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The Bright Start program

The primary goal of cognitive education is to help children acquire effective tools of systematic logical thinking, self-regulation, social interaction, and learning. These tools are essential for young children as they enter the early grades (about age 5-6) so that they effectively learn reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as, thinking through and understanding science, social sciences, arts, etc. All children can benefit from help in developing and applying these tools. In even the most advanced school systems many children arrive at the early grades unprepared to learn effectively. Some have special needs related to disability, whereas others have simply not developed the essential foundational tools for systematic thinking and learning.

Bright Start is a flexible cognitive program for young children, designed for use with children functioning at developmental levels from 3 to 6 years, including those who are "normally developing," those who are placed at risk of school failure because of lack of educational opportunity, and those who have learning difficulties, irrespective of their cause. The primary goal of BRIGHT START is one of "stretching the mind," that is, broadening children's understanding and thinking processes, thereby increasing competence to learn new information, skills and dispositions. It is a structured approach, with strong emphasis on the child's understanding of rules and explanatory concepts. Teachers emphasize the orderliness and predictability of the world, beginning with principles of organization, rule following, rule-making, rule applying, and the systematic processes required for orderly perception, analysis, understanding, learning, and problem solving. Children learn to
●    conform their behavior to internalized standards for rational reasons.
●    perceive the existence of problems.
●    identify processes for finding solutions.
●    apply those processes according to logical functions.
●    set aside unsuccessful strategies to seek new ones.
●    be critical of their own solutions.
●    offer logical support of their thinking, learning, and problem-solving processes.

In other words, the children do not stop with learning specific rules, but in addition learn the functions of rules and in what situations those rules do and do not apply. They also acquire the ability to construct rules (not in the sense of behavioral proscriptions, but in the sense of generalizable explanations of observed events).

Brief History of Bright Start

Bright Start's development started in the late 1970's through a demonstration project grant from the U.S. Department of Education. A unique aspect of the program's development was that the effort included academic professors and master teachers (The Cognitive Early Education Group) working together to develop the lessons and materials. Field testing of lessons took place throughout program development highlighting the integrated expertise of teachers and theoreticians. The experimental version of the program was available in the mid 1980's authored by H. C. Haywood, P. Brooks, & M. S. Burns in collaboration with The Cognitive Early Education Group. In 1992 a formal version of the program was published, Haywood, H. C., Brooks, P. B., & Burns, M. S. (1992). Bright start: Cognitive curriculum for young children. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Press. Carl Haywood and Penny Brooks then led the dissemination and professional development on the program in the U. S. and abroad with great enthusiasm and success.

In October 2020 Carl Haywood passed away. Recent efforts regarding Bright Start have been undertaken by program author Sue Burns and Carl's son, Carlton Haywood, along with an international group of advisors. A brief vitae for Sue Burns' is available at the following link here.

Teacher and Young Student

Mediated Teaching

Mediated teaching style is core in Bright Start. Mediators, therapists, teachers, and families, serve as catalysts for bringing about cognitively important reactions between children's thought processes and events in their experience. The adult’s role is to help children understand the generalized meaning of their experiences, of new learning, and of relationships so that from every encounter with content materials children extract the maximum learning of generalizable principles and strategies for perceiving the world, thinking systematically, learning, and problem solving. Specific content - for example, counting - is taught in such a way that children understand its applicability to other contexts. In other words, counting is taught as a cognitive strategy, a way of finding out how many of anything one has, rather than as a procedure for its own sake.

Cognitive/mediational educators and therapists
●    elicit evidence of thinking from the children.
●    use process-oriented questioning rather than answer-oriented questioning.
●    accept as much as possible of the children's answers while challenging the process.
●    challenge answers, both correct and incorrect, and require justification and process explanation.
●    teach inductively, asking children to form generalities from successive examples, objects, or events.
●    enhance the children's metacognitive functioning, helping them become aware of their own thinking processes.

Program Content

The program content centers on the development of precognitive and cognitive functions that central across the Cognitive Units. In the sections that follow, we give a brief description of each of the units.
For all children these cognitive functions are generalized to home, peer and other settings. In the program book specific examples are given for program implementation, for example, in classrooms all aspects of the day include integration of cognitive functions.

Kids Stacking Blocks

Cognitive Units

The Cognitive Group Units are a series of activities designed to emphasize certain systematic ways of thinking.  The lessons in these units differ from other parts of the curriculum in that the classroom emphasis is most strongly on the thinking processes and strategies (the "cognitive functions") needed to carry out the activities rather than on the content of the activities themselves.

The BRIGHT START program consists of eight cognitive units, each designed to address a fundamental aspect of the cognitive functioning of preschool children. The units may be taught in groups of 4-6 children interacting with a teacher, for a period of about 20-30 minutes at least twice a week, better still each day.  In therapy sessions the materials might be used with a smaller group or even one to one with a child. The units encourage discussion of principles and work on related materials.

Unit 1: Self-Regulation

Children learn to bring their bodies under the control first of external stimuli and then of internal stimuli (or self-control). Children then learn to use their self-control in a social context.
See example lesson ------>

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Unit 2: Number Concepts

Introduces basic number concepts - amounts, numbers, ordinal relations, conservation. Starting with one-to-one correspondence, children learn concepts that help them respond to events in a quantitative, organized way.

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Unit 3: Comparison

Introduces the concept that we can identify similarities and differences in a systematic way. Children learn to define and make comparisons based on such characteristics as size, shape, and color.

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Unit 4: Role-Taking

Develops the ability to take different perspectives, first on the physical, and then on the social level. Children learn to consider other people's feelings and viewpoints. This unit, like Self-Regulation, is primarily social in nature.

See example lesson ------>

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Unit 5: Classification

Develops the function of classifying across three dimensions - color, size, shape - and evolves into representational classification (classifying without pictures).

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Unit 6: Sequence and Pattern

Children learn to identify items within classes according to their serial position. The lessons focus on number and pattern progression and finding patterns in groups of stimuli.
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Unit 7: Letter-Shape Concepts

Children learn to identify and classify objects and events according to certain prominent characteristics, which will be crucial to the learning of the letters of the alphabet.

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Unit 8: Transformation

Children are guided to develop abstraction of logical relations as changes. What changes, what remains the same and what rules govern changes? The unit builds on important cognitive functions developed in the previous units and is applicable to children in the primary grades and above.

See example lesson ------>

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