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Child Development Game Predicts Kindergarten Achievement

Posted Jun 22 2009 11:15am
By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kids Nutrition Specialist A few months ago, Mum Mums reported a story explaining that kindergarteners were lacking adequate playtime as a result of schools making curriculum more difficult to prepare kindergarten kids for elementary school. Other scholastic experts, however, feel many kids enter first grade ill prepared. A new game has been developed that is both fun for kids and a good predictor of learning ability. Early childhood development researchers from University of Virginia and Oregon State University have discovered a 5 minute simple self-regulation game that predicts end of year achievements in vocabulary, literacy, and math that was also associated with several months of additional learning in kindergarten. Assessing a group of 343 kindergarteners from Michigan and Oregon, researchers examined the efficacy of a game called the Head-Shoulders-Knees-Toes task (HSKT). This game is a new version of the Head-to-Toes task and was improved upon by the University of Michigan; both tasks proved effective in predicting academic skills among preschool children. The HSKT task measured the childrens ability to control behavior, or self-regulation, by requiring the children to perform the opposite of a response to four varying oral commands. For example, the children were told to touch their toes in response to being told to touch their heads. The study found that the children who scored well on the game in the fall, or commencement of the school year, also had strong scores in reading, math, and vocabulary in the spring when compared with the students who did poorly on the game. The higher scores equated to being as much as 3.4 months ahead of the other children who had average scores in mathematics. Researchers note the game is fun, simple and an adequate predictor of scholastic performance. The game, as researchers note, does have its shortcomings as it cannot assess childrens interpersonal skills because it is not set up to evoke an emotional response. It does, however, indicate certain classroom oriented skills such as remembering instructions, listening, and following directions. Evidence has suggested that self-regulation is directly linked to behavior as well as scholastic performance and the researchers plan to continue with this study on even larger groups of children in the future.
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