Just as athletes need periods of rest when they are training, our brains need breaks as well. We all know the feeling when we just can’t read another page of notes or write another sentence. But how does the brain determine when it needs a mental break?
Time magazine reports that according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, we receive a signal when we have reached our peak – think of the way our bodies screams out when we just can’t do another sit-up – and we are prompted by our brains to take a break. Once we have rested and are refreshed, we are able to resume the task at hand because the signal has quieted down.
But why are there days we seem to be able to work hard all day, and others when we seem to need a break every 20 minutes? Apparently the signal is not pre-set, and instead hinges on how much EFFORT is spent and what the reward for the work is. The brain is constantly re-calibrating the point at which it has had enough in relation to the work/gain ratio.
To read the full Time article on the study, click here.
To read more about how the brain influences us, click here.
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Does your child’s math homework cause painful-sounding groaning noises to emit from the homework area?
A new study suggests that those sounds may not be kids overreacting. Researchers at the University of Chicago suggests that the same brain areas are active in people suffering from math-anxiety as people who suffer from the threat of bodily harm, and in some cases, physical pain.
However, if your child thinks this is an excuse to avoid math homework like the plague, think again: the research shows that the brain’s response is to the anxiety, not the math itself. Therefore, once an individual puts an end to the math-anxiety and actually begins completing the work, the brain’s negative response ends. Ian Lyons, a scholar from the University of Western Ontario who helped with the study says,
“The brain activation does not happen during math performance, suggesting that it is not the math itself that hurts; rather the anticipation of math is painful.”
So maybe the cure for the pain math homework causes is actually do the unthinkable: sit down and do the homework!
To read more on the study about math anxiety and how it effects the brain, click here.
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Think that your child has too much homework? You are not alone.
Homework is not only a hot educational topic; it’s a political one. France’s president is even making the issue of homework a major part of his reelection campaign, promising to abolish homework if reelected.
And it’s not just France that is looking at instituting homework reform. Changes in approaches to homework are happening all across Canada and the US.
Educators and parents alike are saying it’s time to take a serious look at the homework issue and adopt some new guidelines to tackle some of the biggest problems associated with homework.
Some of those issues include:
- Too much homework has been linked to increased student stress, increased instances of cheating, and increased disparity in the achievement gap.
- That homework can interfere with home life and after-school activities that promote balance and a well-rounded life outside of school by placing too much of a demand on students’ time.
- That there has been no real research to prove that homework benefits before kids are in high school.
- Homework contributes to the gap between the rich and the poor.
- According to education experts, the goal of homework should be ultimately to help kids become deeper thinkers who are more excited about learning.
Watch this video about the issues with homework.
What are your thoughts on homework?
We’d love to hear them! Share them with us in the comments.
Want to read more about the subject of homework? Check out these other Oxford Learning articles:
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Here’s the gist:
Procrastination is linked to rewards. Rewards in turn are linked to motivation. If there is a choice between two things to do, one that brings immediate rewards and one that has rewards that won’t be given for a while, the brain chooses the immediate reward. The closer the reward, the higher the motivation. So techno distractions (YouTube, Facebook, endless Tumblr memes) have have more immediate value than getting an A+ on next week’s test.
HOWEVER, the closer that a reward seems, the greater its value. So the night before a test, suddenly the good grade seems more important. That means cramming.
Here’s another scientific factor: Choosing immediate rewards releases dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical. And dopamine is habit-forming.
So what’s the solution?
The video offers some great tips to help students of all ages trick science and their brain to overcome habit-forming dopamine and beat nasty procrastination for good.
1. Since the brain is seeking rewards, provide rewards in intervals.
2. Use a time to set a time frame for reward intervals. (The Science-y name is the Pomodoro technique.)
3. Acknowledge your procrastination.
4. Impose your own deadlines.
5. Put a positive spin on how you think about the work.
6. Make a list of the reasons why completing a task is a good idea.
7. Remove temptations.
Now take three minutes to watch this great video and get a better understanding of procrastination.
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We asked families what their biggest homework issue was and the majority of parents indicated that their children struggle the most with organization.
Organization is actually a very common school issue for many students–it is the cause of procrastination and it leads to frustration and to problems with time management issues.
So, to help, we complied our TOP HOMEWORK ORGANIZATION TIPS:
- Use an agenda every day, and learn to use it like a pro!
- Write the date and class on your notes. Put all loose pages in order in your binder.
- Before finishing homework for the night, double check that you have completed all tasks.
- Look ahead to tomorrow and gather all the supplies that you need for the next day and out them in the book bag.
- Keep all study and homework materials—pens, paper, calculators, dictionaries, whiteout—whatever you need—in a single spot. Get a clear tupperware bin to keep everything easily accessible. Don’t waste time searching for items you need to have at the tips of your fingertips.
- Use a wall calendar to keep track of after-school activities and chores.
- Make daily to-do lists in the agenda and check off items as they are completed.
What tips do you use to keep your family organized and to combat homework struggles? We’d love to hear them!
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The always controversial topic of homework was making headlines again recently as French parents and teachers considered a two-week homework ban.
Most parents of school-age children can sympathize: homework is a common issue in many households.
So we decided to put the issue of homework to a poll by asking what is your family’s biggest homework struggle?
- Disorganization: leaving assignments to the last minute, forgetting work at school, etc.
- Distractions: too much TV, Internet, video games, texting
- Scheduling: lots of extracurricular activities, not enough time
- Comprehension: not understanding questions, which can lead to frustration
What do you think the biggest issue is? You can still vote on our FB poll! We’d love to hear from you! And don’t forget to “Like” us while you’re there!
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Want to make your homework simpler? Check out our 4 tips to take your homework habits from headache-inducing to hassle-free. Homework might be an unavoidable part of school, but it doesn’t have to be the worst part.
Use your agenda.
The brain is capable of great feats, but it’s not perfect. So don’t rely on it to remember every little detail of what you learned in school. When a teacher assigns homework, write it down! Most schools provide agendas to students for free (or for a small charge). That’s because they are the best organizational tools available. The trick is to not just write everything down in class, but also to remember to take it out of the school bag at night, open it up, and remind yourself of what’s on tonight’s to-do list.
More agenda tips here.
Computer on, TV on, texts messages incoming…it’s not multi-tasking, it’s distracting. So shut off all the electronics and focus on the task at hand for a set period of time. You’ll find that it’s easier to concentrate and that tasks take less time. Studies have also found that learning isn’t as deep and that retention suffers when kids multi-task.
The majority of the time, simply getting tonight’s homework done is the name of the game. And rightly so, but what happens if you’re struggling with a question, or can’t figure out an answer? Before giving up to frustration, take a small break then come back and take a look at your textbook. Flip to the beginning of the chapter and read what the chapter is all about. Do the same with the next chapter. Move ahead a few questions and see if the next section can help explain a little better. If not, use the Internet. Don’t just stare at the question in front of you; ask yourself how this question relates to what you’ve been learning overall. And keep in mind the point of homework: to reinforce concepts learned in class.
More active learning tips here
Homework is as much a part of the daily routine as waking up in the morning and going to bed at night, but it’s often the most disorganized part. So streamline the process: keep all the homework-related accessories you need in a bin or a bucket so you don’t waste time searching for pens or for a calculator, pick the same spot to do your homework in every night, and (when possible) do your homework at the same time every night to get your body’s clock into the a natural homework rhythm.
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How to maximize the best organizational tool available
We know why using an agenda is important, right? Short-term memory is imperfect, kids forget their homework assignments, organization skills are important to academic success: these are just some of the great reasons that schools to provide agendas and/or planners to students.
But one major shortcoming of being given an agenda at school is that students are rarely taught how to use it. Of course, there is the general knowledge that it’s purpose is to write down homework and assignments so they are not forgotten, but an agenda does so much more than that.
AGENDA USAGE FOR BEGINNERS:
- Bring the agenda to school every day
- Bring the agenda to every class
- Write down all homework and assignments
- Bring the agenda home every night
- Take it out of the schoolbag and open to today’s page
- After all work is done, put it back in the school bag
- Repeat every day
Following these seven simple tips will help students avoid the ubiquitous “I forgot my homework!” scenario. However, agendas can actually be used to take time management to the next level and can even help transfer organizational skills into other areas of life.
ADVANCED AGENDA USAGE:
For students who have the Agenda Usage Basics locked down, and want to take their organization abilities to the next level.
1. Prioritize Workflow. Use your to-do list to your advantage by starting with the most important task.
- Look at everything on the list—all the homework and assignments for the night.
- Determine what’s most important/ needs to be completed first.
- Highlight or underline that task.
2. Put it in Order. Use A,B,Cs to assign importance and order of completion. If math is due tomorrow, but history isn’t due for 2 days, assign math an A, and history a B. If you have time to complete both, great, if not, then at least the most important task is done
3. Tick Tock. Keep track of how long each task takes to complete. This is a good way to learn to estimate how long future tasks might take to complete.
4. Write Your Thoughts. Keep track of questions to ask the teacher during the next class, ideas for projects, add-ins for notes, musings about school subjects…
5. Countdown to Tests. It’s one thing to write down that a test is happening on a given day, but without a countdown, it’s easy to forget about it until you turn the page to that day, then OH NO! Avoid this by keeping a test countdown
- Write the test day in the agenda on the day of the test
- Turn to the previous date’s page, and write something such as TEST IN 1 DAY
- Repeat on every preceding day until today’s date, counting up as you move backwards
- Schedule in study time every night between now and the test.
6. Check off Completed Tasks. When an assignment is completed, check it off. If time ran out, draw an arrow then flip the page and write the task on tomorrow’s to-do list.
7. Keep track of extra-curricular activities. Agendas are not just for school. They’re a great place to keep track of all the to-dos in a day, including extra-curricular activities, chores, sports, even parties and get-togethers.
8. Double Up with a Wall Calendar. Sometimes it helps to see all upcoming projects and homework at a glance. Write down regular activities and upcoming events and projects calendar to get an idea of how busy the month is and to keep priorities and projects top-of-mind.
Have any agenda tips that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the list!
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Studies show that when parents are engaged in education their children perform better in school. All parents want their kids to be successful in school and sometimes that means rolling up your sleeves and lending a helping hand.
The ultimate aim of education is to have children who are organized, independent thinkers, both responsible and capable of taking academic risks. The majority of children need a little support from Mom and Dad to get to that point. But how much help is too much?
Somewhere between seeing grades on the report card for the first time and scheduling weekly phone conversations with the teacher is the perfect amount of parental school involvement. Parents should be involved and aware of what is going on at school, but not actively completing work for their kids.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO HELP PARENTS GET INVOLVED IN THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION
Communicate. Talk to kids about school every day. Ask specific questions about classes. Rather than asking, “how was school?” ask, “how was math class? What did you learn?” Parents should know their kids schedule and teachers’ names, and stay abreast of upcoming projects and assignments.
Don’t Wait for the Report Card. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is waiting too long to correct problems. Rather than waiting for the first report card or progress report to come home, parents should follow up with issues that come up when and if they come up. If there’s a quiz on Friday, ask how it went on Monday. If marks are not what they should be, arrange a talk with the teacher and make a plan. And don’t be afraid to simply call the teacher just to check in and make sure that everything is going smoothly.
Help with Homework. There are a lot of DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to homework help. It boils down to two basic rules: Help, but don’t do the work for them. Parents should help create a homework-friendly atmosphere where children can focus and get the work done without getting stressed out or losing motivation.
Organization. Morning, after-school, and evening routines all require organization skills to run smoothly. Whether it’s emptying book bags right after school, picking out school clothes the night before, or enforcing bedtimes, an organized routine teaches kids consistency, which pays off in school. If disorganization is a problem at home, it’s likely a problem at school. Kids who demonstrate consistent organization skills at home transfer those skills with them to the classroom. Help kids get organized at home, and you’re helping them be organized in school.
Set Goals Together. Part of the communication process involves setting academic goals for the school year. Help kids learn to think about long-term outcomes by discussing personal and academic ambitions, big or small. Be sure to keep goals realistic, achievable, and measurable. Use calendars, planners, agendas, or use our Academic Action Plan to keep goals on-track.
Do you have great tips to share on how you get involved in your child’s education? We’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment…and don’t forget follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
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We know that creating hand-written study notes is a surefire way to maximize your study efforts. It turns passively reading over notes into an active endeavor that uses multiple senses and helps to improve recall.
But just how do you create study notes, and what should you look for? The main thing to remember when creating study notes is summarize, summarize, summarize! Study notes are all about the art of condensing.
Here’s how to begin:
1. Grab a pen and paper. To maximize the benefit of studying, study notes should be written out by hand. Studies show that the act of writing is more beneficial than typing study notes on the computer.
2. Write down Key Words. Start by identifying all subject headings/subheadings/bolded words. These are the main ideas of each section and unit, and identify what the section is about.
3. Summarize. Under each heading, summarize the information. Use bullet points. Be brief. The point is to jot down the main ideas, not re-write the chapter.
4. Paraphrase. Read over a sentence and then say it back using your own words. What two or three words stand out as most important? Write those down.
5. Get Messy! These are your study notes, so develop a system that works for you. Colour code. Triple Underline. Sketch. Whatever will help you remember—and understand—is what will make your study notes successful.
As you practice creating study notes, you’ll get better and better at picking out the main messages and the key words to remember. This means that your study notes themselves will condense. The first time you create your own study notes, your might have multiple pages; as time goes one, you’ll be able to summarize your study notes onto on single, easy-to-refer-to page.
Want more information about creating study notes or other study tips? Your local Oxford Learning Centre can answer all your questions, and tell you all about a program that can help make studying and learning easier. Call today!
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