Monday, June 13, 2011

Brain Training

When I was picking out lectures before the FPEA convention, I was not sure about this one. I thought it would be a 50 minute long sales pitch for the Brain Trainers products. I am pretty desperate though and I wanted to see what they had to say. The session turned out to be one of the best I went to. The speaker gave me a ton of ideas on things to do to help my 7yo increase his processing speed and learn more efficiently. Here are my notes from the lecture. 

She explained that the synapses in our brain are like Christmas lights. Anyone who has ever strung up last year's Christmas lights can attest to this. You go to plug in the lights and the whole strand doesn't work because there is one light bulb out. So you have to go through the whole strand and check every bulb. Our brain functions similarly. If one bulb is out along a pathway, the information cannot make it through. So when we are trying to teach our children something but they can not process it is like a light bulb is out. So we need to get all the light bulbs working, er, uh, synapses firing. 

There are certain skills that we need in order to learn. 
  • Processing speed- The ability to handle incoming information with ease of speed.
  • Working Memory- The ability to store and retrieve information.
  • Visual processing- The ability to accurately picture, manipulate, organize, comprehend, and think with visual information. 
  • Logic and reasoning- The ability to recognize connections. 
  • Auditory analysis- The ability to effortlessly blend, segment, discriminate, and analyze speech sounds with a spoken pattern. 
  • Rapid Naming Recognition- The ability to name an object quickly. Ever asked, "can you pass me the.... umm....." snapping your fingers, smacking your head, "You know the..." UGH! You just start pointing to the salt. Yes? You need to work on rapid naming and recognition. 
  • Word attack- The ability to decode or sound out and pronounce unknown words. Also the ability to encode sounds to spell them out. 

She gave ideas for activities to do everyday that will help wake up our brains. 
  • Cross the mid-line- When making circles draw them counter clockwise. It helps improve handwriting and it works your brain a little harder by connecting the 2 hemispheres. 
  • Phonics- When teaching vowels, instead of teaching a,e,i,o,u. Teach the sounds they make and teach them in this order i,e,o,a,u. When you make the vowels short sounds in that order while looking in the mirror you can see your mouth slowly move from tight and thin to open and wide. 
  • Finger taps- When spelling out a word or counting, tap fingers to thumb, back and forth. Adding muscle movement helps memory. 
  • Black light and highlighter- A fun multi-sensory way to study math facts possibly spelling words too. 
  • Nun Math- She came up with that title not me. She said she went to catholic school and they learned their math facts by copying them, writing them, and saying them aloud. The more of your brain you use the more likely you are to ignite brain activity.
  • Sounding it out- Start with the sounds not the letter names. Slow down when pronouncing new words. You might say, "ss, ll, ee, puh." instead of "S.L.E.E.P."
  • Sound game- After sounding things out for a while. You can play games like, "What is 'drive' with out the 'ruh' sound?" DIVE 
  • Memory games- "I went to the beach and I brought an 'apple'" The next person has to think of the next word in the alphabet and remember the previous ones. "I went to the beach and I brought an apple and a ball." I went to the beach and I brought an apple, a ball and a car." ETC...
  • Arrows- Print out or draw out a sheet with a few rows of arrows pointing in different directions. Read across the rows saying the directions of the arrows. When it is easy to read through the arrows, read through them as if they were turned 1/4 of the way. So, north becomes east, south becomes west, &etc. You can do this with numbers too. After you can read through all the numbers quickly, try adding one, then subtracting one & etc. You can even do this with a pre-schooler by making the rows of different colored shapes. First have them name the colors, then have them name the shapes. 
  • Online Metronome- This is a free online metronome. Try the above game along with the beat of the metronome. You can also recite math facts and spell spelling words to the rhythm. You can adjust the speed.   
  • Simon- This game is great for recall. She didn't mention it but I am sure that "bop-it" would be good too. 
  • Gardens of Time- This game is also free on Facebook. She said that it is great for increasing processing speed. I have not played it yet but I might let my 7yo try it out. 
  • Lumosity- A free brain training site. Set up your own personal training account. 
Add in some fun, dopamine release helps to lock in skills. The more fun you make your lessons the more likely they will retain the information. 

If I got any of this stuff wrong, please feel free to correct me. I did not go to school for cognitive therapy, I only took notes during a 50 minute lecture. But I have, thus far, found them useful and I hope you do too. 

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