Archive for July, 2010

Clap, clap, clap, clap your hands – and reap neurological benefits

Friday, July 30th, 2010 by admin

Hand-clapping songs are not idle play; they have legitimate neurological value.  Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) conducted the first study on hand-clapping songs.  The study found that “hand-clapping songs improve motor and cognitive skills” (Science Daily).

Dr. Idit Sulkin, of BGU, went to elementary schools and engaged children either in school board sanctioned music appreciation programs or hand-clapping songs training, each program lasting for 10 weeks.  At the end of the ten weeks, children who underwent the hand-clapping songs training and had not taken part in hand-clapping songs until that point “caught up in their cognitive abilities to those [children] who did” (Science Daily).  The finding, however, applied only to children who participated in hand-clapping songs; those children in the board of education sanctioned musical appreciation program did not show the cognitive gains obtained by those children participating in hand-clapping songs.

Hand-clapping games are great for kids' socialization and neurological development.

Hand-clapping songs serve as a “developmental platform to enhance children’s needs – emotional, sociological, physiological and cognitive” (Science Daily).  Yes, your child might want to play Suzy Q fifteen times a day, and yes, it probably gets old, but play along!  Even adults reap benefits from hand-clapping songs: once adults “‘start clapping, they report feeling more alert and in a better mood'” (Science Daily).  Perhaps we could all use some more hand-clapping songs in our lives! Some Brainjogging favorites:

Miss Mary Mac
Miss Mary Mac, Mac, Mac
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence
They jumped so high, high, high
They reached the sky, sky, sky
And they never came back, back, back
‘Til the Fourth of July, -ly, -ly!

*Clap, pat, clap, touch hands three times; repeat for each line.

Double, Double
Double, double, this, this;
Double, double, that, that;
Double, this;
Double, that;
Double, double, this, that!

* “Double, double” – pat, pat
“This, this” – clap, clap (palms facing partner)
“That, that” – clap, clap (palms facing self; hands’ backs touch)
“This, that” – clap, clap (palms facing partner for “this,” palms facing self for “that”)

Also use:

Sara Bernstein's "Hand Clap!" includes several alternate hand-clapping rhymes.

Language Processing Disorder

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 by admin
Imagine raising your hand to ask what you thought was a serious question - and hearing laughter instead of a response.

Imagine raising your hand to ask what you believed to be a perfectly reasonable question - and hearing laughter instead of a response.

Wilson Meyer* was considered a “class clown.”  He seemed always to be asking perfectly obvious questions, much to his peers’ amusement.  Wilson’s literature teacher instructed the class to, “Turn to the page opposite of 13,” and Wilson raised his hand: “Is that 31?”  The class shuddered with laughter – and Wilson laughed, too, although he wasn’t quite sure what was so funny. The rest of the class had turned their workbooks to page 14.

Wilson had a very difficult time following directions, both at home and school.  When Wilson’s mother said, “Go get ready for dinner,” she was often dismayed and confused to find him inactive.  On worksheets and tests, Wilson’s teachers found that he might follow one direction from a series of directions, but rarely or never completed each direction in the series. Strings of oral directions seemed to be lost in translation.  If a series of directions read, “Cross out the fraction that isn’t equivalent to the others and circle the fraction that is in simplest form,” Wilson might cross out all of the inequivalent fractions but fail to circle any of the simplified fractions; he would simply miss that direction entirely.  On one test about Louis Lowry’s Number the Stars, Wilson referred consistently to “War War Two,” his brain not recognizing the subtle differences between the words “world” and “war.”  Wilson heard “War War Two” when his teacher talked about World War Two, so Wilson wrote “War War Two” without ever realizing his error.

Wilson was constantly telling lies; not big lies, just small ones.  When his father asked if he’d finished his homework, he said, “Yes, sir,” simply because saying, “No, I haven’t finished it,” would get him into trouble.  His father would say, “Why haven’t you finished it?” and Wilson would not feel comfortable saying, “Because I don’t understand the directions or know what half of the words mean.”  So, he would just say yes, because yes was an easy and convenient answer.

Despite the fact that he didn’t seem to be able to follow vague or extensive directions, he was able to help his mother develop systems for keeping the mail organized; rearrange the furniture in the den simply by eyeballing the room, rather than measuring it. Wilson could build magnificent Lego structures and seemed to have an innate grasp of mathematics, but he didn’t understand homophones and was forever misunderstanding idioms.  His spatial awareness, however, was acute: Wilson was an excellent athlete.  He was a talented baseball player and an active child.  He enjoyed working outside on his family’s farm, and was particularly drawn to tasks that required him to problem solve: How should we arrange the tack room so that we have equal access to equipment?

Wilson Meyer has Language Processing Disorder.  People with LPD are concrete literal – they appreciate specific, straightforward directions and often have trouble comprehending language, written and oral.  Concrete manipulative toys appeal to children with LPD; Legos and Bionicles are great toys that allow children to problem solve and manipulate objects.  [Please note that Brainjogging does not endorse these toys as products, merely as learning tools; also, Brainjogging does not advocate using these websites online gaming counterparts, merely the concrete blocks and figurines.] Action figures and dolls also appeal to children with LPD.  These children work very well from checklists; click here to download a Brainjogging checklist Meyer’s mother found that telling him, “Go wash your hands; dinner’s ready,” was a far more effective way get Meyer ready for dinner than was saying, “Go get ready for dinner.”  Children with LPD tend to possess incredible planning abilities.  Their spatial awareness is acute. Individuals with LPD are often very physical people; many are excellent athletes.  These are the strengths of individuals with LPD.  Their weaknesses derive from the speed at which they process language: children and adults with LPD process language approximately half a second slower than do typically-developing individuals.  This, of course, can be overcome.  Brainjogging is an excellent tool for people with LPD: Brainjogging increases individuals’ cognitive processing speed.  Brainjogging exposes children with LPD to idioms’ significance and the mystery of homophones; Brainjogging trains children to listen carefully to words and assess their meaning.

*Name changed to protect student’s identity

The Relationship between Children and Television

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 by admin

Your mother probably told you that television would rot your brain; she also probably plopped you down in front of the “idiot box” when she needed a moment of peace or a free hand.  I didn’t know that I would ever become such a critic of allowing young children to watch television, but scientific research – combined with the advice of many a mother – compels me to join the “No TV” team.   Yes, television is an easy babysitter; no, it is not a viable, healthy alternative to physical interaction.  If you need to keep your child busy, provide him or her with large, connectable blocks (the preschooler’s Legos).  Children need toys that encourage them to problem-solve and manipulate objects.  Through tactile experiences, children learn to relate with the world.  Time in front of the television might be a quick-fix for an agitated child, but it also “replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks, which foster cognitive, behavioral, and motor development” (Science Daily).

Imagine the static on this television screen as your child's brain; TV can scramble children's ability to interact and problem solve positively and proactively.

A recent study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, from experts at the Universite de Montreal, Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the University of Michigan, found “that television exposure at age two forecasts negative consequences kids, ranging from poor school adjustment to unhealthy habits” (Science Daily). Spending time in front of the television affects children in myriad negative ways: classroom engagement decreases, math achievement decreases, victimization by classmates increases, weekend and general physical activity decrease, soft drink and snack consumption increases and, perhaps unsurprisingly, so, too, does Body Mass Index (BMI).

NPR’s Zorba Paster discussed the Canadian study on-air on Saturday, 22 May 2010. Dr. Paster pronounced television for young children to be a bad idea, going so far as to say, “TV makes you stupid.” Dr. Paster even discredits Baby Einstein, beloved by many well-intentioned parents; there is absolutely no substitute for human interaction.  You can listen to Dr. Paster’s entire Saturday, 22 May 2010 show here, or download the podcast from Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR).  Canadian scientists are asking you not to subject your child to needless television exposure, particularly at a young, vulnerable ago;   so, too, are renowned doctor Zorba Paster and Brainjogging.  Please, allow your child’s mind to develop in a way that will not compromise its abilities!  You’ll be doing yourself and, more importantly, your child, an enormous favor.

Brainjogging makes the most of summer: Summer Booster Session

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by admin

Brainjoggers experience a different type of "summer slide" than do those children whose summers pass by with little or no educational stimulation.

Children, parents and teachers often idealize summer as a time for relaxation, creativity and freedom from the rigor of academics.  Too often, however, students end up devoting their summer days to cartoons and video games.  Time magazine’s David von Drehle reported on “The Case Against Summer Vacation,” in which he describes “summer learning loss” or “the summer slide” (36).  Von Drehle primarily makes the case for summer programs’ necessity based on the widening achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students; he neglects to mention that students with learning disabilities lose roughly the same amount of information as low-income students do over extended periods of absence from educational stimulation.  Von Drehle writes that, “children with access to high-quality experiences keep exercising their minds and bodies” over the summer, but that students “students without resources languish … in front of glowing screens” (36).  These are the situations in which children lose ground; yes, a child can be exposed to great things – museums, zoos, aquariums, science centers, etc. – but if that child has a learning disability, he or she may not be able to retain the educational value of those experiences.

Brainjogging is hosting Summer Booster Session, a summer camp in LaGrange, Georgia, from 2 August 2010 through 13 August 2010.  There will be two one-week sessions; parents can register their children for either one or both weeks.   Camp runs from 9 am until 11 am each morning.  Each week is $195.  Campers must have a laptop computer and a current Brainjogging lease, which is an additional $95 total; the Brainjogging lease will be active for four weeks.  Brainjoggers must also own a WhisperPhone, which costs $16. Brainjogging’s Summer Booster Session provides children with an opportunity to attend an educationally-stimulating and socially-invigorating camp!  Students learn through audionyms and songs, through physical calisthenics and mental ones.  Ron Fairchild, CEO of National Summer Learning Association, stated, “We expect that athletes and musicians would see their performance suffer without practice.  Well, the same is true of students” (38).  This is too true; Brainjogging focuses on the principle that “like an athlete tones his body for physical endurance, toning the mind enhances mental endurance and performance.”  Brainjogging’s Summer Booster Session will prepare all learners for the upcoming school year!

The Dreaded Homophones . . .

Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by admin

Homophones are tricky little words – they’ll trip up typically developing individuals and learning disabled ones alike, but individuals with Language Processing Disorder have a particularly difficult time processing and differentiating between homophones. 

Homophones are words that sound similar but mean different things; often, homophones are not spelled the same, but there are exceptions (“desert,” meaning a dry, arid region and “desert,” to abandon, for example).  Children encounter multiple homophones throughout their education – and into their adult years.  How frequently do you receive a note that reads, “I hope your doing well!” or an email from a colleague that says, “I believe this is relevant to you’re project”?  Knowing how and when to use correct homophones is vital to one’s conveyance of self; college advisors and employers make judgments based on the degree to which they feel the potential student or employee grasps language.  Brainjogging believes on educating students to a point where they function seamlessly in society.  Brainjogging’s desire is that Brainjogging students become self-sustaining, independent and successful individuals.  Understanding homophones, among myriad other nuances of the English language, is tremendously important in helping students function successfully.

Here is a list of some homophones that one might frequently encounter:

Air, heir
Angel, angle
Bare, bear
Break, brake
Cell, sell
Cent, scent
Coarse, course
Complement, compliment*
Dear, deer
Die, dye
Him, hymn
Hole, whole
Principal, principle*
Profit, prophet
Right, write
Their, there and they’re*
To, too and two*
Wear, where*
Your, you’re*

*A star indicates homophones with which I believe students have a particularly difficult time.

Norwegian Study Reinforces Brainjogging’s Effectiveness

Friday, July 9th, 2010 by admin

Students with learning disabilities, and particularly students with Dyslexia, show signs of visual processing deficits. If there is a discrepancy in the way a person visually receives information, the brain then processes that information differently than it would if the information were received “correctly.”  One of Brainjogging’s guiding principles is that there is an irrefutable link between visual stimulation and the brain’s ability to process perceived stimulation. ScienceDaily reports that The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), too, theorizes that “the failure of magno cells to work the way they should may explain multiple learning disabilities and developmental problems.”

NTNU’s Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson conducted a study revealing “that children who have great mathematical difficulties also have significantly poorer visual perception associated with rapid changes in environment.”  Deficient magno cells also lead to problems with handwriting and motor skills.  Children with, as professionals say, “imprecise motor skills,” suffer from an inability to perceive stimuli properly.  If children cannot quite perceive their relationship to objects, they cannot manipulate these objects with the prowess as can individuals whose magno cells function properly.    ScienceDaily suggests “children with dysfunctional magno cells probably need more specific tools to help them understand visual information than we previously thought.”

Brainjogging is the “more specific [tool]” that individuals with learning disabilities need!  Brainjogging’s letter flash exercises stimulate the eyes’ magno cells, which respond to rapid movements and then transmit signals from the eye to the brain.  Brainjogging’s consistent stimulation of magno cells, and the replication of letter patterns, strengthens students’ magno cells’ capacity to correctly view stimuli, which allows the brain to process that information properly.

Building Children Up

Friday, July 9th, 2010 by admin

Columbus instructor Sellers Cook and a six year old student enjoy a moment outside.

Children thrive with praise.  Human beings desire to feel that they are, at the most basic level, “good.”  Children with learning disabilities may sometimes feel that they are somehow “less” than other children – less smart, less socially compelling, less interesting, less likely to do well in school and, really, in life.  Not doing well in school affects a child’s sense of self, and if that child isn’t doing well because she or he has an untreated or incorrectly treated learning disability, that child, and his or her parents, might feel a heightened sense of pressure to perform and, consequently, a great deal of guilt for not being able to reach certain standards.

It is imperative to build children up with words of praise and affirmation.  Be encouraging.  While your child’s learning disability may be discouraging for you – as it certainly is for the child, at times – he or she looks to you for support and stability.  Having a learning disability doesn’t set a child’s value apart from that of other children, but the LD child may feel that he or she is somehow unworthy.  Perhaps one of my favorite signifiers of a student’s Brainjogging progress is his or her general “warming up” to school and, consequently, to life and interpersonal relationships.  When children begin to do better in school, they begin to feel a bit more confident.  This confidence spills over into the child’s relationships with other individuals.  It is a wonderful thing to feel that you have helped rekindle a child’s spark!

Manipulatives’ power: Harness students’ tendency toward concrete objects with Math U See

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 by admin

I have always been decent at math, but it has never been a favorite subject of mine.  In the past, I did relatively well on the math sections of standardized tests, but after approximately seven months with Brainjogging, I took the GRE and was absolutely shocked to find that I scored higher on the math section of the test than on the language section.  This was the first time in the history of my life that my math skills have exceeded my language faculties; I was an English major, for Pete’s sake!  While teaching with Brainjogging, I spent several months teaching math to one of my eighth grade students.  We started with simple math – addition, subtraction – and progressed to more difficult operations.

While my math skills improved by leaps and bounds, this child’s math skills would increase and then, after a few days of Brainjogging sporadically, they would regress.  We went through a seemingly endless cycle of the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back.”  And then Shirley Pennebaker, Brainjogging’s author and founder, stumbled across Math U See, a manipulative-based math program created by Steve Demme.  Manipulative tools are absolutely amazing teaching tools, particularly for children with learning disabilities or visual and tactile learners.

I received the Math U See book and manual prior to receiving the manipulatives, and proceeded to work through the first two chapters with this student without using manipulatives.  The chid was very much her same self: some days were stunningly successful, others were frustratingly stalled.  There were days when she mixed up operations and signs, or misread problems and made seemingly careless mistakes – and then the manipulatives arrived.

Math U See's starter block set contains blocks representing the numbers one through ten.

Using the manipulatives, I went back through the first two chapters of the Math U See Pre-Algebra manual with this child.  Her scores improved approximately twofold with the inclusion of Math U See’s manipulative blocks.  She blazed through chapters one, two, three and four.  This child recently took a standardized math exam; her scores placed her as a tenth grade student in her eighth month.   I am immensely proud of this student; she has taken herself to another level, intellectually, and Math U See helped her get there!

Starting small: First, build a foundation for knowledge!

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 by admin

Same/different is a concept that many individuals, as children, come to understand simply from living and responding to stimuli in their environment, and that others come to understand only after being explicitly trained in determining similar and differentiating features.  Brainjogging spent many weeks reviewing same/different with one particular child.  We threw questions about things being the same or different into almost every lesson – and then, when the child finally grasped the idea of things being “twins” or looking alike and other things not looking alike, we threw a wrench in the gears: we began showing the child objects of the same color but different shapes, or of the same shapes but in different colors.  This was not initially well-received by the student.

Yesterday, however, she held up two Silly Bandz to me.  “Miss Sellers, are these same, or different?”

I looked at the proffered objects: a yellow dinosaur shape (a brontosaurus, perhaps?) and a yellow (and slightly troglodytic) giraffe.  I chose my words carefully, so as to provide the student with a deliberate and, I hoped, comprehensible answer, “They are different shapes.”

The child laughed, “Silly Miss Sellers!  Same color, different shape!” She gleefully slipped both Silly Bandz onto her wrists and carried on doing her take away math.

This was, for me, the “aha!” moment of the day.

Study habits and students: Brainjoggers learn how to be proactive learners

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 by admin

Some children seem to be harder to reach than others; my most hard-headed child recently told me, “You’ve taught me good study habits, Miss Sellers.”

 I am not at all lying when I say I almost cried. This child, however, is a pubescent boy who would have been mortified at the sight of tears, especially ones he brought about, so I kept it together and patted him on the back and said, “You just made my day, friend.”
This particular child struggled to copy down his homework; if he did copy it down at school, he did not complete it at home; if he did copy it down and complete it, he often forgot to turn it in. He also struggled with multiple-step directions, often completing one direction quite successfully but completely ignoring another. There were parent conferences, there were teacher conferences – but children need to realize their own intrinsic strength and ability. This child needed confidence, and he needed to understand that he is not only capable of completing his work and turning it in, but also that he is proficient in his studies when he really attends to them.

The thing is, I did not necessarily teach this boy good study habits. I modeled them and encouraged them, but Brainjogging did the difficult work of preparing his mind to receive the instructions! Brainjogging helped this boy to access his potential. He blossomed from a sullen, video game-addicted preteen to a friendly, confident young man. He looks you in the eye when he speaks to you; he tells jokes; he even volunteers information about upcoming tests and quizzes and proceeds to launch into a litany of relevant facts. I don’t believe that this boy could have made such a phenomenal transformation without Brainjogging’s help – and I am so thankful for this child and his progress!