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The Science of Smelling

Monday, May. 22nd 2017

The olfactory senses are part of the body’s limbic system, which is responsible for memory, emotions, and behavior. When a scent is inhaled, messages are sent to parts of the brain that are a part of the limbic system and chemicals that have direct effects on mood are released such as serotonin.

The limbic system is also responsible for feeling pleasure, and the “reward path” in the brain is also a part of the limbic system. Activating this system prior to and during  study can have significant benefits for performance.

There is now a large body of evidence to suggest that scents such as rosemary and bergamot, applied or inhaled during exam preparation and then applied under the nostrils prior to exams can yield significantly better results.

While nothing replaces formal study techniques and procedures, having an ally from a plant source can significantly add to a student’s academic ‘toolbox’.

Try it and see! 🙂

Does your child really need a Fidget Spinner?

Tuesday, May. 16th 2017

Our brain has the magical ability to rewire itself. We live in the world that offers our brains instant gratification, which works just like a drug. The more instant gratification we offer our brains, the more our brains crave it.

With the best of intentions, we have rewired the brains of this entire generation of children to expect instant gratification, by offering them IPads, videogames, and depriving their brains of opportunities for boredom, responsibilities, and limits. Children come to school emotionally unavailable to learn. Their brains are unable to function under lower levels of stimulation, and expect special effects at all times. Unfortunately, real life can’t offer their brains what we promised; compared to the stimulation offered by the screens, real life is boring. Life requires the brain to work through boredom, which these children can’t tolerate so they become fidgety the moment their brains perceive even minor “boredom”.

With the invention of the spinner fidgets, we take their brains to the next level of instant gratification. Moreover, again and again, we buy our children what they want, the moment they want it, without thinking if it is truly what they need. Now, they bring the spinners into the classroom; continuing to stimulate their brains all day long with high levels of spinning stimulation. The more they stimulate their brains, the more they will crave for it, the less delayed gratification they will have, the less emotionally available for learning they will be.

There are a few kids that do require fidgets. However, even for these kids, the fidgets are just a quick fix. These children require a much deeper approach to help them concentrate.  In many cases, if a child needs fidgets, it means that his brain is overly stimulated and he actually needs help calming his brain down rather than further stimulating it. Here are some suggestions that will minimize your child’s need for fidgeting:

  • Teach children that “boredom” is a normal state of human emotions. Help children to recognize the signs of boredom and help them develop functional strategies to deal with it. Don’t take the responsibility of constantly entertaining your kids, as they need to learn to self-regulate through boredom.
  • Put a conscious effort to train your child’s delayed gratification skills. Avoid using technological babysitters in cars and restaurants and train his ability to just sit and wait.  Teach your child to sit at a table until everyone finishes eating.  Limit snacking between meals.
  • Limit your child’s access to technology. In addition, unplug from your phone and share quality time with your child.
  • Offer your child opportunities to spend time outdoors, especially in green space.

Five strategies to end the homework struggle.

Friday, Apr. 28th 2017

Practice empathy

Put yourself in your children’s shoes. Homework, when coupled with overcoming dyslexia, is no small task for either child or parent. Play anthropologist for an hour and pretend you’re simply at the homework table to observe and witness a marvel of human invention, homework.

Welcome mistakes as teachable moments

Trying something and failing gives us valuable information. Mistakes are often how we learn. It helps develop resilience, something successful dyslexics have mastered.

Customise techniques for your child

Listening and asking questions about your child’s experience will provide valuable insight into their behaviours and interests which can help you develop appropriate incentives based on knowing your child’s motivations.

Do your homework, too

Prepare for the homework session by checking in ahead of time on the subject matter. This especially helpful for math assignments. YouTube is a wonderful resource for a three minute refresher or intro to the latest curriculum.

Develop multi-sensory strategies

Help boost your child’s homework stamina by bringing in other sensory outlets.

For example, offering your child a piece of gum to chew, the option to sit on a yoga ball, or to stand rather than sitting in a chair. Invite your child to pace around the room while brainstorming aloud for a writing assignment, or provide a rubber band they can fidget with to facilitate an outlet for their need to move. Do some silly stretches, think calisthenics, with an emphasis on crossing midline to help bilateral integration, which means using both sides of the body at the same time.

Are Brain Breaks important?

Tuesday, Mar. 14th 2017

“My brain hurts”, the student exclaims as he walks away from his homework assignment. ‘I can’t do any more’. ‘Nothing else will fit into my head!’

This is an all too common phenomena, often repeated daily in most homes and classrooms. The words might vary but the intent is always the same – they’ve had enough! The student feels ‘full to the brim’. Nothing much is ‘going in’ and what it already in there besides, seems at capacity.

Adults are the same. How often have we been working on a ‘cerebral’ task, one requiring consistent and persistent effort? A task that, at times, seems like it will never be completed, despite our conscious and diligent efforts to complete it.

Our brains, like the rest of our bodies, are wonderful creations. Seemingly working tirelessly each day. Helping us shape and create our lives in the direction that we say we want. Moving us forward, towards whatever goals we have prioritised; finishing that assignment, completing the crossword, one more number in the Sudoku…

Often, however, it’s our focused intensity that makes us tired. The hard-working neurons in our brains, seemingly stop ‘firing’ and we ‘hit the wall’. Our ‘thinking brain’ stops delivering us the rapid-fire solutions to our tasks. It is at this time, that a suitable ‘brain break’, can be the perfect solution that re-ignites our efforts and lead us towards completing the task. Usually more efficiently than we started.

‘Brain breaks’ can take many forms, from standing up and walking to another room; drinking a glass of water, doing some simple yoga stretches or even something a little more formal, like putting a golf ball on the carpet or even attempting to organise our desk. The most effective breaks are those that involve moving the body and creating a focus that is demonstrably different from the task at hand. Using modern devices such as phones and laptops to time the break can make it even more effective.

So, the next time you hear your student lamenting about their ‘brain full’ gauge, experiment with some brain break strategies and observe the difference in productivity.

 

 

Learning Styles Explained…

Wednesday, Mar. 1st 2017

Each of us acquire information in a variety of ways. It is said, that through the five senses, the average person, takes in 2,000,000 bits of information per second. Far too much information for us to manage on a moment by moment basis. The notion further states that our conscious mind can only process 7+/-2* chunks of information per second which equates to approximately 134 bits per second.

It doesn’t take a math degree, to see that our fantastic senses make available far more information than the conscious mind can usefully cope with – so what happens to the rest? It is said, that it passes through our ‘filtering system’. This system deletes, distorts, generalises, etc the information and chunks it into smaller pieces of information that we see as ‘useful’. Each of us also have ‘preferences’ as to how WE, as individuals, learn, process and retain the information in our lives.

Knowing these preferences and matching them with specific and individual learning strategies, can make a HUGE difference to students’ learning outcomes.

Below is a very brief introduction to some of these preferential learnings styles.

 Visual/Verbal

This type of learner does best when they have the opportunity to both listen to and look at the information. They like to look and speak about the information. For them, it is useful to take the time to explain things verbally and to back up that information with visual examples.

 Auditory/Verbal?

An auditory and verbal learner learns best by listening and talking through problems. In order for this type of learner to be successful, they need to be able talk about their ideas and work through what they are learning. They learn through hearing things, but they are also good at writing essays and short answer responses.

 Tactile/Kinesthetic

The tactile and kinesthetic learner learns best by doing. This student may come across as having nervous energy, but it is just how they process information. They are not being disrespectful if they fidget while listening or learning.

Knowing some of this information and backing it up with appropriate learnings strategies and techniques, helps us to accelerate the learning process.

If you are curious as to how your child best learns, book your assessment today.

Naplan ‘bands’ explained…

Tuesday, Feb. 21st 2017

Many parents ( and some teachers) are often confused about how the assessment ‘bands’ are arrived at and what they actually mean for the students.

 

This excellent slideshow from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, may help to explain how the bands are arrived at and what the results actually mean.

It is by no means comprehensive but gives teachers and non-teachers alike a deeper understanding of the results.

http://usingassessmentdata.vcaa.vic.edu.au/naplan/tut1_1/mod1.aspx#

Healthy lunch ideas for optimum performance

Monday, Feb. 13th 2017

One of our biggest challenges as tutors/mentors is ensuring that our students arrive ready to engage in learning. A good diet, together with HEAPS of fresh water is the key to bette performance.

Here’s an example of a healthy lunch that will keep your child awake and alert in the afternoon.

  Water – filtered water in a metal drinking bottle is great for lunches. Non breakable and no nasty plastics leaching into the water. Remember most filters remove the chemicals from the water.

  Fruit – a whole apple or a whole banana or any piece of fresh fruit. Remember that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – apples and bananas are highly nutritious and are a great energy boost.

  Fresh greens & salad – when fresh and organic, salad greens keep you awake and alert and provide great nutrition.

  Avoid bread if possible. Bread gives a boost of energy and then leaves you sleepy. No wonder so many children fall asleep in class and just look at people at a conference if they have had bread during their lunch break…they are asleep too. If you need an alternative, wraps are generally better.

  Yoghurt. A quality natural yoghurt and add your own dried fruit or cut up fresh fruit.