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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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Safe space

First graders need to feel relaxed and emotionally secure for their brains to learn best. Research indicates that traumatic stress and fear releases toxic levels of the hormone cortisol, which can destroy neurons in the hippocampus, a region that supports factual and episodic memory. To protect a first-grader's confidence, parents and other important adults should give loving, encouraging feedback, as well as minimize reprimands and threats, and avoid shouting and spanking for discipline. Express sympathy if they're terrorized by nightmares or ashamed of bed-wetting. Many children continue enuresis until age seven or longer.

Photo credit: crispyteriyagi

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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