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Inside the first grader's brain

What insights can neuroscience offer parents about the mind of a first grader?

By Hank Pellissier

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Talk it up

Your loquacious first grader will thrive if you talk and read with her as often as possible, since rapid brain growth in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation happens primarily before the age of seven. An Entropy article authored by Princeton researchers reports that six-year-olds can comprehend 13,000 words because their cerebral cortex, with such strong circuitry, acquires language at the rate of 10 new words per day — which means a new word every 90 minutes! Six-year-old brains have developed interconnected "mental language maps" where they can quickly chart and categorize the meaning of words. To help their language skills develop, include them in adult conversations. This is also a prime time to introduce a second, or even third, language.

Photo credit: BrettMorrison

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer whose fiction and essays have been been widely published and anthologized. A former columnist for Salon and SF Gate, he is a regular contributor to h+ Magazine.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

07/9/2012:
"I really love all the information you send me about my 1st grader, she got kindergarten of the year last year and reading and doing awesome, i give you guys alot of the credit for all your info. you send me, please keep it coming. Thanks again. "
08/3/2011:
"Just hit print above the article and it will show up on one page for you to read or print "
08/2/2011:
"I am very interested in reading your articles on the Preschooler's and the 1st Grader's brains: would it be possible to send it in 1 document? I can't stand the ads on your website that increase the wait-times every single time I hit "next" to advance to the next page. I don't have time to wait AND read the article. Since I don't have time to wait, I'm just planning on giving up the reading part... but it seems like some good info might be included in this article... Do you have a pdf or some other file that I can read the whole thing uninterrupted? Thank you! "
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