Early Language Learning and Literacy: Neuroscience Implications for Education

Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, University of Washington.
Mind Brain and Education (Impact Factor: 1.35). 09/2011; 5(3):128-142. DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-228X.2011.01121.x
Source: PubMed


The last decade has produced an explosion in neuroscience research examining young children's early processing of language that has implications for education. Noninvasive, safe functional brain measurements have now been proven feasible for use with children starting at birth. In the arena of language, the neural signatures of learning can be documented at a remarkably early point in development, and these early measures predict performance in children's language and pre-reading abilities in the second, third, and fifth year of life, a finding with theoretical and educational import. There is evidence that children's early mastery of language requires learning in a social context, and this finding also has important implications for education. Evidence relating socio-economic status (SES) to brain function for language suggests that SES should be considered a proxy for the opportunity to learn and that the complexity of language input is a significant factor in developing brain areas related to language. The data indicate that the opportunity to learn from complex stimuli and events are vital early in life, and that success in school begins in infancy.

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    • "The EAL/D learner is both advantaged by the existing metalinguistic knowledge they bring to the task of learning English which native speakers don't, and disadvantaged by the headstart on English language learning the native speaker has. Native speakers begin to develop their intuition around what sounds right, grammatically and phonologically, from their earliest months of life (Kuhl, 2011). Therefore EAL/D students require more explicit instruction than may be considered necessary for native speaking English students, for example, understanding what is possible in English syntax, or building their vocabularies in English. "
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    ABSTRACT: Teaching writing to English Additional Language (EAL) learners is focused, perhaps predictably, on developing English vocabulary, grammar and discourse skills. In this chapter I discuss whether these traditional monolingual and monomodal approaches to teaching English are adequate for EAL learners in New Times. Drawing upon the New London Group’s definition of multiliteracies as both multimodal and multicultural, I describe multimodal and multilingual pedagogies for teaching writing to EAL learners. Multimodal pedagogies reflect the human predilection to learn through multiple semiotic systems, whilst multilingual pedagogies acknowledge and utilize the substantial repertoire of linguistic skills that EAL learners bring to the task of learning to write in English.
    Looking back to look forward: Teaching writing in today's classrooms, Edited by Turbill, Brock, Barton, Exley, 01/2015: chapter EAL learners, multimodality, multilingualism and writing.; ALEA.
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    • "). Kuhl (2011) extensively reviewed early language learning and literacy with neuroscience implications using MEG (Magneto encephalography). She suggested that the critical period graph, "
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is to scientifically examine Kuhl's (2011), originally Johnson and Newport's (1989) critical period graph, from a perspective of auditory perception and linguistic discrimination. This study utilizes two types of experiments (auditory perception and linguistic phoneme discrimination) with five different age groups (5 years, 6-8 years, 9-13 years, 15-17 years, and 20-26 years) of Korean English learners. Auditory perception is examined via ultrasonic sounds that are commonly used in the medical field. In addition, each group is measured in terms of their ability to discriminate minimal pairs in Chinese. Since almost all Korean students already have some amount of English exposure, the researchers selected phonemes in Chinese, an unexposed foreign language for all of the subject groups. The results are almost completely in accordance with Kuhl's critical period graph for auditory perception and linguistic discrimination; a sensitive age is found at 8. The results show that the auditory capability of kindergarten children is significantly better than that of other students, measured by their ability to perceive ultrasonic sounds and to distinguish ten minimal pairs in Chinese. This finding strongly implies that human auditory ability is a key factor for the sensitive period of language acquisition.
    03/2014; 6(1). DOI:10.13064/KSSS.2014.6.1.059
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    • "April 2013 | Volume 4 | Article 170 | 1 even before infants have learned to speak, a timeline that coincides with the emergence of native perception for phonemic categories (e.g., Werker and Tees, 1984). Studies with a variety of neuroimaging methods have only begun to reveal the neurophysiological underpinnings of the development of language networks in the infant brain (Minagawa- Kawai et al., 2008; Gervain et al., 2010; Kuhl, 2011). A particularly fruitful avenue of research combines a change detection paradigm and a hemodynamically based, child-friendly method called Near InfraRed Spectroscopy (NIRS). "
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