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How to improve memory skills and remember what you read: Beyond phonics and “whole language”

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite the increasing visual media we are increasingly exposed to, reading is still an important skill. Whether it is school textbooks, online newspapers or regular books, people still read, though not as much as they used to. One reason that many people don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Know Thyself, Know How Your Brain Works

What is working memory, and why it matters? Can we multi-task as good as we seem to assume? What should we all know about how our brains work, and why?

We hope you enjoy this August eNewsletter, featuring six distinguished contributors who answer those questions, and more. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this free Brain Fitness eNewsletter by email, using the box in the right column.

Know Thyself

Why working memory matters in the knowledge age: As Dr. Tracy Alloway points out, one way to visualize working memory is as the brain’s “Post-it Notes” — we make mental scribbles of bits of information we need to remember and work with. Without enough working memory we cannot function as a society or as individuals. Learn more by participating in this study launched by Dr. Alloway’s team in conjunction with the British Science Festival.

What should everyone learn about the brain?: Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman and Mary Koppel from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) discuss recent recommendations on what all students should know. Not just the basics of brain structure and function, but also a good understanding of mental health—such as the mind/body relationship, factors that shape behavior, ways of coping with mental distress, and the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.

News

Pooling data to accelerate Alzheimer’s research: A good article in the New York Times presents the reasons behind growing research of how to detect Alzheimer’s Disease. A pilot study shows how computerized cognitive training may help reduce falls among elderly. Amazon.com recommends The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness in a thought-provoking mix.

Beyond News

Needed: funding for innovative research on slowing cognitive decline via cognitive training: SharpBrains reader and UK researcher Nick Almond shares a note debunking the so-called BBC brain training experiment  and outlining the type of research he and colleagues at Leeds University deem necessary.

Long-term effects of neurofeedback treatment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reviews the 6-month follow-up of a scientific study on whether neurofeedback can help kids with attention deficits, finding that benefits indeed remained 6 months after treatment had ended. Given, however, that only around 50% of children showed benefits, it is important to regard this tool as part of a multimodal treat­ment program.

Brain Teaser

Test your attentional focus and multi-tasking: How often do you read a document while talking on the phone with a client? Or think about your problems at work while helping your child with his homework? Human attention is limited, and we need to manage it well, as shown in this teaser prepared by Dr. Pascale Michelon.

Have a great September. And, should you happen to be in Barcelona, Spain, on September 14th, make sure to attend Alvaro Fernandez talk there titled “How and Why Digital Technology Will Transform Education, Training and Brain Health“.

8 Tips To Remember What You Read

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite television, cell phones, and Twitter, traditional reading is still an important skill. Whether it is school textbooks, magazines, or regular books, people still read, though not as much as they used to. One reason that many people don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remember as much as they should. Students, for example,may have to read something several times before they understand and remember what they read.

Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with middle-school teachers and they tell me that many students are 2-3 years behind grade level in reading proficiency. No doubt, television, cell phones, and the Web are major contributors to this problem, which will apparently get worse if we don’t emphasize and improve reading instruction.

Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in reading teaching, such as phonics and “whole language,” which sometimes are promoted by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approaches. Much of the blame for poor reading skills can be laid at the feet of parents who set poor examples and, of course, on the youngsters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.

For all those who missed out on good reading skills, it is not too late. I summarize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and comprehension.

  1. Read with a purpose.
  2. Skim first.
  3. Get the reading mechanics right.
  4. Be judicious in highlighting and note taking.
  5. Think in pictures.
  6. Rehearse as you go along.
  7. Stay within your attention span and work to increase that span.
  8. Rehearse again soon.

1) Know Your Purpose

Everyone should have a purpose for their reading and think about how that purpose is being fulfilled during the actual reading. The advantage for remembering is that checking continuously for how the purpose is being fulfilled helps the reader to stay on task, to focus on the more relevant parts of the text, and to rehearse continuously as one reads. This also saves time and effort because relevant items are most attended.

Identifying the purpose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask yourself, “Why am I reading this?” If it is to be entertained or pass the time, then there is not much problem. But myriad other reasons could apply, such as:

  • to understand a certain group of people, such as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.
  • to crystallize your political position, such as why a given government policy should be opposed.
  • to develop an informed plan or proposal.
  • to satisfy a requirement of an academic course or other assigned reading.

Many of us have readings assigned to us, as in a school environment. Or the boss may hand us a manual and say Read the rest of this entry »

Learning & the Brain: Resources for Educators

As promised in my previous post (10 Brain Training Tips To Teach and Learn), here are some of the resources that inform my understanding of the brain: books, conferences, and websites.

BOOKS

There are a multitude of books about the brain. For educators, the best of these are books that demystify the language of neuroscience while providing information applicable to the teaching/learning process.

Among the more prolific or well-known authors of this type include Jeb Schenck, Robert Sylwester, Barbara Givens, Robert Marzano, Marilee Sprenger, and Eric Jensen.

I have found books Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Rules: science and practice

Interested a good, non-technical, summary of the implications of recent brain science in Brain Rules-John Medinaour daily lives? Biologist John Medina offers that in his article below (as part of our Author Speaks Series) and in his new book: Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Enjoy!

(Note: John will be in the Bay Area on April 8 and 9th, speaking at Google and San Jose Rotary).

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Brain Rules

— By John Medina

Go ahead and multiply the number 8,388,628 x 2 in your head. Can you do it in a few seconds? There is a young man who can double that number 24 times in the space of a few seconds. He gets it right every time. There is a boy who can tell you the exact time of day at any moment, even in his sleep. There is a girl who can correctly determine the exact dimensions of an object 20 feet away. There is a child who at age 6 drew such lifelike and powerful pictures, she got her own show at a gallery on Madison Avenue. Yet none of these children could be taught to tie their shoes. Indeed, none of them have an IQ greater than 50.

The brain is an amazing thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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