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The Brain & Poverty — Upcoming New & Potentially Useful Study

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Periodically studies will come-out documenting the negative effect poverty has on the brains of young people (see my previous posts Poverty, The Brain, & Stephen Krashen and Poverty Is Poison.

These results, of course, are not-very-surprising to anybody and seldom, if ever, even allude to the need for our society to confront some of the root causes of poverty. I understand that authors of research studies don’t have much political power, but it would be nice if they at least offered some understanding of what really has to be done to solve the problems they’re studying.

Occasionally, a study will vaguely mention that there might be some classroom interventions teachers can use to specifically combat some of this damage, which, if there was more specificity, might actually be useful.

Now, The Globe and Mail writes about a study in How poverty shapes the brain that takes an entirely different tack:

Amedeo D’Angiulli at Carleton University in Ottawa wants to steer his fellow researchers away from the idea that they should be looking for poverty-related deficits. At an Association for Psychological Science conference in Boston this week, he will urge them to think about any differences they find as potential strengths, not weaknesses.

“I would see this work informing the school system, to exploit some of the strengths that are in these children and introduce curriculum that instead of penalizing them would allow them to function,” he said.

This certainly corresponds to the perspective in my book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work, that emphasizes looking at student assets instead of focusing on their deficits.

We need to confront institutional causes of poverty (and I write about how schools can do that in my book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools and in my other blog, Engaging Parents In School).

But it would be helpful to get more positive ideas on what we can do in the classroom now, too.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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