Category Archives: ABC of Learning

The ABC’s of Learning: “P”

“P” is for Planners

Quite often students begin the year in a casual stride and who is to blame them? After all, they have just come off holidays (about 1 ½ months’ worth). 

I come from a sports training background and understand that an athlete who wants to perform well will not take six weeks off their training year.  The repercussions are too great as they will lose too much form.  They must work too hard to get back to square one. 

A dedicated rugby player will be maintaining his/her aerobic fitness with moderate exercise during the off-season.  When January comes around, they are ready to start full swing on improving their strengths, building on fitness and working on skills.  That is how you stay ahead of the pack.

Most learners will forget the last four weeks of learning over the six weeks of Christmas break. Pretty much everything learned in November is lost by the time they go back to school in January/February.

I often wonder why students don’t undertake the same planning when it comes to academic performance. 

Most students and parents of students are willing to let the achievements of the final months of the previous year disappear through resting the brain after the school year. 

The brain doesn’t need that much time to recover.  In fact, that length of time of recovery is detrimental.  The last month of knowledge learned prior to exams has been lost and must be relearned in the first month of the new year!

During the last two weeks of the Christmas holidays many students maintain their academic conditioning by working with their Academic Coach at after-school tuition.  Some use their coach (their tutor) to work on their weaknesses from last year while others use the time to get a head start on the subject they know is in the next year. 

These guys, like their athletic counterparts, are staying ahead of the pack. 

Is it worthwhile?  You bet it is.  They will go into the new year confident and stress free.  They have locked in with their coach who is helping them to perform at their peak.

We live in a very competitive world and those who rise to the top are those who are willing to go the extra mile to achieve that result.  Time and effort are often put into young people with their sport, but will that effort bring a return on investment for them? Will these skills bring them an income? Most likely not. 

If the same effort was put into their academic ability, or at least more evenly distributed well……

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The ABC’s of Learning: “O”

“O” is for Over-Worked Student

Many parents don’t realise they may be setting their children up for burn-out later in the year because they, as their child’s coach, have not planned their activities so their academic athlete may peak at the appropriate times (exams). 

It is with the best intentions that many parents will fill almost every minute of their little one’s waking hours with sport, training for sport and transport to and from sport.  I am amazed at how many children are undertaking more than one sport a school term.  If you are a parent who is building a champion, please remember three things.

1.         Training and playing sport are tiring, very tiring.  That is why great coaches don’t over-load their prized athletes.  They allow down time for recovery and for their protégés to spend time doing non-competitive recreational activities.

2.         A tired student will find it difficult to concentrate in class.  Many students who participate in after school sports are still running around during the day at school.  Play is how they socialise with their friends.  An over-loaded student will take the  inactive time in the classroom to recharge the batteries with rest.  This will affect their learning.

3.         In today’s world a person has a much better chance of achieving a high-income future with good grades than becoming a highly paid athlete.  It is best to plan a balanced week for your child.  Yes, sport is important, but it should not be the only focus to your child’s development.

Children are growing and that takes energy.  You can help by planning their week to include some down time when there is no running around, high energy sport or study.  Sometimes, it good to let them be themselves to develop their own interest.

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The ABC’s of Learning: “N”

“N” is for Nutrition

Your car will not run without fuel, and neither will your body, including your brain. 

A child of any age is growing rapidly and needs plenty of food for energy and nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) to help supply the body with the building blocks to allow the cells to multiply and the body to grow. 

The inability to concentrate, feeling listless, unenthusiastic and headaches are all signs of insufficient nutrient intake.  The body begins to slow down by mid-afternoon after a day of high activity and very little nutritious food.

The best way to maintain high-energy output is to ensure a nutritious breakfast, a healthy lunch and perhaps morning and afternoon tea.  A healthy round of vegemite sandwiches with a glass of water or milk will ensure the B Vitamins for energy production are in the body to spur the brain into motion.

The chief function of B Vitamins is to act as spark plugs for the body to assist in converting glucose into energy for fuel.  They are also important for the functioning of a healthy nervous system and in helping to promote relaxation in stressed individuals. 

Very few vitamins are found in a packet of potato crisps and a can of coke.  A person will literally obtain more miles out of a banana than soft drinks and chips.

The importance of Vitamin C can’t be over-looked.  The highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is found in the adrenal glands because it is required to make cortisol and adrenalin for conditions of stress.  But the next highest concentration is found in the brain.  Why would the brain require vitamin C?  So, the body may produce dopamine, serotonin and melatonin.  Vitamin C helps to keep your sanity as well as your collagen intact.

There are five essential nutrients for effective brain function, and this includes memory.  Many teenagers are low in iodine, as can be said about the general population.  It is readily found in some seafood but if you do not eat seafood then you must obtain it from another source. 

Decades ago, iodine was placed in table salt so inland populations may have a non-seafood source of the nutrient.  If your family eats salt, then it may be beneficial to purchase iodised salt. 

Other nutrients are omega-3 (from oily fish), iron (meat), zinc (almonds) and the B vitamins.

Two herbs gaining respect for their ability to aid memory are Ginkgo biloba and Gotu kola.  Ginkgo increases blood flow and fluidity to the brain.  Improved circulation aides brain function.

The quality of food is so important.  We do no good for our children when we give into their tantrums for low nutrient junk food.  Be parents to your children now and their friends when they grow up.

According to Henry Osiecki (B.Sc. Grad. Dip Nutr. & Dietetics) some symptoms of ADHD are like those of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies.  Behavioural and learning problems, tantrums and sleeping disorders are common to both.  Supplementing with omega 3 has been shown to improve learning and concentration behaviour.

Other Nutritional Deficiencies in Learning – if your diet is inadequate then consider a quality multi-vitamin because:

B Complex

The functions of the B vitamins in mental alertness and energy are well established. 

EFA – Omega 3 & Omega 6

Introducing fish oil into a youngster’s diet may do wonders for concentration.      

Zinc

The functions of zinc and the immune system have been known for over 100 years.  Knowledge of its other functions is relatively recent.  Low levels of zinc are associated with low alertness, inability to think along abstract lines (learn a language e.g. English), mood and memory problems.     

Magnesium

One of the most deficient minerals in the modern western diet.  Low brain magnesium gives unrefreshed sleep, causes easy fatigue (important for the Krebs Cycle of energy production), poor concentration and daytime sleepiness.

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The ABC’s of Learning: “M”

memory“M” is for MEMORY

“I just don’t get this!” is a cry for help from a student of any age.  Here is the first thing about the learning process – if you don’t get it you won’t remember it and you won’t learn it.  A student must understand a concept, in their own words, to be able to learn it.

So, the first step to learning something effectively is to understand it and if you don’t understand it then ask your teacher or instructor to explain it another way.  You will not be the only person not understanding and it is your teacher’s job to see that you do understand.

Once you think you understand it, write it out in your own words as this will help to put it into short term memory.  This is where most students stop and then wonder why they can’t remember material.  Short term is good for a few minutes, hours or days, after that it is gone.  You must take the next step to move it into long term memory.

Recitation (saying something repeatedly) has been proved to be the most effective way of placing information into long term memory.  And by long term I am talking about a life time. Reading something quietly repeatedly to yourself or writing it down several times is not as effective as reading the material, in your own words, repeatedly ALOUD.

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