10 Ways to Shake Things Up and Build Your Brain Too

August 6th, 2014

pail and shovel beachAugust is known as the back to school month. It is usually a month of anticipation and anxiety. Parents are out purchasing school supplies and clothes for kids that are both excited and nervous about the new school year. College students are getting ready to head to school this month and so you may notice a bit of an “attitude”. It is really just their excitement and anxiety building as they try to define their evolving relationship with mom and dad. What about you? How do you feel now that the summer is coming to an end?

If you have kids then the switch back into the school calendar is a jolt to your child’s routine. It is smart to start “practicing” some skills now before the mad rush begins. Maybe you start working the bedtime back, insist they get dressed before coming downstairs, have them lay out their clothes the night before….all simple things that will help create positive habits for the school year. What new habit would you like to create that will make your life better? You can’t expect this year to be any different if you don’t DO anything different.

The fall is a great time to take an evening course, pick up a new hobby or sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Check out what is available in your area and fits your schedule. Stepping out of your comfort zone and learning something new is a great way to keep your mind active. It builds new brain synapses (or connections) and that’s a good thing. Changing up the daily routine helps too. Here are some ideas to shake things up a bit.

  1. Take a different route to/from work (maybe stop at the beach for some quiet time before heading home).
  2. Eat with your non dominant hand (it will slow down your eating and make you more mindful).
  3. Change up your morning routine and turn off the auto pilot
  4. Go to bed earlier
  5. Watch less TV (or make one or two days TV free)
  6. Shut down electronics an hour before bed (the blue light they give off messes with your sleep hormones)
  7. Get up and move every ½ hour for at least two minutes during your workday. Better yet walk for 30 – 45 minutes every day. Wear a pedometer and try to beat each day’s steps.
  8. Learn something new or challenge yourself in some way. New recipe? New language? New hobby? New vegetable?
  9. Check email only three times a day (unless it is work related) and never before your first “to do” is done.
  10. Use a planner or calendar app to actually plan out the night before the top 3-5 things you will accomplish tomorrow. Start each day fresh; don’t just move items to the next day. Pick the things that you really want/need to get done.

We often become so programmed that we are on autopilot throughout a large portion of our day. There’s one month left to the summer, make the most of it and “shake” things up. Your brain (and probably your family) will thank you.

This is from the Laine’s Logic Newsletter Archives. If you would like to get our monthly newsletter, you can sign up here: http://www.laineslogic.com/children

What is the “Common Core” and What Does it Mean for my Teen?

July 31st, 2014

blooms-taxonomy-2In the United States, 43 of the states have adopted the common core and Massachusetts is one of them. That means that teachers and other experts put together age appropriate standards for the common knowledge (skill set) they feel would prepare a high school senior for college and/or entering the work force upon graduation.  Here’s a three minute video that explains more.

In order to test a student’s progress towards that goal, they have designed a new test called the PARCC. Last year many students were asked to “beta” test it and it is expected to replace MCAS this year. The difference is that the PARCC test requires students to problem solve and think critically to use what they have learned, rather than answering simple basic knowledge questions. Click on the link to see an example of a PARCC question for a sixth grader.

So, what is the big deal? Unfortunately, we’ve been asking students to memorize facts rather than to use that information in a productive manner. Teachers have been focusing on the low level thinking skills of memorizing facts (as that was what MCAS focused on) and handing out “study guides” encouraging students to become passive learners rather than active learners. Fast forward to college and it is no surprise students struggle with knowing HOW to study (no study guides here), problem solve, or plan, organize and complete a project.

What to watch for:

  • Last minute projects
  • Short study sessions
  • Poor test grades
  • Difficulty doing homework that requires thinking deeper(or taxes the working memory)
  • Misunderstanding words like, “evaluate, analyze, synthesize, and demonstrate.”

What can you do now to help?

  • Think aloud as you problem solve and encourage your son or daughter to weigh in and support their perspective.
  • Allow “think time” when your teen is stuck with a problem or a decision (don’t provide the solution)
  • Ask questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” or one word response.
  • Start with the end in mind….ask, “What will the homework, trip to the mall, or project look like when finished?” Then help your teen work backwards to make an effective plan and problem solve before attempting.
  • Ask questions that encourage critical thinking:
    • “What are the pros and cons of choosing…..?”
    • “What is your opinion about…?”
    • “How would you plan to……?”
    • “What would you predict….?”
    • “How has your thinking changed on…?”
    • “How would you approach this problem?”

Developing thinking skills will help your teen make better decisions, problem solve and communicate their thoughts more logically both at school and in life.

More info on PARCC test items for your son or daughter’s grade level can be found here: http://www.parcconline.org/samples/item-task-prototypes.

Contact us for help with thinking skills and study skills. We specialize in the thinking and doing skills for learning and life.