical science and physical ways of thought, given by his great contemporaries, Galileo and Harvey, but shot beyond them; and anticipated, by bold speculation, the conclusions, which could only be placed upon a secure foundation by the labours of generations of workers.

Let us try to understand how Descartes got into this path, and why it led him where it did. The mechanism of the circulation of the blood had evidently taken a great hold of his mind, as he describes it several times, at much length. But if this apparently vital operation were explicable as a simple mechanism, might not other vital operations be reducible to the same category?

Descartes replies without hesitation in the affirmative. Hence they pass into the nerves and are distributed to the muscles, causing contraction, or relaxation, according to their quantity. Thus, according to Descartes, the animal body is an automaton, which is competent to perform all the animal functions in exactly the same way as a clock or any other piece of mechanism.

Thus, as you may have seen in the grottoes and the fountains in royal gardens, the force with which the water issues from its reservoir is sufficient to move various machines, and even to make them play instruments, or pronounce words according to the different disposition of the pipes which lead the water. Moreover, respiration and other such actions as are natural and usual in the body, and which depend on the course of the spirits, are like the movements of a clock, or of a mill, which may be kept up by the ordinary flow of the water.

For they cannot enter without treading upon certain planks so arranged that, for example, if they approach a bathing Diana, they cause her to hide among the reeds; and if they attempt to follow her, they see approaching a Neptune, who threatens them with his trident: or if they try some other way, they cause some other monster, who vomits water into their faces, to dart out; or like contrivances, according to the fancy of the engineers who have made them.

And lastly, when the rational soul is lodged in this machine, it will have its principal seat in the brain, and will take the place of the engineer, who ought to be in that part of the works with which all the pipes are connected, when he wishes to increase, or to slacken, or in some way to alter their movements.

The spirit of these passages is exactly that of the most advanced physiology of the present day; all that is necessary to make them coincide with our present physiology in form, is to represent the details of the working of the animal machinery in [] modern language, and by the aid of modern conceptions. Most undoubtedly, the digestion of food in the human body is a purely chemical process; and the passage of the nutritive parts of that food into the blood, a physical operation. Beyond all question, the circulation of the blood is simply a matter of mechanism, and results from the structure and arrangement of the parts of the heart and vessels, from the contractility of those organs, and from the regulation of that contractility by an automatically acting nervous apparatus.

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The progress of physiology has further shown, that the contractility of the muscles and irritability of the nerves are purely the results of the molecular mechanism of those organs; and that the regular movements of the respiratory, alimentary, and other internal organs are governed and guided, as mechanically, by their appropriate nervous centres. The even rhythm of the breathing of every one of us depends upon the structural integrity of a particular region of the medulla oblongata, as much as the ticking of a clock depends upon the integrity of the escapement.

You may take away the hands of a clock and break up its striking machinery, but it will still tick; and a man may be unable to feel, speak, or move, and yet he will breathe. Again, in entire accordance with Descartes' affirmation, it is certain that the modes of motion [] which constitute the physical basis of light, sound, and heat, are transmuted into affections of nervous matter by the sensory organs.

These affections are, so to speak, a kind of physical ideas, which are retained in the central organs, constituting what might be called physical memory, and may be combined in a manner which answers to association and imagination, or may give rise to muscular contractions, in those "reflex actions" which are the mechanical representatives of volition. Consider what happens when a blow is aimed at the eye.

What is it that happens? A picture of the rapidly advancing fist is made upon the retina at the back of the eye. The retina changes this picture into an affection of a number of the fibres of the optic nerve; the fibres of the optic nerve affect certain parts of the brain; the brain, in consequence, affects those particular fibres of the seventh nerve which go to the orbicular muscle of the eyelids; the change in these nerve-fibres causes the muscular fibres to alter their dimensions, so as to become shorter and broader; and the result is the closing of the slit between the two lids, round which these fibres are disposed.

Here is a pure mechanism, giving rise to a purposive action, and strictly comparable to that by which Descartes [] supposes his waterwork Diana to be moved. But we may go further, and inquire whether our volition, in what we term voluntary action, ever plays any other part than that of Descartes' engineer, sitting in his office, and turning this tap or the other, as he wishes to set one or another machine in motion, but exercising no direct influence upon the movements of the whole. Our voluntary acts consist of two parts: firstly, we desire to perform a certain action; and, secondly, we somehow set a-going a machinery which does what we desire.

But so little do we directly influence that machinery, that nine-tenths of us do not even know of its existence. Suppose one wills to raise one's arm and whirl it round. Nothing is easier. But the majority of us do not know that nerves and muscles are concerned in this process; and the best anatomist among us would be amazingly perplexed, if he were called upon to direct the succession, and the relative strength, of the multitudinous nerve-changes, which are the actual causes of this very simple operation. So again in speaking. How many of us know that the voice is produced in the larynx, and modified by the mouth?

How many among these instructed persons understand how the voice is produced and modified? And what living man, if he had unlimited control over all the nerves supplying the mouth and larynx of another [] person, could make him pronounce a sentence? Yet, if one has anything to say, what is easier than to say it? We desire the utterance of certain words: we touch the spring of the word-machine, and they are spoken. Just as Descartes' engineer, when he wanted a particular hydraulic machine to play, had only to turn a tap, and what he wished was done.

It is because the body is a machine that education is possible. Education is the formation of habits, a superinducing of an artificial organisation upon the natural organisation of the body; so that acts, which at first required a conscious effort, eventually became unconscious and mechanical. If the act which primarily requires a distinct consciousness and volition of its details, always needed the same effort, education would be an impossibility.

According to Descartes, then, all the functions which are common to man and animals are performed by the body as a mere mechanism, and he looks upon consciousness as the peculiar distinction of the " chose pensante, " of the "rational soul," which in man and in man only, in Descartes' opinion is superadded to the body. This rational soul he conceived to be lodged in the pineal gland, as in a sort of central office; and here, by the intermediation of the animal spirits, it became aware of what was going on in the body, or influenced the operations of the body.

Descartes has clearly stated what he conceived to be the difference between spirit and matter. Matter is substance which has extension, but does not think; spirit is substance which thinks, but has no extension. It is very hard to form a definite notion of what this phraseology means, when it is taken in connection with the location of the soul in the pineal gland; and I can only represent it to myself as signifying that the soul is a mathematical point, having place but not extension, within the limits of the pineal body.

Not only has it place, but it must exert force; for, according to this hypothesis, it is competent, when it wills, to change the course of the animal spirits, which consist of matter in motion. Thus the soul becomes a centre of force. But, at the same time, the distinction between spirit and matter vanishes; inasmuch as matter, according to a tenable hypothesis, may be nothing but a multitude of centres of force. The case is worse if we adopt the modern vague notion that consciousness is seated in the grey matter of the cerebrum, generally; for, [] as the grey matter has extension, that which is lodged in it must also have extension.

And thus we are led, in another way, to lose spirit in matter. In truth, Descartes' physiology, like the modern physiology of which it anticipates the spirit, leads straight to Materialism, so far as that title is rightly applicable to the doctrine that we have no knowledge of any thinking substance, apart from extended substance; and that thought is as much a function of matter as motion is. Thus we arrive at the singular result that, of the two paths opened up to us in the "Discourse upon Method," the one leads, by way of Berkeley and Hume, to Kant and Idealism; while the other leads, by way of De La Mettrie and Priestley, to modern physiology and Materialism.

But each branch is sound and healthy and has as much life and vigour as the other. I may be taking too much of a naturalist's view of the case, but I must confess that this is exactly my notion of what is to be done with metaphysics and physics. Their differences are complementary, not antagonistic; and thought will never be completely fruitful until the one unites with the other.

Let me try to explain what I mean. I hold, with the Materialist, that the human body, like all living bodies, is a machine, all the operations of which will, sooner or later, be explained on physical principles. I believe that we shall, sooner or later, arrive at a mechanical equivalent of consciousness, just as we have arrived at a mechanical equivalent of heat. If a pound weight falling through a distance of a foot gives rise to a definite amount of heat, which may properly be said to be its equivalent; the same pound weight falling through a foot on a man's hand gives rise to a definite amount of feeling, which might with equal propriety be said to be its equivalent in consciousness.

And the same conclusion is suggested by the fact that, within certain limits, the intensity of the mechanical force we exert is proportioned to the intensity of our desire to exert it. Thus I am prepared to go with the Materialists wherever the true pursuit of the path of Descartes may lead them; and I am glad, on all occasions, to declare my belief that their fearless development of the materialistic aspect of these matters has had an immense, and a most beneficial, influence upon physiology and psychology.

I protest that if some great Power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close [] with the offer. The only freedom I care about is the freedom to do right; the freedom to do wrong I am ready to part with on the cheapest terms to any one who will take it of me.

But when the Materialists stray beyond the borders of their path and begin to talk about there being nothing else in the universe but Matter and Force and Necessary Laws, and all the rest of their "grenadiers," I decline to follow them. I go back to the point from which we started, and to the other path of Descartes. I remind you that we have already seen clearly and distinctly, and in a manner which admits of no doubt, that all our knowledge is a knowledge of states of consciousness. Thus it is an indisputable truth that what we call the material world is only known to us under the forms of the ideal world; and, as Descartes tells us, our knowledge of the soul 12 is more intimate and certain than our knowledge of the body.

If I say that impenetrability is a property of matter, all that I can really mean is that the consciousness I call extension, and the consciousness I call resistance, [] constantly accompany one another. Why and how they are thus related is a mystery. And if I say that thought is a property of matter, all that I can mean is that actually or possibly, the consciousness of extension and that of resistance accompany all other sorts of consciousness. But, as in the former case, why they are thus associated is an insoluble mystery. For you are emphatically and distinctly a Christian body; while science and philosophy, within the range of which lie all the topics on which I could venture to speak, are neither Christian, nor Unchristian, but are Extra-christian, and have a world of their own, which to use language which will be very familiar to your ears just now, is not only "unsectarian," but is altogether "secular.

After much consideration, I thought that I might be most useful to you, if I attempted to give you some vision of this Extra-christian world, as it appears to a person who lives a good deal in it; and if I tried to show you by what methods the dwellers therein try to distinguish truth from falsehood, in regard to some of the deepest and most difficult problems that beset humanity, "in order to be clear about their actions, and to walk surefootedly in this life," as Descartes says.

It struck me that if the execution of my project came anywhere near the conception of it, you would become aware that the philosophers and the men of science are not exactly what they are sometimes represented to you to be; and that their methods and paths do not lead so [] perpendicularly downwards as you are occasionally told they do. I do not know if I have been quite wise in allowing this last motive to weigh with me. They say that the most dangerous thing one can do in a thunderstorm is to shelter oneself under a great tree, and the history of Descartes' life shows how narrowly he escaped being riven by the lightnings, which were more destructive in his time than in ours.

Descartes lived and died a good Catholic, and prided himself upon having demonstrated the existence of God and of the soul of man. As a reward for his exertions, his old friends the Jesuits put his works upon the "Index," and called him an Atheist; while the Protestant divines of Holland declared him to be both a Jesuit and an Atheist. His books narrowly escaped being burned by the hangman; the fate of Vanini was dangled before his eyes; and the misfortunes of Galileo so alarmed him, that he well-nigh renounced the pursuits by which the world has so greatly benefited, and was driven into subterfuges and evasions which were not worthy of him.

But you must make allowance for the fact that, in the seventeenth century, not only did heresy mean possible burning, or imprisonment, but the very suspicion of it destroyed a man's peace, and rendered the calm pursuit of truth difficult or impossible. I fancy that Descartes was a man to care more about being worried and disturbed, than about being burned outright; and, like many other men, sacrificed for the sake of peace and quietness, what he would have stubbornly maintained against downright violence.

However this may be, let those who are sure they would have done better throw stones at him. I have no feelings but those of gratitude and reverence for the man who did what he did, when he did; and a sort of shame that any one should repine against taking a fair share of such treatment as the world thought good enough for him. Finally, it occurs to me that, such being my feeling about the matter, it may be useful to all of us if I ask you, "What is yours? Do you think that the Christianity of the seventeenth century looks nobler and more attractive for such treatment of such a man?

But if it does not, may it not be well if all of you do what lies within your power to prevent the Christianity of the nineteenth century from repeating the scandal? There are one or two living men, who, a couple [] of centuries hence, will be remembered as Descartes is now, because they have produced great thoughts which will live and grow as long as mankind lasts.

If the twenty-first century studies their history, it will find that the Christianity of the middle of the nineteenth century recognised them only as objects of vilification. It is for you and such as you, Christian young men, to say whether this shall be as true of the Christianity of the future as it is of that of the present. I appeal to you to say "No," in your own interest, and in that of the Christianity you profess. Herbert Spencer's Principles of Psychology, p.

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Victorian Commentary 3. Their beliefs about their abilities in reading, counting, vocabulary, number games, and other academic competencies derive from several sources, including spontaneous social comparison with other children and feedback from teachers and parents concerning their achievement and the reasons they have done well or poorly. These beliefs influence, in turn, children's self-confidence, persistence, intrinsic motivation to succeed, and other characteristics that may be described as learning skills and are discussed more extensively later in this chapter.

Consequently, how teachers provide performance feedback to young children and support for their self-confidence in learning situations also is an important predictor of children's academic success Hamre, In the early elementary years, children's cognitive processes develop further, which accordingly influences the strategies for educators in early elementary classrooms.

Primary grade children are using more complex vocabulary and grammar. They are growing in their ability to make mental representations, but they still have difficulty grasping abstract concepts without the aid of real-life references and materials Tomlinson, This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life.

Children at this age show more independence from parents and family, while friendship, being liked and accepted by peers, becomes more important. Being in school most of the day means greater contact with a larger world, and children begin to develop a greater understanding of their place in that world CDC, Children's growing ability to self-regulate their emotions also is evident in this period discussed more extensively later in this chapter.

Children understand their own feelings more and more, and learn better ways to describe experiences and express thoughts and feelings. They better understand the consequences of their actions, and their focus on concern for others grows. They are very observant, are willing to play cooperatively and work in teams, and can resolve some conflicts without seeking adult intervention CDC, Children also come to understand that they can affect others' perception of their emotions by changing their affective displays Aloise-Young, Children who are unable to self-regulate have emotional difficulties that may interfere with their learning.

Just as with younger children, significant adults in a child's life can help the child learn to self-regulate Tomlinson, Children's increasing self-regulation means they have a greater ability to follow instructions independently in a manner that would not be true of preschool or younger children.

Educators can rely on the growing cognitive abilities in elementary school children in using instructional approaches that depend more independently on children's own discoveries, their use of alternative inquiry strategies, and their greater persistence in problem solving. Educators in these settings are scaffolding the skills that began to develop earlier, so that children are able to gradually apply those skills with less and less external support.

This serves as a bridge to succeeding in upper primary grades, so if students lack necessary knowledge and skills in any domain of development and learning, their experience during the early elementary grades is crucial in helping them gain those competencies. Building on many of the themes that have emerged from this discussion, the following sections continue by looking in more depth at cognitive development with respect to learning specific subjects and then at other major elements of development, including general learning competencies, socioemotional development, and physical development and health.

Interrelationships among different kinds of skills and abilities contribute to young children's acquisition of content knowledge and competencies, which form a foundation for later academic success. These skills and abilities include the general cognitive development discussed above, the general learning competencies that allow children to control their own attention and thinking; and the emotion regulation that allows children to control their own emotions and participate in classroom activities in a productive way the latter two are discussed in sections later in this chapter.

Still another important category of skills and abilities, the focus of this section, is subject-matter content knowledge and skills, such as competencies needed specifically for learning language and literacy or mathematics. Content knowledge and skills are acquired through a developmental process.

As children learn about a topic, they progress through increasingly sophisticated levels of thinking with accompanying cognitive components. These developmental learning paths can be used as the core of a learning trajectory through which students can be supported by educators who understand both the content and those levels of thinking. Each learning trajectory has three parts: a goal to develop a certain competence in a topic , a developmental progression children constructing each level of thinking in turn , and instructional activities tasks and teaching practices designed to enable thinking at each higher level.

Learning trajectories also promote the learning of skills and concepts together—an effective approach that leads to both mastery and more fluent, flexible use of skills, as well as to superior conceptual understanding Fuson and Kwon, ; National Mathematics Advisory Panel, See Chapter 6 for additional discussion of using learning trajectories and other instructional practices. Every subject area requires specific content knowledge and skills that are acquired through developmental learning processes. It is not possible to cover the specifics here for every subject area a young child learns.

To maintain a feasible scope, this chapter covers two core subject areas: 1 language and literacy and 2 mathematics. This scope is not meant to imply that learning in other areas, such as science, engineering, social studies, or the arts, is unimportant or less subject specific. Rather, these two were selected because they are foundational for other subject areas and for later academic achievement, and because how they are learned has been well studied in young children compared with many other subject areas.

Children's language development and literacy development are central to each other. The development of language and literacy includes knowledge and skills in such areas as vocabulary, syntax, grammar, phonological awareness, writing, reading, comprehension, and discourse skills. The following sections address the development of language and literacy skills, including the relationship between the two; the role of the language-learning environment; socioeconomic disparities in early language environments; and language and literacy development in dual language learners. Language skills build in a developmental progression over time as children increase their vocabulary, average sentence length, complexity and sophistication of sentence structure and grammar, and ability to express new ideas through words Kipping et al.

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Catts and Kamhi define five features of language that both work independently and interact as children develop language skills: phonology speech sounds of language , semantics meanings of words and phrases , morphology meaningful parts of words and word tenses , syntax rules for combining and ordering words in phrases , and pragmatics appropriate use of language in context.

The first three parameters combined phonology, semantics, and morphology enable listening and speaking vocabulary to develop, and they also contribute to the ability to read individual words. All five features of language contribute to the ability to understand sentences, whether heard or read O' Connor, Thus, while children's development of listening and speaking abilities are important in their own right, oral language development also contributes to reading skills. Developing oral communication skills are closely linked to the interactions and social bonds between adults and children.

As discussed earlier in this chapter, parents' and caregivers' talk with infants stimulates—and affects—language comprehension long before children utter their first words. This comprehension begins with pragmatics—the social aspects of language that include facial and body language as well as words, such that infants recognize positive and negative interactions. Semantics understanding meanings of words and clusters of words that are related soon follows, in which toddlers link objects and their attributes to words.

Between the ages of 2 and 4, most children show dramatic growth in language, particularly in understanding the meanings of words, their interrelationships, and grammatical forms Scarborough, Karmiloff and Karmiloff-Smith suggest that children build webs among words with similar semantics, which leads to broader generalizations among classes of related words.


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When adults are responsive to children's questions and new experiences, children expand their knowledge of words and the relationships among them. Then, as new words arise from conversation, storytelling, and book reading, these words are linked to existing webs to further expand the store of words children understand through receptive language and use in their own conversation. The more often adults use particular words in conversation with young children, the sooner children will use those words in their own speech Karmiloff and Karmiloff-Smith, Research has linked the size of vocabulary of 2-year-olds to their reading comprehension through fifth grade Lee, One of the best-documented methods for improving children's vocabularies is interactive storybook reading between children and their caregivers O' Connor, Conversations as stories are read improve children's vocabulary Hindman et al.

Book reading stimulates conversation outside the immediate context—for example, children ask questions about the illustrations that may or may not be central to the story. This introduces new words, which children attach to the features of the illustrations they point out and incorporate into book-centered conversations. This type of language, removed from the here and now, is decontextualized language.

Children exposed to experiences not occurring in their immediate environment are more likely to understand and use decontextualized language Hindman et al. Repeated routines also contribute to language development. As books are read repeatedly, children become familiar with the vocabulary of the story and their conversations can be elaborated. Routines help children with developmental delays acquire language and use it more intelligibly van Kleek, Conversation around a story's content and emphasis on specific words in the text i.

The quality of adult readers' interactions with children appears to be especially important to children's vocabulary growth see also Coyne et al. In a study with preschool children, Zucker and colleagues found that teachers' intentional talk during reading had a longer-lasting effect on the children's language skills than the frequency of the teachers' reading to the children.

Moreover, the effect of the teachers' talk during reading was not moderated by the children's initial vocabulary or literacy abilities. The long-term effect of high-quality teacher—child book-centered interactions in preschool lasted through the end of first grade. New research shows that the effects of interactive reading also hold when adapted to the use of digital media as a platform for decontextualized language and other forms of language development.

A study of videobooks showed that when adults were trained to use dialogic questioning techniques with the videos, 3-year-olds learned new words and recalled the books' storylines Strouse et al. However, a few studies of e-books also have shown that the bells and whistles of the devices can get in the way of those back-and-forth conversations if the readers and the e-book designers are not intentional about using the e-books to develop content knowledge and language skills Parish-Morris et al. See also the discussion of effective use of technology in instruction in Chapter 6.

Alongside developing depth of vocabulary including the meaning of words and phrases and their appropriate use in context , other important parameters of language development are syntax rules for combining and ordering words in phrases, as in rules of grammar and morphology meaningful parts of words and word tenses. Even before the age of 2, toddlers parse a speech stream into grammatical units Hawthorne and Gerken, Long before preschool, most children join words together into sentences and begin to use the rules of grammar i.

Along with these morphemic changes to words, understanding syntax helps children order the words and phrases in their sentences to convey and to change meaning. Before children learn to read, the rules of syntax help them derive meaning from what they hear and convey meaning through speech. Cunningham and Zibulsky , p. Although syntactic understanding develops for most children through conversation with adults and older children, children also use these rules of syntax to extract meaning from printed words.

This becomes an important reading skill after first grade, when text meaning is less likely to be supported with pictures. Construction of sentences with passive voice and other complex, decontextualized word forms are more likely to be found in books and stories than in directive conversations with young children. An experimental study illustrates the role of exposure to syntactic structures in the development of language comprehension Vasilyeva et al. Four-year-olds listened to stories in active or passive voice. After listening to ten stories, their understanding of passages containing these syntactic structures was assessed.

Although students in both groups understood and could use active voice similar to routine conversation , those who listened to stories with passive voice scored higher on comprehension of this structure. Children's understanding of morphology—the meaningful parts of words—begins in preschool for most children, as they recognize and use inflected endings to represent verb tense e.

By second and third grade, children's use of morphemes predicts their reading comprehension Nagy et al. Literacy skills follow a developmental trajectory such that early skills and stages lead into more complex and integrated skills and stages Adams, For example, phonemic awareness is necessary for decoding printed words Ball and Blachman, ; Bradley and Bryant, ; O'Connor et al.

Thus, instruction that combines skill development for 4- to 6-year-old children in phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, and conceptual understanding and use of these skills is more effective than teaching the skills in isolation Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley, ; O'Connor and Jenkins, Seminal theories and studies of reading describe an inextricable link between language development and reading achievement e.

Early oral language competencies predict later literacy Pearson and Hiebert, Not only do young children with stronger oral language competencies acquire new language skills faster than students with poorly developed oral language competencies Dickinson and Porche, , but they also learn key literacy skills faster, such as phonemic awareness and understanding of the alphabetic principle Cooper et al.

Both of these literacy skills in turn facilitate learning to read in kindergarten and first grade. Vocabulary development a complex and integrative feature of language that grows continuously and reading words a skill that most children master by third or fourth grade Ehri, are reciprocally related, and both reading words accurately and understanding what words mean contribute to reading comprehension Gough et al.

Because comprehending and learning from text depend largely upon a deep understanding of the language used to communicate the ideas and concepts expressed, oral language skills i. For example, children with larger speaking vocabularies in preschool may have an easier time with phoneme awareness and the alphabetic principle because they can draw on more words to explore the similarities among the sounds they hear in spoken words and the letters that form the words Metsala and Walley, Each word a child knows can influence how well she or he understands a sentence that uses that word, which in turn can influence the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to learn new words.

A stronger speaking and listening vocabulary provides a deeper and wider field of words students can attempt to match to printed words. Being bogged down by figuring out what a given word means slows the rate of information processing and limits what is learned from a sentence.

Thus, differences in early vocabulary can have cascading, cumulative effects Fernald et al. The transition from speaking and listening to reading and writing is not a smooth one for many children. Although a well-developed vocabulary can make that transition easier, many children also have difficulty learning the production and meanings of words. Longitudinal studies of reading disability have found that 70 percent of poor readers had a history of language difficulties Catts et al.

The oral language and vocabulary children learn through interactions with parents, siblings, and caregivers and through high-quality interactions with educators provide the foundation for later literacy and for learning across all subject areas, as well as for their socioemotional well-being. The language interactions children experience at home and in school influence their developing minds and their understanding of concepts and ideas. Today's science of reading development focuses more broadly than on teaching children to read the actual words on a page.

As stressed throughout this report, young children's development entails a back-and-forth process of social interactions with knowledgeable others in their environment Bruner, ; NRC and IOM, ; Vygotsky, , , and research has focused on the language of these interactions, examining how children's linguistic experiences influence aspects of their development over time, including their literacy development.

The daily talk to which children are exposed and in which they participate is essential for developing their minds—a key ingredient for building their knowledge of the world and their understanding of concepts and ideas. In turn, this conceptual knowledge is a cornerstone of reading success. The bulk of the research on early linguistic experiences has investigated language input in the home environment, demonstrating the features of caregivers' usually the mother's speech that promote language development among young children.

The evidence accumulated emphasizes the importance of the quantity of communicative input i. Because children's language development is sensitive to these inputs, variability in children's language-based interactions in the home environment explains some of the variance in their language development. A smaller but growing and compelling research base is focused on how children's literacy skills are influenced by language use in early care and education settings and schools—for example, linguistic features of these settings or elementary school teachers' speech and its relationship to children's reading outcomes Greenwood et al.

This research has particularly relevant implications for educational practices discussed further in Chapter 6. The language environment of the classroom can function as a support for developing the kind of language that is characteristic of the school curriculum—for example, giving children opportunities to develop the sophisticated vocabulary and complex syntax found in texts, beginning at a very early age Schleppegrell, ; Snow and Uccelli, Moreover, advances in cognitive science suggest that it is not enough to be immersed in environments that offer multiple opportunities for exposure to varied and rich language experiences.

Rather, the process also needs to be socially mediated through more knowledgeable persons who can impart their knowledge to the learner; again, social interaction is a critical component of cognitive development and learning. Early childhood settings and elementary classrooms thus not only present opportunities for exposure to varied language- and literacy-rich activities whether written or spoken , but also provide a person who is expert in mediating the learning process—the educator.

Research demonstrates that teachers' use of high-quality language is linked to individual differences in language and literacy skills; this work likewise shows the substantial variation in the quality of teacher talk in early childhood classrooms e. For example, Huttenlocher and colleagues found greater syntactic skills in preschoolers exposed to teachers who used more syntactically complex utterances. Another study found for monolingual English-speaking children that fourth-grade reading comprehension levels were predicted by exposure to sophisticated vocabulary in preschool.

These effects were mediated by children's vocabulary and literacy skills in kindergarten Dickinson and Porche, In classroom studies focused on the linguistic environment, the level of analysis has involved broad measures of language use, such as amount of talk i. Children are better prepared to comprehend narrative texts they encounter in school if their early language environments provide more exposure to and opportunities to participate in extended discourse.

This is because extended discourse and narrative texts share similar patterns for communicating ideas Uccelli et al. Engaging groups of children in effective extended discourse involves asking and discussing open-ended questions and encouraging turn taking, as well as monitoring the group to involve nonparticipating children Girolametto and Weitzman, In addition to using interactive storybook and text reading as a platform for back-and-forth conversations often referred to as interactive or dialogic reading, as described in the preceding section Mol et al.

In an example of the influence of the quantity and quality of teachers' language input in linguistically diverse classrooms, Bowers and Vasilyeva found that the total number of words produced by teachers and the diversity of their speech which was entirely in English were related to vocabulary gains for children from both English-only households and households in which English was not the primary language, respectively. Thus, they found that preschool dual language learners benefited only from increased quantities of language exposure and showed a negative relationship between vocabulary growth and teachers' syntactic complexity.

By contrast, the English-only children—who presumably had more developed English language proficiency skills—benefited from the diversity of teachers' vocabulary and syntactic complexity. Children benefit from hearing simplified speech during very early word learning Furrow et al. With more exposure to language and more advanced vocabulary development, they benefit from speech input that is more complex i. Hoff suggests that if input is too complex, children filter it out without negative consequences—as long as sufficient beneficial input is available to them.

An important consideration in light of these findings is that recent research in early childhood classrooms serving children from low-income backgrounds suggests that daily high-quality language-building experiences may be rare for these children. For example, in a Head Start organization serving large numbers of Latino children a recent observational study found a preschool environment lacking in the frequent and high-quality teacher—child language interactions that are needed to support language and literacy development Jacoby and Lesaux, Literacy instruction was highly routine based and with low-level language structures.

Extended discourse was infrequently used; only 22 percent of observed literacy-based lessons included at least one instance of extended discourse between a teacher and a child or group of children. Instead, teachers asked questions that yielded short answers or linked only to the here and now e.

What is the weather today? These features of infrequent extended discourse and predominantly routine-based literacy instruction were remarkably stable across teachers and classrooms.

COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

Other research investigating teacher talk in Head Start preschool classrooms has produced similar findings e. This is consistent with findings that there are sizable cultural and socioeconomic differences in high-quality language-promoting experiences in the home and in the classroom environment in early childhood Dickinson, ; Dickinson and Porche, ; Dickinson and Tabors, ; Raikes et al. At the same time, for children from low-resource backgrounds oral language skills show an even stronger connection to later academic outcomes than for children from high-resource backgrounds.

Given these findings, rich linguistic experiences at early ages may therefore be especially important for these children. Even small improvements in the literacy environment can have especially strong effects for children who are raised in low-income households Dearing et al. In sum, the language environment has important effects on children's learning, and children benefit from extensive opportunities to listen to and use complex spoken language National Early Literacy Panel, Teachers' use of high-quality language is linked to individual differences in language and literacy skills, and there is considerable variation in the quantity and quality of teachers' language use across classrooms.

The quality of the classroom language environment is a lever for lasting improvements in children's language and literacy development, and it is important to tailor classroom talk to match the developmental stage of children's language acquisition. Improving language environments for young children requires daily learning opportunities that focus on the diversity and complexity of language used with young children.

Extended discourse can take place throughout all activities and in specific interactions, especially using book reading as a platform for back-and-forth conversations. Further research is needed to advance understanding of language-based classroom processes and how dynamic and ongoing interactions facilitate or impede children's literacy. Such studies could advance existing research in at least two ways. In particular, it could further elucidate how language-based social processes in the classroom affect literacy development for the many students who enter schools and other care and education settings with limited proficiency in English.

The majority of published studies focused on language-based interactions are focused on English-only learners, despite the fact that social processes can be experienced differently by different groups, even within the same setting Rogoff and Angelillo, ; Tseng and Seidman, In addition, prior research has measured a two-way process in a largely unidirectional manner—measuring speech only from parent to child or educator to student.

It would be more valuable going forward if research were guided by the notion that the language-based interactions between students and educators mediate instruction, and were therefore to explore how communicative feedback loops, both adult—child and child—peer interactions, influence children's learning and development. Taking into account the student's contribution to the classroom language environment is particularly important in light of evidence that teachers modify their speech to conform to their students' limited language proficiency levels, potentially leading to a lower-quality language environment that impedes students' language growth Ellis, ; see Huttenlocher et al.

More specifically, Justice and colleagues suggest that future research examine teacher—child language interactions in a multidimensional way to explore how syntactic complexity, cognitive demand, and even linguistic form e. Finally, greater understanding is needed of the ways in which the classroom language processes described in this section might act as a foundational mediator of the efficacy of interventions focused on learning outcomes in other domains and subject areas.

Alongside student—educator interactions, studies show that peer-to-peer interactions in the classroom may also have positive impacts on children's vocabulary and expressive language abilities. Children spend a significant amount of time interacting with other children in classroom settings, and a study examining the language growth and abilities of 4-year-olds in prekindergarten classrooms found that peers who have higher language abilities positively affect other children's language development.

This study also found that children with advanced language skills will receive greater benefits from interacting with peers who also have advanced language skills Mashburn et al. These findings are similar to another study showing that peer interactions in the classroom, along with the ability level of the peers, have positive effects on the child's cognitive, prereading, expressive language skills Henry and Rickman, In order to achieve these benefits, however, the preschool classrooms need to be designed so that peers can interact with one another, and include activities such as reading books and engaging in play together.

Children with teachers who organize the day with optimal amounts of time for peer-to-peer interactions may achieve greater language growth Mashburn et al. For children whose home language is not the predominant language of their school, educators and schools need to ensure the development of English proficiency.

Both parents and preschool teachers can be particularly useful in improving these children's depth of vocabulary Aukrust, ; Roberts, At the same time, children can be helped to both build and maintain their first language while adding language and literacy skills in English Espinosa, In support of this as a long-term goal are the potential advantages of being bilingual, including maintaining a cultural and linguistic heritage and conferring an advantage in the ability to communicate with a broader population in future social, educational, and work environments. Additionally, an emerging field of research, albeit with mixed results to date, explores potential advantages of being bilingual that are linked more directly to cognitive development, starting in early childhood and extending to preserving cognitive function and delaying the symptoms of dementia in the elderly Bialystok, ; de Bruin et al.

Bilingual or multilingual children are faced with more communicative challenges than their monolingual peers. A child who frequently experiences failure to be understood or to understand may be driven to pay more attention to context, paralinguistic cues, and gestures in order to interpret an utterance, and thus become better at reading such cues.

The result may be improved development of theory of mind and understanding of pragmatics Yow and Markman, a , b. In addition, the need to continually suppress one language for another affords ongoing practice in inhibitory or executive control, which could confer advantages on a range of inhibitory control tasks in children and helps preserve this fundamental ability in aging adults Bialystok, ; Bialystok and Craik, ; Bialystok et al.

One challenge in the education of dual language learners is that they sometimes are classified along with children with special needs. One reason for this is the lack of good assessment tools to help distinguish the nature of the difficulties experienced by dual language learners—whether due to a learning disability or to the fact that learning a second language is difficult, takes time, and develops differently in different children Hamayan et al.

Children's early knowledge of mathematics is surprisingly important, and it strongly predicts later success in mathematics Denton and West, ; Koponen et al. Mathematics knowledge in preschool predicts mathematics achievement even into high school National Mathematics Advisory Panel, ; NRC, ; Stevenson and Newman, Mathematics ability and language ability also are interrelated as mutually reinforcing skills Duncan et al.

Indeed, mathematical thinking reaches beyond competence with numbers and shapes to form a foundation for general cognition and learning Clements and Sarama, ; Sarama et al. Mathematics therefore appears to be a core subject and a core component of thinking and learning Duncan and Magnuson, ; Duncan et al. Given its general importance to academic success Sadler and Tai, , children need a robust foundation in mathematics knowledge in their earliest years. Multiple analyses suggest that mathematics learning should begin early, especially for children at risk for later difficulties in school Byrnes and Wasik, ; Clements and Sarama, Well before first grade, children can learn the skills and concepts that support more complex mathematics understanding later.

Particularly important areas of mathematics for young children to learn include number, which includes whole number, operations, and relations; geometry; spatial thinking; and measurement. Children also need to develop proficiency in processes for both general and specific mathematical reasoning NRC, If given opportunities to learn, young children possess a remarkably broad, complex, and sophisticated—albeit informal—knowledge of mathematics Baroody, ; Clarke et al.

In their free play, almost all preschoolers engage in substantial amounts of premathematical activity. They count objects; compare magnitudes; and explore patterns, shapes, and spatial relations. Importantly, this is true regardless of a child's income level or gender Seo and Ginsburg, Preschoolers can also, for example, learn to invent solutions to simple arithmetic problems Sarama and Clements, High-quality mathematics education can help children realize their potential in mathematics achievement Doig et al. However, without such education starting, and continuing throughout, the early years, many children will be on a trajectory in which they will have great difficulty catching up to their peers Rouse et al.

As discussed further in Chapter 6 , early childhood classrooms typically are ill suited to helping children learn mathematics and underestimate their ability to do so. In some cases, children can even experience a regression on some mathematics skills during prekindergarten and kindergarten Farran et al. Mathematics needs to be conceptualized as more than skills, and its content as more than counting and simple shapes. Without building a robust understanding of mathematics in the early years, children too often come to believe that math is a guessing game and a system of rules without reason Munn, Both education and experience can make a difference, as evidenced by data from the latest international Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which added data collection on early mathematics education Mullis et al.

Students with higher mathematics achievement at fourth and sixth grades had parents who reported that they often engaged their children in early numeracy activities and that their children had attended preprimary education and started school able to do early numeracy tasks e. Those children who had attended preschool or kindergarten had higher achievement, while the 13 percent who had attended no preprimary school had much lower average mathematics achievement Mullis et al.

Children move through a developmental progression in specific mathematical domains, which informs learning trajectories as important tools for supporting learning and teaching. Box illustrates the concept of a developmental progression through the example of subitizing , an oft-neglected mathematical goal for young children. Research shows that subitizing, the rapid and accurate recognition of the number in a small group, is one of the main abilities very young children should develop Palmer and Baroody, ; Reigosa-Crespo et al.

Through subitizing, children can discover critical properties of number, such as conservation and compensation Clements and Sarama, ; Maclellan, and develop such capabilities as unitizing and arithmetic. Subitizing is not the only way children think and learn about number. Counting is the other method of quantification. It is the first and most basic mathematical algorithm and one of the more critical early mathematics competencies Aunola et al. Chapter 6 includes examples from a complete learning trajectory—goal, developmental progression, and instructional activities—for counting Clements and Sarama, Subitizing: A Developmental Progression.

For example, very young children possess approximate number systems ANSs that allow them to discriminate large and small sets, more Children with special needs in learning mathematics fall into two categories. Those with mathematical difficulties struggle to learn mathematics for any reason; this category may apply to as many as percent of students Berch and Mazzocco, Those with specific mathematics learning disabilities are more severe cases; these students have a memory or cognitive deficit that interferes with their ability to learn math Geary, This category may apply to about percent Berch and Mazzocco, ; Mazzocco and Myers, In one study, this classification persisted in third grade for 63 percent of those classified as having mathematics learning disabilities in kindergarten Mazzocco and Myers, Mathematics learning disabilities, while assumed to have a genetic basis, currently are defined by students' behaviors—yet with ongoing debate among experts about what those behaviors are.

One consistent finding is that students with mathematics learning disabilities have difficulty retrieving basic arithmetic facts quickly. This has been hypothesized to be the result of an inability to store or retrieve facts and impairments in visual-spatial representation. As early as kindergarten, limited working memory and speed of cognitive processing may be problems for these children Geary et al. Many young children with learning disabilities in reading show a similar rapid-naming deficit for letters and words Siegel and Mazabel, ; Steacy et al. Another possibility is that a lack of higher-order, or executive, control of verbal material causes difficulty learning basic arithmetic facts or combinations.

For example, students with mathematics learning disabilities may have difficulty inhibiting irrelevant associations. One explanation for the difficulty students with mathematics learning disabilities have learning basic arithmetic combinations might be delays in understanding counting. These students may not fully understand counting nor recognize errors in counting as late as second grade. Other experts, however, claim that a lack of specific competencies, such as subitizing, is more important Berch and Mazzocco, Some evidence suggests that it is possible to predict which kindergartners are at risk for mathematics learning disabilities based on skill including reading numerals, number constancy, magnitude judgments of one-digit numbers, or mental addition of one-digit numbers Mazzocco and Thompson, However, until more is known, students should be classified as having mathematics learning disabilities only with great caution and after good mathematics instruction has been provided.

Such labeling in the earliest years could do more harm than good Clements and Sarama, It can appear that language is less of a concern in mathematics compared to other subjects because it is assumed to be based on numbers or symbols, but this is not the case Clements et al. In fact, children learn math mainly from oral language, rather than from mathematical symbolism or textbooks Janzen, Vocabulary and knowledge of print are both predictors of later numeracy Purpura et al.

Similarly, growth in mathematics from kindergarten to third grade is related to both early numerical skills and phonological processing Vukovic, In one study of linguistically and ethnically diverse children aged years, language ability predicted gains in geometry, probability, and data analysis but not in arithmetic or algebra controlling for reading ability, visual—spatial working memory, and gender Vukovic and Lesaux, Thus, language may affect how children make meaning of mathematics but not its complex arithmetic procedures. Moreover, there is an important bidirectional relationship between learning in mathematics and language Sarama et al.

Each has related developmental milestones. Children learn number words at the same time as other linguistic labels. Most children recognize by the age of 2 which words are for numbers and use them only in appropriate contexts Fuson, Each also has related developmental patterns, with learning progressing along similar paths. In both, children recognize the whole before its parts. In learning language, this is word before syllable, syllable before rime-onset, and rime-onset before phoneme see also Anthony et al. Similarly in mathematics, numbers are first conceptualized as unbreakable categories and then later as composites e.

By 6 years old in most cultures, children have been exposed to symbol representations that are both alphabetic and numerical, and they begin to be able to segment words into phonemes and numbers into singletons e. The ability to identify the component nature of words and numbers predicts the ability to read Adams, ; Stanovich and Siegel, and to compute Geary, , Furthermore, there appear to be shared competencies between the two subject areas. For example, preschoolers' narrative abilities i. Beginning mathematics scores have been shown to be highly predictive of subsequent achievement in both reading and mathematics although beginning reading skills such as letter recognition, word identification, and word sounds were shown to be highly predictive of later reading advanced competencies such as evaluation but not mathematics learning Duncan et al.

A causal relationship between rich mathematics learning and developing language and literacy skills is supported by a randomized study of the effects of a math curriculum called Building Blocks on prekindergarten children's letter recognition and oral language skills.

Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation.

Building Blocks children performed the same as the children in the control group on letter recognition and on three oral language subscales but outperformed them on four subscales: ability to recall key words, use of complex utterances, willingness to reproduce narratives independently, and inference Sarama et al. These skills had no explicit relation to the math curriculum. Similarly, a study of 5- to 7-year-olds showed that an early mathematics and logical-mathematical intervention increased later scores in English by 14 percentile points Shayer and Adhami, Time on task or time on instruction does affect learning, which naturally leads to consideration of potential conflicts or tradeoffs between time spent on different subjects e.

Indeed, a frequent concern is that introducing a mathematics curriculum may decrease the time devoted to language and literacy, impeding children's development in those areas, which are heavily emphasized in early learning goals see Clements and Sarama, ; Farran et al. However, this assumes that mathematics activities will not have a positive effect on language and literacy. Yet as described here, evidence from both educational and psychological research suggests the potential for high-quality instruction in each to have mutual benefits for learning in both subjects.

Rich mathematical activities, such as discussing multiple solutions and solving narrative story problems, can help lay the groundwork for literacy through language development, while rich literacy activities can help lay the groundwork for mathematics development Sarama et al. For mathematics learning in children who are dual language learners, the language, not just the vocabulary, of mathematics need to be addressed Clements and Sarama, Challenges for dual language learners include both technical vocabulary, which can range in how similar or distinct terms are from everyday language, and the use of complex noun phrases.

On the other hand, bilingual children often can understand a mathematical idea more readily because, after using different terms for it in different languages, they comprehend that the mathematical idea is abstract, and not tied to a specific term see Secada, At a minimum, their teachers need to connect everyday language with the language of math Janzen, Instructional practices for teaching mathematics with dual language learners are discussed further in Chapter 6. For subject-matter content knowledge and proficiency, children learn best when supported along a trajectory with three components: 1 their understanding of the subject-matter content itself, 2 their progress through predictable developmental levels and patterns of thinking related to their understanding of the content, and 3 instructional tasks and strategies that adults who work with children can employ to promote that learning at each level.

For example:.

René Descartes

Some principles of how children learn along a trajectory hold across subject-matter domains, but there are also substantive differences among subjects in the specific skills children need and in the learning trajectories. Both generalizable principles and subject-specific distinctions have implications for the knowledge and competencies needed to work with children. An important factor in children's learning of subject-matter content is how each of the components of learning trajectories both requires and develops aspects of learning that are not content specific, such as critical reasoning, executive function, self-regulation, learning skills, positive dispositions toward learning, and relationships.

Educators, developmental scientists, and economists have long known that academic achievement is a result of both the growth of specific knowledge and the development of general learning competencies that regulate how children enlist cognitive resources when they encounter learning challenges, motivate advances in learning, and strengthen children's self-confidence as learners.

These general learning competencies have been labeled and categorized in various ways. Individual differences in these competencies are important determinants of learning and academic motivation, and children's experiences at home and in the classroom contribute to some of these differences. This section examines these competencies as well as their interrelationships with the previously discussed subject-matter domains of language and literacy and mathematics.

Several cognitive control processes are important for planning and executing goal-directed activity, which is needed for successful learning e. These processes include, for example, short-term and working memory, attention control and shifting, cognitive flexibility changing thinking between different concepts and thinking about multiple concepts simultaneously , inhibitory control suppressing unproductive responses or strategies , and cognitive self-regulation.

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These processes also are closely related to emotion regulation, which is discussed later in the section on socioemotional development, and which also contributes to children's classroom success. Other theoretical frameworks exist as well. As with the overall domains of development displayed earlier in Figure , the committee did not attempt to reconcile those different perspectives. This variation in perspectives makes it difficult to parse the literature produced by different fields of research and practice. In general, however, executive function appears to improve most rapidly in young children Best et al.

Executive function processes appear to be partially dependent on the development of the prefrontal cortex the site of higher-order cognitive processes , notably through the preschool and kindergarten age range Bassett et al. Short-term memory is the ability for short-term recall, such as of a sentence or important details from conversation and reading.

Working memory allows children to hold in their memory information from multiple sources, whether heard or read, so they can use and link that information. Updating working memory is the ability to keep and use relevant information while engaging in another cognitively demanding task Conway et al. Attention control is the ability to focus attention and disregard distracting stimuli e. Attention shifting and cognitive flexibility are often grouped. Cognitive flexibility capacities develop gradually throughout early childhood and have significant influences on children's social and academic competence.

Cognitive flexibility is important, for example, for reading Duke and Block, Children who are better able to consider, at the same time, both letter-sound and semantic meaning information about words have better reading comprehension Cartwright, ; Cartwright et al. Reading comprehension also appears to improve when children are taught about words with multiple meanings e. In addition, interventions in young children that focus on cognitive flexibility have shown significant benefits for reading comprehension Cartwright, Inhibitory control involves controlling a dominant response e.

The skill of simple response inhibition withholding an initial, sometimes impulsive, response develops during infancy through toddlerhood. Later in their first year, children can resolve conflict between their line of sight and their line of reaching Diamond, By about 30 months, they can successfully complete a spatial conflict task Rothbart and Rueda, From 3 to 5 years of age, complex response inhibition and response shifting develop, with attention shifting developing at about age 4 Bassett et al.

The most rapid increase in inhibitory control is between 5 and 8 years of age, although moderate improvements are seen up to young adulthood Best et al.