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A Scientifically Proven Technique That Can Make Your Learning 50% Easier

A Scientifically Proven Technique That Can Make Your Learning 50% Easier

Like or not, to become successful in many areas of life, whether it be in school, college, at work or just in learning a new hobby or skill, you need to master the art of retaining new information. Say you have an important test coming up for one of your college classes and you need to come well-prepared with a comprehensive set of facts and figures at your disposal. How should you get ready? Some study techniques and information retention techniques are more effective than others, so how should you tackle the task ahead of you?

This article will take you through the basics of a technique scientifically proven to increase learning and retention by up to 50% according to B. Price Kerfoot, associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. Imagine the positive effect that could have on your study or career success! Even better, this method is not particularly arduous or complicated to learn. Almost anyone can do it. Every student, teacher, and parent should understand how it works and, more importantly, how to use it to ensure high-quality retention. It is especially suitable for remembering lists and vocabulary items.

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The Power Of Spaced Repetition

Leitnersystem

    We’re going to take a look at spaced repetition and how it can help you keep hold of large quantities of information. Essentially, spaced repetition entails leaving longer and longer gaps between the presentation of information. In the 1970s, writer and social commentator Sebastian Leitner developed the Leitner System. In this system, information is presented on pieces of paper or card (flashcards) until the learner demonstrates that he or she has memorized that particular concept.

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    To use this system, start by writing out key pieces of information on flashcards. Make them approximately the size of a small postcard. Each piece of information must make sense in its own right, but try to restrict yourself to one key concept or theory per card. On the other side of the card, write out a question that will test your knowledge. For instance, if you are using this system to learn French vocabulary, you could simply write the French word on one side and English word on the other. Each card should have a clear question and answer. You can test yourself, or if you have a study partner, ask them to help you out.

    Next, find several empty boxes and line them up as shown in the diagram below.

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    Now, test yourself. Place all of your cards in Box 1. Go through them one by one, asking yourself the question written on the card before turning it over to see whether you answered correctly. If you get the answer correct, put the card in Box 2. If you get it wrong, place it back in Box 1. Now, here’s the really important part. The trick to making this system work is to go through the cards in the “lower” boxes more often than the “higher” boxes. In other words, you need to make sure that you are reviewing, re-testing, and re-learning the material with which you are the least familiar. This means that your learning time is used efficiently, because you are dedicating more time to your weaker areas, as opposed to re-hashing content with which you are already comfortable. This system removes the temptation to re-cap information you already know. It forces you to face the questions you find hardest!

    It is up to you how frequently you review the questions in each box, but provided you stick to the basics — that you make sure successfully answered questions are moved to the next box, whereas incorrectly answered questions are demoted back to Box 1, and that you spend proportionately more time on the material in the lower boxes — this system will work for you. Why not try it the next time you have a long list of facts to memorize?

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    Jay Hill

    Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

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    Published on May 7, 2021

    20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

    20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

    From coaching martial arts to children as young as four years old, I very quickly came to the understanding that if I wanted to help kids progress their skills, I needed to find a way to help them focus more consistently in my class.

    There are two key ways I found when it came to improving my students’ level of focus:

    1. Make what we’re doing more interesting. Nothing is off the table here—from having ninja clowns on the rampage in a lesson to including popular games with a martial arts theme, tapping into the student’s love of fun to help them focus.
    2. Introduce brain breaks.

    Brain breaks are small mental breaks that help the kids stay more focused. Think of the brain as a fuel gauge that shows the information you can consciously hold in your mind at any given moment. When the kids are focused and working hard on their tasks, the meter is usually full. They can easily concentrate and pass experiences into their long-term memory.

    But when the needle starts to drop, you may observe that your kids are feeling anxious or looking restless. New information, experiences, and knowledge are not getting processed from the staging area or working memory into the long-term memory.[1]

    It’s here that brain breaks make the most difference, as they allow us to “top-up the tank” or reset the gauge so that we can continue to learn and focus and at a higher level.

    If you’ve been home tutoring, you’ll appreciate that brain breaks can help kids in many ways. They can reduce stress and frustration. Think of those times when you’re helping your kids solve a difficult problem. It’s taxing for you both and when compounded with the energy loss after a day at school or watching TV. The stress effect can be compounded, and it’s here that brain breaks can be a lifesaver.[2]

    The following is a selection of brain break ideas for kids. You’ll see that some are physical activities while others are more relaxing. It’s always great to test them out to see which ones connect the best with your children.

    It’s okay to repeat the same brain breaks. Having a clear name and mission to a break can help keep your child excited, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity to take part in a future round of the activity.

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    Active Brain Breaks

    Here are some active brain breaks for kids that you can try out.

    1. Swapsies

    Have the participants stand behind a chair. Call out a character trait, like “everyone with brown eyes.” You then swap places with someone else who has the same characteristic. If you have nothing that matches, you stay put!

    Examples: “Everyone with trainers on.” “Everyone who is left-handed.” “Everyone who is wearing yellow.”

    2. Dance Party

    Put five or six different types of songs on Spotify, including a classic like “baby shark or the hamster dance.” Dim the lights if possible and have the kids dance to the tunes. Then, change the tunes and change the dance style. It’s silly and fun.

    3. Freeze Dance

    Similar to Dance Party except that when the music stops, students have to stay perfectly still until the music restarts. You can make this even more fun by trying to make the students smile. If they smile, they are out and have to sit down.

    4. Keep It Up

    Students must keep a balloon from touching the floor. You can add multiple balloons. You can make it more competitive by having different balloons of two different colors and split people into teams. Whoever keeps the balloons up the longest or the team with the most balloons in the air with a timer of 60 seconds wins.

    5. Simon Says

    This brain break for kids is an old favorite. You can also mix it up with martial arts moves, Fortnite dances, superhero moves, etc.

    6. Animal Movement

    Move like different animals. It’s fun for younger children. We use Flamingo where you stand on one leg, crawl like a bear, stand like a meerkat, run like a cheetah, and walk like a penguin.

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    7. Find It Fast

    “Find It Fast” is a scavenger hunt variation. Call an item out in the room and kids have to stand by it. For example, find a clock, find something with a face, find something smelly, find some money, find a phone, etc.

    8. The Frog

    Physical Challenges can be excellent fun. We have one in the martial arts class called “The Frog” where you squat like a frog, then lean forward so your head and feet are off the floor. These are all old yoga poses, so have a look through a booklet or website for some safe ideas. Other examples are grabbing your nose with your left hand and touching your knee with your right elbow.

    9. Pizza Delivery Time

    Give the students paper plates and tell them to hold the plates above their head on a flat hand. They then run around the room and try to keep the plate in their hand. You can make it more challenging by having other students try to knock others’ plates off. There’s usually a 3-star jump penalty if your plate touches the floor.

    10. Limbo

    We use martial arts belts and the students take turns going underneath the belts. Fun music creates an awesome atmosphere here.

    11. Human Knot

    Split the group of people and have everyone link hands under and over. That’s making knots between everyone in the group. Have the other students try to untangle them and return everyone back into a circle.

    12. Feather Balance

    This brain break for kids works well with gentle music, and you can use a balloon or a straw if you don’t have a feather handy.

    13. Stack them high

    The students should have plastic cups and paper squares. The goal is to make a tower as high as possible, or it could be to make a triangle or even a pyramid.

    Relaxing Brain Breaks

    We talked about brain breaks for kids that are being used to energize the students. But they can also be used to calm and relax them. We’re more familiar with the term mindfulness, but it’s the same idea. These are brain breaks for kids that reduce stress and anxiety.

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    14. Meditation

    Meditation

    is a popular way to reduce anxiety. There are lots of great examples already pre-recorded on YouTube that you can follow along with. Below is a useful classroom meditation example.

    15. Kaleidoscope

    Kaleidoscopes are fun ways to relax. They are mesmerizing and like a peaceful vortex that sucks you into them. Below is a great example of a visual online one you can use.

    16. Reading/Listening to a Story

    When I surveyed the members of our martial arts club about how their kids employ brain breaks at home, there was a clear winner among the families—listening to a story or reading a story. The feedback was that the process of daydreaming a little helps the kids to recharge. But it goes without saying that the story needs to be engaging.

    17. Doodling

    My personal favorite way to brain break as a kid was to doodle. Doodling gives your child a few minutes to draw anything they want. It can be calming for them, and it’s a lot more fun if you have different types of pens or crayons available to use. Add some soft music, and you have a simple way to take some time to relax.

    18. Coloring Sheets

    Coloring sheets are another way to relax the mind. There’s lots of great coloring in pads available, but here are some links to public resources shared on the internet that are great examples.

    19. Deep Breathing

    Deep breathing

    is an epic way to help your child slow down. It is a quick way to relieve anxiety so that they feel more ready for the next task ahead.

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    Try this: put your hands on your tummy, breathe in through the nose, and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it here, then slowly breathe out through the mouth while feeling your stomach get smaller. Repeat this 10 times. Use the following counts: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds.

    20. Going Outside

    Go outside was the second most popular response from our parent’s survey about brain breaks for kids at home. Fresh air always feels nice. You can combine this with a treasure hunt, looking for different colored cars, types of birds, or even types of trees, if you’re familiar with these.

    My personal favorite is using a mushroom spotting app on our phones and finding a mushroom or toadstool, then using the app to identify its name. This is surprisingly engaging for children. But a few safety rules about not touching them is important. It gives kids a change of scenery and helps revitalize the senses, providing a welcome break from their homework.

    How Often Should You Introduce Brain Breaks?

    The key to brain breaks is their timing. If you can introduce them before you notice that your kids are entering deep fatigue or their loss of focus has set in. You’ll find a great balance between breaks and effort.

    I’ve observed from my martial arts coaching that younger students have a smaller amount of working memory than older kids. My formula is for five minutes of technical training, we provide five minutes of brain breaks for students under seven years old. Plus, we coach to 15 minutes of training to five minutes of brain breaks for children under 12 years.

    Final Thoughts

    Implementing calming brain breaks for kids is a really efficient way of introducing brain breaks. You have a quick way to allow your students to learn about regulating themselves. Balancing their mind and energy is a useful skill, and you can take this with you everywhere you go.

    Our martial arts center revolutionized our approach to coaching by using brain breaks for kids. We found that although we were teaching less technical skills, there was now consistent progress from the students. Plus, everyone was less anxious, happier, and are having more fun. This is a win overall.

    If you’ve been having challenges with your kids focusing at home, maybe try a mixture of the calming and active breaks to see which types work best for your kids.

    Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] SimplyPsychology: Working Memory Model
    [2] BrainFacts.org: Kids Need Brain Breaks — And So Do Adults

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