Child Not Making the Grade? Exercise is the Solution!


Forget the old battle about jock versus nerd. New studies are showing that the jock stereotype—all brawn, no brain—is completely wrong. In fact, the jock might just have a bigger brain than his more studious, less physical counterpart.

New research shows that exercise can increase blood flow to the brain, which results in a process known as neurogenesis—the re-growth of neurons in the brain.

Researchers at Columbia University, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and at University of Illinois found, in separate studies, that subjects who increased their exercise quotient over a three-month period caused so many new neurons to grow that the size of their brains actually got bigger!

The area of the brain that saw the most growth was the hippocampus—the part that deals with memory and cognition.

But what does this mean for school aged children? The California Department of Education studied 7th grade students, and found that the most fit of those students did better on their SATs then their less-fit counterparts. Similar studies from the University of Illinois found that the more fit students had better standardized test scores.

But exercise helps thinking in more ways than rebuilding neurons. Exercise increases neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which decreases feelings of depression, elevates moods, and helps to improve the ability to focus.

But the best part of these findings is that the link between exercise and improved cognitive functioning isn’t just for the young or physically fit. Regular exercise improves brain function in young and old alike.

Class Time and Learning Time


Does longer class time create better students?

School is back in session! For the next 10 months children will spend the better part of their days being students—but how much classroom time is enough to ensure that our children are getting the best quality education possible?

The amount of time spent in the classroom correlates to the amount of time that is spent learning. Are students who spend more time in class at an academic advantage? Or is it merely an issue of quality or quantity?

Results on Federal testing have been major motivators for educators across Canada and the US. When New Brunswick students received the lowest scores in the Canada, the response was to increase class time to 5.25 hours a day, not including recess.

But there are problems associated with an extended school day. Apart from no formal research ever being conducted into the matter, children only have so much attention span and even the most dedicated of students can lose focus after five hours of instruction.

According to The Canadian Council on Learning, the best way to see results in the classroom is not based on quality of learning, not quantity of class time. Students who are active learners and remain engaged in their learning during instruction time—regardless of length—get the most out of their education, doing better on testing. Active learning during class time is the best way to ensure that the quality of class time is equal to quantity.

“If you are not engaged in your learning, chances are that you’re not going to learn much.” Charles Ungerleider, Director of Research Canadian Council on Learning.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Stay tuned for upcoming discussions on the subject.



For many students, the return to school is something to anticipate and look forward to…maybe even get excited about. The night before, there may be butterflies in little and big tummies alike, but once feet enter the schoolyard and see friends and schoolmates again, the jitters disappear.

For some kids though, the butterflies never go away. For shy children, the return to school causes nervousness and anxiety that never dissipates. Shyness actually physically manifests—researchers at Harvard studying shyness noticed a spike of activity in the right frontal cortex, and in an elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and increased cortisol levels.

But for shy students, their shyness can mean more than just a hesitancy to interact—it could lead to social phobias or depression in adulthood. But it can also negatively impact grades.

Just like their rowdy counterparts, children who don’t interact or respond when spoken to are equally as disruptive in a classroom. And many even are singled out for this reason—they may even get in trouble for it. But more often than not, teachers are trained to pay attention to students who have an attention deficit or who are hyperactive, overlook shy children.

Researchers at Carleton University are beginning new studies into how teachers deal with shyness in the classroom. This is important, just like the hyperactive child, the shy child requires special attention too.

Good Food Habits for School


You’ve packed their bookbag with everything that they’ll need to face the day ahead: pencils, markers, notebooks, and an agenda, but did you pack their lunchbag with everything that they’ll need to make it through the school day?

Studies have shown time and again that children who eat breakfast do better at school than those who do not. Delving deeper into the subject shows that eating breakfast is one thing, but eating a healthy breakfast consisting of food that supports the brain helps children to learn better and be more alert for the entire day.

Studies have shown that low-glycemic index foods like oatmeal can boost memory and attention, which is good, as oatmeal is a breakfast staple, cheap to buy, and easy to prepare, but what about lunch time foods? What foods provide a brain boost for the middle of the day?

No matter which article you read, the same foods appear over and over again. These are the “superfoods”— foods that nourish the brain as well as the body.

Try to make your child a lunch that comprises at least one of the superfoods. We know that kids can be fussy eaters, but use your imagination to develop kid-friendly recipes, and your child’s body, and brain, will thank you for it!

  • Whole grains. Buy breads and tortillas that are multigrain—they provide more sustained energy throughout the day, and the extra fiber is a plus.
  • Blueberries. The nutrients in blueberries help to destroy free radicals, which can damage brain cells. They also help with memory, balance and co-ordination
  • Yogurt. Protein and calcium and probiotic cultures, which helps the immune system.
  • Sweet Potatoes. A favorite with kids because of the naturally sweet taste, the bright orange color means beta-carotene, which helps produce vitamin A
  • Natural Nut Butters. Better than their brand name cousins, the natural nut butter can be made at home in a high-speed blender, which means no preservatives or additives.
  • Omega 3. Normally found in fish, the protein and essential fatty acid help keep brain cells flexible and can help with skin conditions, and allergies
  • Beans. Fiber, protein, and iron are all beneficial. Try chick peas, aka garbanzo beans as a kid-friendly snack. Hummus works just as well, and is a great sandwich spread.
  • Broccoli. This vegetable is notorious for being on kid’s icky-food list. But a few clever tricks can get this high vitamin C veggie into your kid, no problemo.

Techniques for the Classroom. Lesson 1: Paying Attention


t’s happened to us all before. You are in an important meeting. Someone is giving a presentation. A power point presentation starts, then, the next thing you know, everyone is getting up and leaving. You haven’t heard a word that’s been said. You were staring out the window, not paying attention. You were distracted.

Kids deal with this sort of thing everyday in the classroom.

But why did your mind start wandering? And why did you not even notice that you were thinking about, oh I don’t know, organizing your sock drawer when you should have been taking notes on the quarterly profit losses?

Metacognitive Awareness is the solution to this problem. It sounds really technical, something that you might hear in a doctor’s office, but it’s really just fancy talk for paying attention to what the mind is doing. With a little training and some practice everyone can master metacognitive awareness—even kids. Here’s how it works:

  1. Recognize when you are off-topic.
    • As soon as you notice that you are off-track stop yourself.
    • Now think back to when you started to get off track. What happened? Did you hear some noise in the background?
  2. Identify the distraction.
    • The ringing cell phone distracted me. Now that you know the source, you are more likely to recognize it when it happens again, and more likely to stay on track.
    • It may go something like this: A cell phone rings somewhere behind you. You stop focusing on the speaker and…WAIT. That’s a cell phone, it rang, and it distracted me. I should re-focus on the presentation. Or ask that co-worker to shut off his phone.
  3. Thinking about thinking.
    • This is really what metacognitive awareness is all about—paying attention to what the mind is doing.
    • If your mind is active in the classroom and not turned onto autopilot, it is easier to pay attention to what is going on around you. As you learn new things, be aware of your thought process—is this new thing like other things? Can I relate it to something else? Does this make sense?
  4. An active brain is an on-topic brain.
    • As you learn new things, be aware of your thought process—is this new thing like other things?
    • Can I relate it to something else? Does this make sense? Do I need to ask any questions? If you flip your mind’s switch to “on” the likelihood of not paying attention diminishes.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect.
    • Metacognitive Awareness, like so much else takes time to perfect. The more that you are aware of what your mind is doing; the easier it is to pay attention. And the less likely it will be that you’ll spend entire meetings staring out the window.

How to Study: Stress, Noise and Study Habits


Studying for a test, scenario A:

  • A student slouches on the couch in front of the TV, which is on. There is a cell phone open on the coffee table. The student also has iPod ear buds nestled in her lobes, a book propped open on her knees, which are bopping to a bass beat, a vacant stare in her eye.

Studying for a test, scenario B:

  • A student sits at a desk. The room is quiet and well lit. There is little distraction—no TV, no computer, no cell phone. Books are open on a desk and student B is focused on his work.

Clearly, student A’s concentration is less than focused on the task at hand, but there may be more wrong here than poor study habits. The increased decibels from the TV, the iPod, and the cell phone may be doing more to increase stress levels than the upcoming test!

A study from the World Health Organization shows that excessive noise is linked to health problems. Physiological changes occur in the body when loud noise is present in the environment that a person may not even be aware of—stress hormones increase, sleep patterns can be disrupted, and ear problems such as tinnitus can develop—all from even small increases in the background noise level.

And you thought that loud noise was just bad for concentration!

Attention all students who study like the student in scenario A: Turn down the volume. Take a deep breath. Reduce your stress. Study, and do it quietly, with little to no distractions—your health and your memory will thank you.

The Dangers of Playing with Toys


Playing was good for your child’s health and development. Well, not anymore, and especially not if they are playing with the hundreds of mass-produced, foreign-made toys that can actually be detrimental to a child’s physical well being. Small, removable parts and toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process had lead to some recent high-profile toy recalls—at least two recalls in the last two weeks.

The health and safety guidelines of toy manufacturing aside, the popularity of these foreign-made, cheaply produced types of toys is a larger issue. The fact that these toys are so popular means that there is demand—that these toys are in homes across the globe. And that’s concerning because the more intricate and detailed the toy, the less imagination is required to play with it. All the various small parts and add-ons, extra bits and support toys mean that every possibility and variable for play is thought of. Sure, it’s a great merchandising tactic, but it creates a scenario where children are less mentally active during playtime—and that’s a dangerous habit to fall into during the childhood years where play makes up a large part of a child’s mental development.

There are several grassroots movements supporting a return to simpler, homemade toys that are not only well made and durable, but also local and toxin-free. They promote the type of toys that are meant to support a child’s imagination process, not replace it.

If you are looking for a virtually free, non-toxic, recyclable, toy that is easy to access and provides hours of imagination-filled play that stimulates and promotes cognitive development there is always the old favorites—the cardboard box, the backyard, playground equipment.

The only toys that children need are those that run on brainpower, not battery power.

Computer and Campsites: Camping in the Digital Age


Sand in your bathing suit, in your hair, in your sleeping bag…and in your keyboard?

Camping, to this generation’s children, is not what it used to be. Camping has changed so much over the years that wireless connection is now listed as a basic service at many campgrounds across North America. Electrical hook up, firewood, bathroom facilities, and now, wi-fi.

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought that the purpose of camping was to get away from it all—to reconnect with nature, and to be unavailable; disconnected, and to get back to nature.

The evolution (or de-evolution as the case may be) of summertime childhood activity is a popular subject these days. Kids spend more time than ever inside watching TV, playing video games, surfing the net. There are more than a few articles circulating in the media about what this means to traditional childhood, not to mention what all the plugged-in indoor time means to learning habits and social interaction.

Childhood is an ever-evolving landscape, but unfortunately, the new technologies and changing lifestyles are eroding traditional summer pastimes such as playing hide and seek, stargazing, bike riding, building tree houses, hopscotch…and camping.

The campsite is a place to get back to nature and re-discover how to long hours doing nothing more than using the imagination to keep amused. It’s a place to disconnect, to unplug, and to learn the simple pleasures that a childhood summer can bring.

Rudeness and the Teen: Strategies For Parents


The average teen can be rebellious, sullen, moody and mouthy. If you have a teenage child, then at one point or another they are going to talk back.

Rather than being resigned to a life of rudeness, parents should arm themselves with some strategies for open and respectful communication.

Anthony E. Wolf author of Get out of my life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager offers these tips:

  • Disengage, don’t lecture. When the backtalk is just rude, or hurtful, simply disengage from your teen and do not respond. When you ignore harsh backtalk, kids will learn to tone it down and be more respectful if they want any sort of response from you.
  • Water off a duck’s back. Don’t let your teen’s tone rattle you. Simply repeat your request in a calmer tone to teach your teen to respond in a more respectful manner.
  • Show that you are flexible. Listen to your teen’s point of view, and on occasion change your mind about the ground rules.
  • Put it in context: Differentiate between backtalk at home and backtalk in society. Remember that teenagers are developing their identities. When they back talk at home it’s about testing the boundaries of self-expression. If they back talk to teachers, your friends, or to other parents then it’s rude.

It may seem that your teen is out of hand talking back and asserting their needs, but your teen is actually just developing the skills they need to be assertive and stand up for what they believe in later on. Your job is to make sure that they can accomplish this and still be respectful to others, and to you.



taying au courant with the ongoing in your teen’s life can be challenging, especially since teens can be notoriously difficult to talk to. Short, one-word responses such as “nothing” is the norm to questions like “How was your day?” and “what’s new?”

A recent article in the local paper told of how one parent discovered a way to open the lines of communication with her teen. She signed up for the popular social networking site Facebook as a way of staying in the loop with her children’s lives.

Facebook began in 2004 at Harvard University as a tool for creating student profiles and performing classmate searches. By 2005, it became accessible to most colleges, universities, and even high schools in the US. It opened up to the general public late 2006. Since then, Facebook has been in the media spotlight frequently surrounded by issues of privacy, a hot topic in the age of identity theft.

Privacy issues aside, the mom reports that Facebook has opened the door to communicating with her teenage daughter. The status updates and photos give the mom helpful conversation starters, and now they actually have discussions that go beyond the monosyllabic grunts she used to get to her inquiries into her daughter’s life.

Facebook—more than a social networking site, it just may be the technology that helps parents to bridge the generational and conversational divide. As author Patrick White notes in the article Facebook: watching the watchers, family dynamics may never be the same.

Exam Stress: Cheating on Exams - Part 2


n the first part of this series we looked at why students might cheat on exams. There is a lot of pressure to succeed especially in the higher grades as college or university looms near.

But more than just pressure, if your child has been caught cheating on a test or exam, it can usually be traced back to inadequate study skills. And it’s little wonder since study skills are rarely taught in school.

But there are plenty of other reasons why students might cheat.

Here are some of the main reasons students cheat:

  • They are unmotivated
  • They have gaps in their learning skills
  • They are unable to make lasting connections in the subject matter
  • They have trouble developing a fundamental understanding of course material.
  • They have poor exam preparation techniques.

The best way to avoid cheating is to help your child develop better study skills. Try these 6 tips:

  1. Hire a tutor.
  2. Enroll in a program that focuses on study skills.
  3. Create a study schedule, and review steps involved.
  4. Use a school agenda.
  5. Talk to your child about cheating and school pressure.
  6. Stay involved.

Exam Stress: Cheating on Exams - Part 1


The school year is coming to a close and for high school students that means exams. The inevitable fact of exams causes some strange behavior in students: they stress out. They freak out. They stay up all night cramming. They lose sleep.

Sometimes they even cheat.

Scenario: It’s 45 minutes into a biology exam and Jimmy blanks on the role of mitochondria. If he misses this question he’ll lose 5 marks, so he sneaks a peek at his neighbors’ sheet.

Students are constantly reminded how important good grades are, so it’s no wonder that they can occasionally give into the urge cheating. They know that every grade counts, every homework, assignment, test, project and pop quiz goes towards the final grade—which in turn reflects whether or not they will be accepted to university—and even which university they will be accepted to.

It’s a lot of pressure for the average teen.

According to Today’s Parent Magazine, studies in the US report that between 62 and 70 per cent of students admit to cheating on tests.

The pressure to succeed is one reason that kids sometime cheat.

For more reasons that kids cheat, stay tuned for part two of our look at cheating.

'So You Think You Can Dance' Has Good Messages For Everybody.


Lately, one of my guilty pleasures is watching the reality show So You Think You Can Dance

Each week, the contestants are taken out of their dancing comfort zone and made to learn new choreography in an unfamiliar style… with a partner they are unfamiliar with. In a limited time frame. In front of an international audience.

The incredible thing is, that each week the dancers nail it. They perform incredible dances that they’ve just learned, and they do it amazingly well.

But what’s really amazing is what’s going on behind the scenes in the competitors’ brain. Each week, under pressure, they are asked to intake a lot of new information (a new dance style) and assimilate it with knowledge they already have (technique and skills from their own dance experience.) The contestants adapt quickly, and under a tremendous amount of pressure and scrutiny.

Taking new information, figuring out how it fits with older knowledge, and then assimilating the two quickly—these are the same skills that pay off in the classroom.

So You Think You Can Dance has some important messages for students and parents alike:

  • It shows contestants adapting to new challenges and always having a good attitude and putting their best foot forward (literally!)
  • It has good lessons about taking constructive criticism and learning from it, and applying what you’ve learned
  • It shows that anything can be accomplished when you have passion and work to develop your skills
  • It celebrates the power of teamwork and what can be accomplished when teams encourage and support each other

Yes, So You think You Can Dance can be provocative and can push the envelope but for the most part, this reality show has positive messages about the benefits of hard work, striving to meet new challenges, and reaching personal goals. These lessons are important, whether on the dance floor, in the boardroom, or in the classroom.

Brain Fitness Fads


Over the past few decades many public trends have focused on the body. There were fad diets: the Scarsdale diet, the Stewardess diet, the Grapefruit diet, the Cabbage soup diet, South Beach Diet, Atkins, etc. And there have been plenty of exercise fads too: aerobics, spinning, weightlifting, pilates, hot yoga, etc.

Not that any of the science behind these fads is new, just that they had their time in the spotlight and for a while were the thing to do.

The body as fad has been around for quite awhile. I think it would be safe to say that the majority of people know that good nutrition and exercise are good for the body (whether or not most people act according to their knowledge is a whole other issue.)

So if the body as fad is on its way out, what is the next thing on the way in? According to the brain is, and has been, the next big thing. It’s so much a hot topic that Slate has been running a special series on the brain and has no fewer than 30 articles on the subject.

Meghan O’Rourke, author of the article Train Your Brain: The New Mania for Neuroplasticity says that the brain as vogue has been around for a while actually. But that it’s only been since the advent of the 21st century that what we know about the brain has really picked up steam. She’s right: cognitive science is not necessarily a new phenomenon. Public Discourse on it is.

And the past few years have seen a major development in the brain sciences—it’s called neuroplasticity, which is just a fancy way of saying that the brain is changeable.

Neuroplasticity effectively overturns old conceptions that once the brain was damaged it was damaged forever.

The public awareness of neuroplasticity is one of the reasons that brain games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles are so popular. Effectively, these are the modern fad exercise… only the muscle being worked out is the brain.

Neuroplasticity has plenty of educational ramifications too. It means that learning disabilities can be conquered and poor study skills can be undone and that impossible algebra equation CAN be learned, and even better, understood…

Not to brag, but the fact that the brain is elastic is something that we known about for years. We built our programs on this concept.

iPods not just for music anymore


If your child came home and told you that he needed an iPod for school, you’d probably be pretty suspicious. But this is just the sort of thing that your child may be telling you in the near future.

Duke University has repurposed music-playing iPods to function in the classroom. Since 2004, all incoming freshmen have received iPods to supplement their course work. This pilot project explores the potential of multimedia devices as educational supports. So far, the project has been well received.

The iPods are used to supplement course material by allowing faculty and students to:

  • Post and download lecture notes
  • Access course support materials like videos, images and Podcasts
  • Record oral exams
  • Have an easily portable, accessible, and transferable way to access notes

Student and teachers alike take training classes that cover both proper use of the device as well as responsible usage of the technology—a key point since critics say that multimedia devices in the classroom create new ways for students to cheat.

How to beat the word NO


How many times have you heard the word no in your life? Probably quite a few. Maybe even hundreds or possibly thousands. Probably you are even guilty of saying NO.

The thing about no, and not to put too fine a point on it—well, it’s negative.

Nobody believed IBM and Apple that computers would be small enough for personal use and be in every house in North America and Nicolaus Copernicus, when he revealed his sun—at—the—center model of the universe, met with outcry from the church. You can bet that they heard NO a few times in their lives. But they didn’t let NO stop them. So, what was it that made them keep going? What was that one thing that made them continue on with their quests? What made them turn NO’s into yes? The answer is curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to take risks.

To that, we would also like to add passion, and (not that we’re biased or anything) education.

You could say that education led men like Copernicus and Bill Gates to discover their passions, which in turn led them to discover great things.

Let’s look at a few more examples:

  • Science that led Ben Franklin to harness electricity
  • Astrophysicists that created the technology for space travel.
  • Orthopedics lead to the development of artificial knees and hips
  • Engineering lead to the creation of television

What do you think were the reaction to that first physicist who said that it was possible to send people into space and walk on the moon? Ridiculous! And when Ben said that he was going to fly a kite and capture electricity? Preposterous!

When you’re told NO—when you’re staring into the face of adversity—when the challenge is the hardest—that’s when the passionate rise to the occasion, use what they know and change the world.

To do this requires adopting a paradigm shift, a change in thinking. When someone tells you No, consider it an open challenge to achieve excellence.

The greatest minds of our time have seen NO not as an endpoint but as an opportunity.

Let Your Kids Have Some FUN!


Consider the word FUN. Overly concerned with development, parents are sucking all the fun out of childhood. They say manners are fun! Brushing your teeth is fun! Homework is fun! And activities that used to be genuinely fun—building forts, horseplay, and puddle-jumping get described as “good for you” or educational. And activities as simple as pretending are now being observed and analyzed. Is my child playing house as well as other children?

But parents can hardly be to blame for this over-analysis of childhood when institutions like the Association for Psychological Science and the American Society of Pediatrics releasing studies on simple childhood behaviors such as horseplay.

Do institutions really need to study such a thing? Don’t we intrinsically know that horseplay is good for kids? Do we need formal research to prove it?

Do you remember roughhousing as a kid? Do you remember how much fun it was (except for that one time you accidentally hit your head off the coffee table?)

Why do we have to examine every behavior as beneficial to our child’s development or as advantageous to his or her future? And why do we even try to hold childhood up to this impossible standard? Yes school and schoolwork is serious business, but we’re talking play here.

Slang? Maybe Not Such A Bad Thing


they’re good for more than just hitchhiking.

Teens these days do not use their thumbs for hitching rides on the side of the road. They use their thumbs to text rapid-fast messages to their friends on their cellphones. But, because keypads on cellphones are so tiny and typically thumbs are not, and each number key represents multiple letters, the tight maneuvering can lead to quite a few spelling mistakes.

Mistakes that can lead to hilarity—and to neologisms.

That’s right. The rapid-fast world of text-messaging has lead to the coining of new words. Well, new slang words.

For instance, did you know that pwn means own and that noobs means newbies?

But how can a spelling mistake become a word added to our common lexicon? It has to do with staying power. And these days a slang word is more likely than ever before to stick around. That’s because of where the slang is being used—in the cybersphere—it has more chances to reach across age groups, demographics, cultures, and societies. It can permeate. It can get picked up in the main stream and suddenly, what was once a spelling mistake can now be overheard in conversations on the street being held by parents, business professionals and even grandparents.

But do we have to worry about how slang and short forms is affecting teens’ language development? Not if they are able to use whole forms and demonstrate complete and competent language skills in they areas that need to, like in proper speech or on an essay.

This viewpoint on teens and text-messaging is a departure from our opinion of text messaging and language development in children who are in the lower-level grades and who are still are acquiring their language skills. (Read Texting versus Writing)

According to Katherine Barber of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, the fact that teens are developing new slang words is a good thing. “If the kids are picking up new words and new meanings then that means that they're playing with the language,” she says.

Spelling mistakes and the slang words that develop from rapid-fast thumb texting mean that kids are thinking about words, spelling and meaning, and that teens are playing an active role in language development.

Why can’t kids concentrate?


Did you know that studies show that in a single classroom more than 70% of children will have difficulties with focusing and paying attention? Seven out of ten; that’s an awfully high number.

Do all these kids truly have ADD or is there something else going on?

Consider our modern lifestyle and the role it plays in the lifestyle of today’s kids. Kids live in a world that moves at a faster pace than ever. They are exposed to more media images, faster sound bites, and can use multiple media outlets simultaneously. They can text message, type, use video controllers, cell phones, iPods, MP3 players, and Blackberries. They learn faster, adapt better, and multiprocess at a rate that no other generation before has ever been able to, or ever had to do.

Not sure about this? Watch some shows that are popular with kids—MTV for instance. Play a few video games. Use chat programs.

In a fast-paced world

The world of today’s kids is fast-paced and ever-changing. It jumps around from image to image, sound to sound, never lingering long in one place or on a single idea image or thought. There is no break in the stream of sound, images, or conversation. There is no breathing room.

On average, the typical TV program changes cuts (the time that the camera stays on the same focus or viewpoint) every 3-4 seconds. Video games, music videos, cartoons and even movies all move at this break-neck speed. These short sound bites do little to help develop a child’s attention span.

So these same kids who live a fast-moving, multiprocessing life are, on a daily basis, put in a classroom where they are expected to sit still and focus on a single thought, person, or image for a long stretch of time. That’s a major downshift for the child.

Is it any wonder that 70% of them are having difficulty staying on task, focusing, and paying attention? When are we actually taking the time to teach children how to pay attention? Just like reading, spelling, and writing, paying attention is a skill that children need to learn, practice and perfect.

Is the education system not doing enough to keep up with how quickly kids live their lives? Are we asking too much of today’s kids to sit still and singularly focus? Or is there really an epidemic of kids with symptoms like ADD/ADHD?

There are no real answers—only a good starting point. Let's begin by asking some important questions about children’s attention spans, the media environment, and the state of the education.

Trends as important as grades to college applications


A common myth is that once students are in the second semester of their junior year of secondary school, it's too late to improve their grades.

The truth is that most colleges and universities look for a trend in high school academic performance and place a lot of importance on improvement in grades during the second semester of a student's junior year.

Even if your child started out poorly (freshman English was not supposed to be that tough) or faltered along the way (he/she was totally convinced the tenth grade biology teacher 'had it in' for him/her), a trend of improvement can help erase poor freshman or sophomore year grades. Admissions officers are much more likely to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that students got their act together as secondary school progressed.

The weight placed on grades gradually increases, making first semester senior year the most important, then second semester junior year. Depending on when your teen applies to college or university, one of these sets of grades will be the last ones admissions officers see and the marks most likely to represent an accurate measure of your child's ability and work ethic.

The good news is, if you act now, there's still time to do what's necessary to improve a grade point average: stay in some weekends to study, go to teachers for help, do an extra credit assignment, or invest in a tutoring program such as the Oxford Learning Advantage High School Success™ program.

At Oxford Learning, our exclusive Dynamic Diagnostic Assessment™ pinpoints any weaknesses in how your teen learns. Then, we individualize a program to teach him/her to achieve his/her full academic potential by working smarter, conquering homework, studying effectively for tests and exams and writing brilliant essays. Advantage High School Success™ will prepare your child for success in the upper grades and college or university and build the skills required for graduate school success.

Oxford Logo for print output Five tips for effective studying


Being organized and prepares for tests and exams can make all the difference in how well students perform on them. Oxford Learning has five important tips to follow to help ensure effective studying.

Talk to teachers

Teachers love it when students ask them questions. Students should talk to their teachers after class and ask for an outline of the exam. Know the key areas on which to focus studying. Teachers may even offer exact questions that will be on the exam (or they may tell you nothing). It is worth asking though. Students may even get extra marks on the exam for their effort.

Ensure notes are complete

Most students have missed at least one class or dozed off a couple of times. Talk to friends, teachers or anyone who may have any missing information needed to study for a test or exam.

Condense notes

Make studying much less overwhelming by condensing notes and textbooks by creating mind maps or writing jot notes.

Create a study schedule

Plan study time considering the weight of each test or exam and current grades. Portion an approximate number of hours of studying for each exam. Record study days and number of hours in a planning calendar. Remember to do a weekly summary.

Study less

That's correct! Study in half hour increments, taking 10 to 15 minutes breaks. This will make studying more effective and provide more realistic study goals. Don't commit to studying for large blocks of time.


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