Monday, October 31, 2011

Brain-Based Learning Study Strategies

Dear Friends,
     Here are some tips are taken from, Student Success Secrets by Eric Jensen.  In the book, he offers many strategies that help students to learn and be more attentive in studying.  He suggests:

  • Understand your own learning styles (multiple intelligences) and choose to study in the way that is best for you.
  • Use proper lighting, which includes low to moderate levels of natural lighting.
  • Allow the temperature to be between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Allow the surroundings to be pleasant and enjoyable.
  • Be sure to have plants close by as they help to purify the air and raise the levels of oxygen.
  • Drink plenty of water and stay away from coffees, teas and other caffeinated drinks.
  • Use aromas that heighten mental alertness.  These include: lemon, peppermint and cinnamon
  • Use proper study posture – do not study lying down on your bed!  It is also best to get up and move around to get some oxygen to your brain.
  • Be sure to take frequent breaks – this helps the brain to retain information and stay alert.
Please let us know if you have some helpful hints for studying.  We would love to hear what works for you!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, October 24, 2011

Simple Test Preparation Strategies

Dear Friends,
     Over the years, I have worked with students taking the NJ ASK, AP Tests, HSPA's, SAT Subject tests, GRE's and more.  Preparing for tests can be very anxiety provoking because there is so much at stake and so much to do to prepare - while still living life fully!
     Below are some simple strategies that I have used with elementary students - although some will work with graduate students too.  There are many relaxation strategies you can practice to help you throughout the preparation and the test itself.  You can find more information on relaxation strategies to practice on this blog.
     Here are a few elementary student strategies in the meantime:

The Night Before a Test or Competition
Get a good night’s sleep – go to bed early.
Be sure that you have studied the best that you can.  It is usually best to study a little bit each night over a long time.
Be sure to eat a good dinner.
Be brave, be proud of yourself for preparing well and believe in yourself.
Prepare everything that you will need for the next day – the night before so that you can be ready in the morning.
Use your imagination to see yourself successful.

The Day of the Test or Competition
Study one more time – just review your notes or word or whatever you will be tested on.
Be sure to eat a good breakfast with protein.
Be sure to leave on time with everything you need.
Bring healthy snacks and water.
Stay positive and know that you are always doing your best, believe in yourself and your abilities.

During the Test or Competition
Make sure that you have your own space during the test.  Be sure to ask your teacher if you feel you need more space.
Take a deep breath to help you relax and don’t forget to take several deep breaths while you are taking the test.  If the test is very long you can stretch gently in small ways by moving your head and neck, flexing your hands and feet too.  During a break you can also turn to the side and do a gentle twist but be sure to ask if it is ok.
Make sure your pencils are sharpened and be as neat as you can.  Be sure to put your name on your paper.
Believe in yourself.  You will do a great job!  Encourage your friends too – we all need some words that help us to believe in all that we can do!

Good Luck!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, October 17, 2011

Smart Websites About the Connections Between Learning and Movement

Dear Friends,
     Below are some websites that offer information and resources for learning and movement.  We are learning so much about how to strengthen neural pathways for learning – by cross body movements, relaxation, yoga, and more.  These ideas and exercises are good for everyone – of every age level.  You may want to check out some of the links below.
Have Fun!
Kimberly Borin,
Learning Specialist

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Working Memory

Dear Friends,
     Here is some information about "Working Memory."  Something we are all trying to work on!
The information was put together by Mrs. Turse.  It is a great explanation.  Please let us know if you have any questions at all.

Kimberly Borin
Kim Turse,
Learning Specialists

     What is working memory (WM)? Working memory is when the mind can hold an assortment of ideas long enough to complete a task. Working memory varies from person to person. A working memory is important because this is where information is worked with in order for the information to be transferred to long-term memory.

     A poor working memory could affect how a student learns. Research suggests that “10—15% of school kids have working memory problems.” (Holmes, 2009)  Just like our body needs exercise, our brain needs exercise to improve.


1) Chunking: break a lot of information into smaller pieces and only work with that amount of information—slowly connect new material to previously learned material.

2) Memory Linking: link items that you want to remember with an imaginary story— making a mental movie incorporating what you want to study. (see example @ first resource’s website)

3) Journey System: pick specific places and imagine what you are trying to recall happening in that place. (see example @ first resource’s website)

4) Mnemoics: come up with a silly sentence to recall a string of information. Example: In English, the 7 coordinating conjunctions are For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So = FANBOYS.

5) Memory Games and Memory Tasks: play games that encourage the holding of knowledge or practice memorizing a poem, song, or shopping list.

Additional Resources:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Simple Relaxation Skills for Children

Dear Friends,
     In school we want our students to be able to handle stress by practicing simple relaxation strategies. We may work with students individually to help them understand how to feel peaceful or we may work with the whole class. Below is a list of simple strategies that we can teach if children need them.
     We know that with practice, students can learn to calm down, ease anxiety and feel at peace easily when they need to. These are skills we want our students to have as they take standardized assessments, prepare for a big game, make a speech, or even interview for a job or college. Below are some very simple and basic strategies to help with relaxation.
     Relaxation Skills include:
Awareness of Body Tension and Feelings - First, we have students take a moment to see how they feel; physically and emotionally. Students are asked to notice how they feel while sitting at their desk. We ask them to notice muscles that feel tired, achy or energized. We also ask them to notice how they are feeling – happy, sad, concerned, tired, etc. We want them to know that they have the ability to change how they feel, but first they have to figure out what is happening and what it is that they need. We also encourage them to talk with a trusted adult if they need help with any of their feelings.

Postural Awareness - Students are asked to become aware of how they sit at their desks. We help them take notice when they may be slouching and when they are sitting up tall. We point out how much more oxygen and breathing is possible when students sit up straight with good posture. Sitting with good posture can also allow them to feel more alert and energized throughout the day.

Simple Breathing Techniques - Next, children are encouraged to take a deep breath. So often throughout the day – we don’t even think about our breathing and we forget how relaxing a long inhalation or exhalation can be. We practice taking a large inhale and then allowing the breath to “travel” all the way down to our feet as we exhale. This long exhalation is the key to relaxing. When students
are practicing just two or three breaths, we also ask them to notice sounds in the room, which also enhances their listening skills, concentration and awareness.

Progressive Relaxation - We also talk about Progressive Relaxation, which is used by professional and Olympic athletes, rock stars, corporate CEO's and more. Students are taught to tense muscles and then relax them while exhaling. We start with our feet and tense and relax knees, stomachs, backs, arms and shoulders. This simple act of tensing the muscles and relaxing them creates a more relaxed state as the body releases tension. Students notice a difference as they hold the tension in their muscles and then relax. This is also another good technique for managing emotions, preparing for a test or competition, or releasing fear or worry.

Imagination - When students are done relaxing – we ask them to use their imagination to thing about a peaceful place or an image of their “Best Self.” We encourage them to see their best self – in detail. The images that they share with us are always positive and encouraging. They have said, “I saw myself as smart and confident.” Or “I saw myself as being a doctor – which is what I would like to do when I grow up.” We also talk about how professionals use visualization to see themselves making the perfect foul shot, making a touchdown, or making the audition for a Broadway play.

Positive Self-Talk and Reframing - We also speak with students about positive self-talk. We want them to notice the words they use when speaking about themselves. If the words are negative we want them to know how to change those words to something positive. For example, if a student is saying, “I’ll never be good at math.” We want to help them to reframe the words into something positive like, “I am able to learn math in my own way and my own time. I am very capable of learning lots of new things.”

Stay tuned for more skills and information to help our students as the year progresses.
Best Wishes for a Relaxing Day!
Kimberly Borin,
Learning Specialist

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #7

Method #7: REAP Method (helps the students to make a personal connection and provides them with memory triggers to recall information for later use)

Step 1: Lay notebook flat – divide up the page (in two) and put in the headings Class and the other REAP

Step 2: In class only take notes on the right side of the notebook under the heading Class

Step 3: After class go back to the notes and create a trigger (words, picture or phrase) that may help you remember the class notes

Step 4: After class go to the REAP column and fill in “REAPING THE BENEFITS” – SEE BELOW

R(Relate class notes to own life)

E(Extend material to a world connection)

A( Actualize – how the information might work in the world)

P (Profit – how this idea in your notes helps mankind or the world)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review #4/ Executive Functioning / Skills

Dear Friends:
Hello again! I want to share another book with you that I found to be a valuable resource. The book is Smart, but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. It was published in 2009 by the Guilford Press in New York. In order to get through a day successfully one needs to be organized, focused, use their time wisely, learn from mistakes, be resourceful and resist impulses. These skills along with a few others fall under the category known as executive skills. There are eleven executive skills in total. **Everybody uses executive skills on a daily basis. Some individuals develop these skills slower than others. 
Having a learning difference can sometimes complicate and delay these skills. According to the authors, on average these skills fully develop in late adolescence and young adulthood, up to around the age of twenty. While children are in elementary and middle school more support is needed to foster the development of these skills. Simple tasks around the house such as chores, saving money for a wanted item or following multiple step directions are developmental tasks requiring the use of executive skills.
     The part of the book I found particularly useful was the section where the authors discussed ten principles for improving executive skills. An overview based on their work is below:
#1) If a child is deficient in a specific executive skill teach it directly. Provide the child close supervision and then fade the guidance in stages.
#2) Consider the child’s developmental level. One needs to understand what is typical at that particular age and match the task to the appropriate level.
#3) Move from external to internal – which means at first a parent or teacher may need to control the environment in order to build up the child’s confidence and understanding of the skill. Slowly, the executive skill will be internalized so that independence can be reached.
#4) Encourage the development of executive skills by changing the environment, task or the method in which one interacts with the child. The way you learn a skill may not be the way your student/child needs to be taught the skill.
#5) Children innately want to control the situation - use this to YOUR advantage. This means design the situation so that the teacher or parent is in control, but the child is learning some executive skills (and thinking they are in control). This can be accomplished by establishing routines and schedules, building in choice making opportunities, guiding them on how to negotiate (do this to get this) and practicing hard or demanding tasks in small steps.
#6) Modify tasks to match a child’s effort level. This aids on maintaining a sustained effort. For instance, complete an easy step, then reward, and then build upon each step slowly.
#7) Use incentives to foster development. Find what is rewarding for your child: praise, stickers, extended bedtime, etc. and use this to entice them to push themselves.
#8) Provide just enough support for the child to be successful. This will avoid the child from becoming dependent on the teacher or parent.
#9) Keep support and supervision in place long enough until the skill is mastered.
#10) When the decision is reached to stop supports, incentives, or supervision make sure to do it slowly.
**The eleven executive skills are: response inhibition, working memory, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, planning/prioritization, organization, time management, flexibility, goal-directed persistence, and metacognition. At a future date I will be doing a more in-depth look at each of the individual executive skills.

Have a wonderful day and think of all the executive skills you use to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.
Kim Turse, M.Ed.
Learning Specialist

Taking Notes - Method #6

Method #6: SQ3R (good for taking notes from text)

S: Survey – scan through the chapter – pay special attention to bolded words, titles, subtitles, pictures, charts, captions, etc.

Q: Question – Create who, what, where, when, and why questions that you can generate based on the main topics

R: Read – Read the text – if you think of another question – write it down in the question section

R: Recite – Record key phrases or facts that answers the questions created in the Q section

R: Review – do every day up until the test or quiz – review your questions and try to answer them – do orally, written, etc. – whichever learning style works best for you

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taking Notes - Methods #4 & 5

Method #4: Roman Numeral Method

Title of Topic

I. Major Point #1

a) Minor point a (about the major point 1)

b)Minor point b (about the major point 1)

1. Detail about minor point b

2. Detail about minor point b

II. Major Point #2

a) Minor point a (about the major point 2)

1. Detail about minor point a

Method #5: Sentence by Sentence Method

· Write every fact on a different line and number each sentence.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #3

Method #3: Mind mapping

This works well with a computer software called Inspiration. If you do not have that software program - the method can easily be completed by hand. Incorporate color, key words, images, etc. to produce a visual representation of class information – good idea after you have the class notes. This is a great method for strong visual learners.

See example at website:

Benefits of Relaxation Skills

Dear Friends,
     There are many benefits to learning and practicing relaxation skills. Here are just a few. They highlight the importance of learning these skills not only for school, but for life too. I hope you will find the list helpful.
     Here is also a wonderful article about the benefits of relaxation written by Linda Lantieri for Edutopia. Click here:
Wishing you a relaxing moment (or two),
Kimberly Borin,
Learning Specialist

Learning relaxation skills can offer students many benefits. These include:
· Balancing the mind and body and enhancing one’s knowledge of how to calm down the body and mind at will
· Increasing flexibility and strength within the body and in life situations like friendship and family issues, etc.
· The ability to feel calm in stressful situations like test-taking and job interviews, etc.
· Help with focus, attention and concentration in and outside of school
· Breath awareness, calmness and self-control, less psychological and physical distress
· Less aggressive behavior allows students to calm down and think through their reactions and actions
· Increased self esteem for students by helping them have more control over what they do
· Creativity mentally and physically
· Teamwork and cooperative learning
· Acceptance of personal limitations and learning to move beyond them
· Understanding of emotions and emotional strength
· Maintaining and building a healthy and flexible spine
· Teaching respect, compassion, sharing, and character education
· Embracing and accepting personal differences
· Laughing and having some fun!
· Understanding one’s own contribution to World Peace!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #2

Method #2: REDW (This method works well for a paragraph which is hard to understand)

R: Read (Read the section to get a basic understanding of some of the material or main idea)

E: Examine (After getting the main idea – look at each sentence – if you understand this sentence - write down the key point. If you DON’T understand the key point – write down any phrases or key vocabulary)

D: Decide (Decide – which words are important and work together – from above list of key phrases / vocabulary)

W: Write (Look at all the words you have written – see if they explain the main idea of the paragraph)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #1

Study Skills: Taking Notes

Many people are not born great note takers. “Practice make perfect” is the motto associated with taking notes. A great habit to get into is to review your notes nightly or to rewrite/reorganize them. There are many methods for note taking and as a learner one needs to practice and fine tune the method(s) that works best.

Method #1: The Cornell Method (resource below is taken from the above website)


Page # Today’s Date Layout of the page and where to write

Draw a line vertically down your paper, leaving 2 - 3 inches on the left and 6 inches on the right.

This allows you to take notes on the right-hand side of the page leaving space on the left to summarize the main point with a key word or phrase.

Organization of concepts

When the instructor moves to a new topic, skip a line.

Filling in blanks.

If you are not able to completely write down an idea before the instructor moves on to a new topic, fill it in after class - find a notebuddy.

Reviewing and Studying

After class, test your knowledge of the material by covering up the right side of the page, reading the key words, and trying to remember as much information as possible. Then check to see if you remembered it correctly. Also write page and day summaries. – at the bottom of the page


This is a simple and efficient way of recording and reviewing notes – it’s easy for pulling out major concepts and ideas. It’s simple and efficient. It saves time and effort because you “do-it-right-in-the-first-place.”