Making Stories Come Alive

Physically acting out a written text—as an actor would walk himself through the gestures and emotions of a soliloquy during rehearsal—is an effective way to commit that text to memory, as I wrote in a previous post on the Brilliant Blog. For adults, this process of enactment imbues abstract words with concrete meaning, fixing them more firmly in our minds.
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What Happens In Our Brains As We Read

Amid the squawks and pings of our digital devices, the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile. But new support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience. Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories,
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People With Dyslexia, Doing Things Differently

Earlier this week, I met with a remarkable man named Bill Brown. Bill is the director of the Eli Whitney Museum, an equally remarkable institution near my home in New Haven, Conn. “Museum” doesn’t quite capture all that the Eli Whitney is and does. A kid’s dream of a magical workshop—that comes a bit closer. Visit, and you’ll see dozens
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The Surprising Upside of Dyslexia

The word “dyslexia” evokes painful struggles with reading, and indeed this learning disability causes much difficulty for the estimated 15 percent of Americans affected by it. Since the phenomenon of “word blindness” was first documented more than a century ago, scientists have searched for the causes of dyslexia, and for therapies to treat it. In recent years, however, dyslexia research
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Typography and Technology That Make Reading Easier

The causes of dyslexia—the disorder that makes reading excruciatingly difficult for about one in twenty school-aged children—have remained frustratingly elusive, as has anything resembling a cure. Training programs for dyslexics have proven effective at improving certain parts of the reading process, such as phonological awareness and auditory perception. Once these skills have been brought up to speed, however, there still
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Do E-Books Get In The Way Of Kids’ Reading?

Could e-books actually get in the way of reading? That was the question explored in research presented last week by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, an associate professor at West Chester University, and her spouse Jordan T. Schugar, an instructor at the same institution. Speaking at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, the Schugars reported the results
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Helping Parents Talk To Their Kids About College

A follow up on yesterday’s post on the Brilliant Blog about first generation college students: In newly-presented research, education professor Ronald Hallett shares what he discovered through designing and implementing a program intended to encourage high school students who would be the first in their families to attend university. Hallett, of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., designed
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Succeeding In Places for Which Your Past Hasn’t Prepared You

First-generation college students—undergraduates whose parents did not attend university—have reason to be proud. They’ve made it, against daunting odds. But once they get on campus, many of these individuals struggle. First-generation students “are more likely to encounter academic, financial, professional, cultural and emotional difficulties than are students whose parents attended college,” writes Teresa Heinz Housel, an associate professor of communication
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Can American Students Get Better At Math?

Are American students just no good at math? Or could we improve our kids’ math performance by changing the way we teach the subject—especially in the early grades? We hear a lot about how American students lag behind their international peers academically, especially in subjects like math. In the most recent Program for International Student Assessment, commonly known as PISA,
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Designing Smarter Homework

A couple of years ago, I published a piece in the New York Times about how we could improve the effectiveness of homework by incorporating techniques from cognitive science, like spaced repetition and retrieval practice, into students’ take-home assignments. Now someone has tried it, and it worked—really, really well. Researchers made changes to homework assignments in an upper-level undergraduate engineering
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