Exercise. Sleep. Nutrition.
These all play an important role in the learning process and can have an impact on kids’ performance in school. In this newsletter we offer tips and suggestions to help kids get healthy and get better grades.
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There’s no doubt everyone feels a little sleepy the first few days back to work or school after the holidays. But routines shouldn’t change drastically when school is not in session: keeping similar sleep and wake times can help your child get into the school routine more quickly than those who spend their holidays staying up late and sleeping in every day.
Children don’t only feel lethargic and tired just after holidays though. Many students have difficulty getting up each morning after staying up late watching TV or texting. This can lead to students falling asleep in class, or being awake but not cognitively alert enough to process and store new information from morning classes. This can have a direct effect on your child’s grades, as lack of sleep impairs the brain’s ability to transfer and store information to long-term memory.
Check out our sleep checklist to help determine if your child is getting the right amount of Zzz’s to get those A’s!
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What’s the secret to helping your teen get better grades?
And, what’s the secret to getting him or her to be less sullen and moody?
The answer might surprise you. It’s the same answer to both questions: more sleep!
According to the Sleep Foundation, teens need between 8 ½ and 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night. They also, however, have biological difficulty falling asleep before 11 pm.
If teens need about 9 hours of sleep, and hit the sheets around 11 pm, that means that they should be waking up bright-eyed and ready to go around 8 am.
By the time that they have breakfast, and get ready for school, then leave for school, they should be right on time for their 10 am class, ready to learn!
Teen Biology + Early School Start Times = Lack Of Sleep And Poor Grades
Here’s the problem: most high school’s first classes begin between 8-9 am (some even earlier.)
This results in sleepy students. (Studies report that up to 20% of teens fall asleep in class on a regular basis.) And, as any parent of a teen can tell you, it also results in a severe case of the grumps.
It can also be linked to increase in teenage car accidents!
And not surprisingly, it results in poor grades.
One researcher says that sleep deprivation in teens is “three strikes against learning,” because 1) students aren’t alert enough to learn properly in class, 2) they aren’t mentally storing the information that they are learning correctly, and 3) they are not getting the sleep that they need in order to process learned information and transfer it to long-term memories.
That’s why some approximate 80 school districts across the USA are implementing later start times for highschoolers. The results of the later school start times are impressive:
• Less grumpiness
• Improvement in general health and nutrition
• Less falling asleep in class—about 20% less
• Less reported feelings of depression
• Less absenteeism
• Improved grades
What time does your teen’s high school start? Do you think it’s too early? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Put your hand up if you like to watch TV before you go to sleep.
Put your hand up if you’ve sent texts, answered emails, or answered a phone call while in bed.
Now put your hand up if you have had a bad night’s sleep, or have woken up tired.
New studies are showing that using technology during the hour before bed can significantly disrupt sleep patterns.
The research shows that artificial light from screens—even small ones like cellphones—disrupts circadian rhythms and causes poor sleep.
For students, the lack of sleep can affect learning ability. 55% of 13-18 year-olds surveyed were using some laptops before bed, which means less-than-optimal classroom performance. That’s because the brain recharges during sleep. It’s when the brain is moving and storing information—specifically moving fact-based memories from the hippocampus where they are stored temporarily, to the prefrontal cortex, which is essentially the brain’s hard drive. This means more room for learning. But in order to make room to learn more information tomorrow, you have to get a good night’s sleep.
That means no pre-bed video games. No late night text-a-thons. No falling asleep with the TV on.
Don’t make technology part of your sleep routine. Log off at least an hour before bed, and choose activities that will help your body get into sleep mode.
Here are some ideas:
1. Dim the lights
2. Read a book
3. Skim over school work
4. Organize your bookbag
5. Write in a journal
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It’s tough being in high school, trying to get good marks, have a social life, help out around the house, and still have personal time. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t time to get things done. I try to stay on top of everything, but there are only so many hours in the day.
I’d like to stay up late to work on personal stuff, but I have to get up before 7 for school, so then I am tired. And then I read that teenagers need a lot of sleep.
This makes me wonder why we start school so early? It’s nice to be done before 3, but I think that it might be better to start a bit later in the morning. I see so many sleepy kids in my classes. and wonder how much we really are learning. I’d like to see school start around 9, maybe even later. Then I’d get to sleep in a bit and stay up a bit later too. The studies say I am right, so what are we waiting for?
About me: I go to South Secondary School in London, ON and I have two younger siblings. I have always been a movie guy. But movies aren’t the only thing I enjoy. In the summer I love to bike with my friends down to the Thames River and ride along the trails. The sights and the entire ride are always beautiful. Anyway, hopefully you’ll enjoy my posts! Remember to leave feedback and comments at the bottom! – Dylan.
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When it comes to back-to-school prep, getting kids ready to head back to the classroom involves more than just new school supplies and an updated wardrobe. Kids need to get mentally psyched up for the return to the classroom. But, when do you start back-to school prep? A few days before? Maybe a week?
How about right now? By re-introducing school-year habits and routines well before school begins, and by engaging in activities that kick the brain into high gear, kids naturally shift out of the summer mindset and get ready for a year of learning.
Our 10 Back-To-School Tips help you get your entire family on track for a better school year…starting right now.
- Up and At ‘Em. The first bell of the school year rings early—sometimes, much earlier than kids and parents would like. Take the fumbling and grumbling out of school mornings by setting a wake-up schedule now. If kids don’t have an alarm clock, why not get them their own and let them take responsibility for waking up in the morning?
- Hit the sheets. Nothing makes an early morning routine worse than a lack of sleep the night before. Plus, kids need a full night’s sleep to stay mentally alert all day in class. Start implementing bedtimes…even for older kids. It makes learning (and morning routines) that much easier.
- Good Grub. Research continually shows the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, especially for students in class all day. Without proper morning nutrition, kids can feel drowsy and distracted. You want your kid focused on the teacher, not on his/her growling belly.
- What to wear, what to wear. Avoid last-minute searches for green socks, or favourite baseball caps by picking out the next day’s clothes the night before. If you are selecting the wardrobe, give kids a few options and let them choose. They’ll feel a sense of inclusion and responsibility when they feel that they have a say in the decision-making.
- I’ll take that to go, please. Unless you pay for school lunches, midday grub usually comes packed from home. Get into the habit of planning lunches the day before, whether it’s leftovers, or simple sandwiches, and take the question mark out of lunchtime meal planning. It’s one less thing that you’ll have to worry about in the morning.
- We now return to our regular-scheduled programming. The school day is all about scheduled timing. Start times. End times. Recess. Lunch. As much as possible, follow a schedule that mimics the school day. This includes wake up times, bedtimes, playtimes, TV time, and lunchtime. Don’t forget to make time in the day for learning too!
- TV off, homework on. During the school year, TV and computers are kids’ biggest homework distraction. Start eliminating that bad homework habit by turning off the TV during the after-school hours, coming to the table, and engaging in some sort of brain-challenging activity.
- Read. Reading is probably the single best way to keep kids mentally active all year long. Plus, it’s a great way for kids to practice sustaining their attention span, to build their vocabulary, and to develop their reading comprehension skills.
- Use the ‘S’ word. Help kids get in the school frame of mind by talking about school. How many days are left until the first day? What are the kids looking forward to? What are they nervous about? What is the best memory from last year? Kids may need some conversational prompting, so reference highlights from last year and be sure to keep it positive to build excitement!
- Something else? Okay so we could use your help thinking of a 10th item to round out our list! How are you getting your family ready for back-to-school? We’d love to hear your family’s tips! Share your back-to-school ideas in the comments section below. If we pick your idea as our 10th tip, we’ll send you Oxford Learning back-to-school swag!
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1. Oversleeping/Not Getting Enough Sleep. Students of all ages need a bedtime. Research has shown us time and again that during sleep, the brain files and stores information learned throughout the day. Just as oversleeping can wreak havoc on a morning routine, not getting enough sleep can seriously disrupt a student’s ability to focus in class.
2. Poor Nutrition. Food is fuel—the better the quality, the better the performance. If children eat a sugar-filled breakfast, or skip breakfast altogether, they run the risk of performing less than optimally in school. Without proper nutrition, children can tire out and lose focus. Students should be focusing on their teacher, not on their rumbling bellies.
3. Too Much Screen Time. TVs, computers, and cell phones are distracting to students. Mounting evidence is showing that multitasking is not as good as was originally thought. When students are trying to do homework, having online access doesn’t necessarily improve their ability to work, and it can detract from their ability to focus on a single task for a period of time.
4. Procrastinating. Everybody likes to relax after school (or work). But from social lives to family responsibilities to sports and extra curricular activities, it can be tempting to leave homework until the last minute. Too many distractions, not following a schedule, or not using an agenda can put homework on the bottom of the priority list. When students put schoolwork on a backburner, it can lead to last-minute scrambles and late-night cram sessions, neither of which pay-off in the classroom.
5. Not Getting Help. One of the biggest mistakes that students make is waiting until the last minute to seek help. Often the first report card is the first indicator that something may be getting off-track, but it can take a call from the teacher or a failing grade before students seek out support. At that point it will take more effort to correct the problem than if a student had asked for help at the “I’m-not-really-understanding-this stage.”
Oxford Learning has great programs to help students get rid of bad habits and get on track for a better school year. Contact an Oxford Learning location near you to find out how your child can ditch bad school habits for good.
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For a Better Start to the School Year
It may still be summer, but school will be back in session before you know it! Did you know that your child might be heading back to school at an academic disadvantage? It’s true; over the summer, students’ learning momentum can drop off, which means that it can take up to two months for students to get back into the groove of learning.
Two months is a long time to be simply re-adjusting to the classroom setting, especially since other students are prepared to learn from the moment they return to the classroom.
You can help your child beat the summer brain drain and start the new school year on a high note with a few small tweaks to your family’s summer routine and help from Oxford Learning.
The back-to-school countdown has already begun! Oxford Learning helps students and families beat the brain drain and have a successful transition back to the classroom with these Countdown Tips for Back To School.
Have a Successful Back-To-School Season!
Back-to-School Tip #1:
Start watching the clock. Time has a way of slipping away during the summer, especially where sleep in concerned. It can seem less important to enforce that 8 o’clock bedtime when there isn’t any place to be in the morning. The problem is that sleeping in or staying up just a little bit later can wreak havoc on sleeping patterns, throwing a wrench into the gears when it’s time to follow a stricter sleep schedule. Sticking to set bedtimes and morning wakeup times keep a child’s sleeping habits routine, and means less disruptions when summer time becomes school time.
Tip: Use an alarm clock, even in the summer. If your child has never had an alarm clock before, summer is a great time to introduce one. Putting an alarm clock in your child’s bedroom can help with developing time management skills.
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Turn your brain on before you study!
Active studying is as simple as asking questions before, during, and after study time:
- What am I about to learn?
- What do I already know about this subject?
- How does this information fit into a bigger picture?
- Do I understand what I have just read?
- Can I paraphrase it?
- Are there any key words that I need to write down? Why are these words key?
Get a good night’s sleep
Get a good night’s sleep—students of all ages should get at least eight hours of sleep every school night. It’s the best way to ensure that the brain is refreshed and processing all of the information learned during the day. A full night’s sleep is especially important the night before a test—a good night’s sleep ensures students will be more alert and will remember test material more effectively, leading to better test results. Now that’s a good reason to go to bed early!
Study at the right time
Study at the right time—everybody has his or her own daily highs and lows. Some people are night owls; some people prefer the morning. Students should try to study when they are the most alert and able to process and retain the information that they are studying.
Have a designated study area
Have a designated study area—whether it is the kitchen table or a desk in a bedroom, students should have an area to study that is a designated study zone. In this area they should be able to keep their notebooks and other study supplies. Ideally, they should be in study mode whenever they are in the study area.
Eat properly—students can’t focus on studying if their stomach is growling. It’s too distracting to focus on math or English with a stomach that keeps gurgling. Have a light, healthy snack to quiet the rumbles and to achieve optimal brain function during study time.
Get chores out of the way
Get chores out of the way—The dog needs to be walked the dog and the dishes need to be washed…students should take care of chores before sitting down to study so that they won’t be interrupted, or distracted by an unfinished to-do list. Getting chores out of the way makes it much easier to focus on the task at hand.
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By Amanda Dervaitis, B.Ed.
We spend about one third of our lives sleeping. Besides being critical for good health, sleep also plays an important role in the process of learning. For the most effective learning to happen, experts suggest that we get at least eight hours of shut-eye every night. We need sleep so we can be mentally alert the next day allowing us to concentrate and absorb new information, but there is more to it than that. When we sleep our brains are busy processing what we have already learned. To get a better understanding of why students (and you too!) should pass on the all-nighter and go to bed early instead, let’s examine exactly what our brain is doing when we are taking the well-deserved rest at the end of the day.
There are three distinct, yet equally important phases during a sleep cycle, in which our brains are processing and learning the information we have taken in that day. The first, which typically lasts for two hours, is spent in a very deep sleep. During this time, certain brain chemicals are used to move all of the memories of the day from the short term memory centre, the hippocampus, to the cortex which is the outer layer of the brain where long-term memories are stored. Without this transfer of information long-term learning cannot occur.
During the next four to six hours, the information that is now in the cortex needs to be “sorted” and “filed”. Information is sent to various networks where nerve connections are strengthened as memories are preserved. This process requires the formation of new protein and is very slow. If this process is interrupted, new information will not be effectively stored, and therefore you will not remember what was learned or experienced that day. This is like sorting your class notes so they can be organized by subject and added to your existing notes in a binder. According to research, four hours of sleep is the minimum requirement for this phase to be effective.
The last phase of the sleep cycle lasts approximately two hours and is known as “Rapid Eye-Movement” or “REM” sleep. This is when we dream. The brain shuts down the hippocampus and focuses solely on reviewing information it has stored in the previous hours. This process reinforces and strengthens connections between nerve cells that make up the new memory. Just like learning a speech, this our brain’s way of achieving accuracy — practice makes perfect.
So, how can students avoid an “all-nighter” before a test or exam? Study a little bit every night leading up to an exam and get at least eight hours of sleep every school night. That way you’re more alert and will remember test material more effectively getting you better results. Now that’s a good reason to go to bed early!
Thanks to contributing author Amanda Dervaitis. Amanda has been an educator for 9 years and is the director at Oxford Learning in High Park. For information about exam preparation programs call the Oxford Learning Centre at 416-762-4447.
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