Thursday, December 21, 2006

Train your brain to stay sharp

I was not at all surprised to read that the latest research into brain functions advocates exercising your brain in order to retain its aptitude. Whether you dress it up in fancy terminology or rely on the old “if you don’t use it, you lose it” joke, the message is clear: practice makes better.

What did surprise me, however, was the fact that just 18 hours of training still benefited the brain 5 years later. While it is good to exercise your brain every day, for a couch potato like me who shivers at the very word “exercise”, it’s comforting to know that a single training effort could have such a vast impact on the brain.

So, while making those New Year resolutions, let’s put Brain Training on top of the list. (If you don’t use lists, let’s put Brain Training as a 2007 goal.)

But what Brain Training is best for you? Is it crossword puzzles, making up rhymes, solving jigsaw puzzles or learning a new language? Doing your Learning Style Analysis (LSA) can help you decide what works best for you and your brain.

Please visit us on and give yourself a gift of learning this Holiday Season: your very own Learning Style Analysis.

On behalf of everybody at Creative Learning, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading our blog this year and to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

When English is not your home language

I started learning English when I was 12 years old. It was such a struggle I must have blocked out the memory of my learning journey, because it was only this week that I was reminded of it all.
There I was, on a tour of an ice cream factory (yum!), with a group of emigrants who have barely started to learn English. The tour guide insisted that they all introduce themselves, using full sentences. As I watched their tortured faces, I wished there was a way that would make the whole process of acquiring a new language as quick and as painless as possible.
Fortunately, there is. Knowing your own Learning Style is the first step towards learning another language. That way, you know whether you should stay at home reading the dictionary or go on a tour of an ice cream factory, where not only do you hear a lot of spoken English describing what you see, but you also get to eat a delicious ice cream while listening.
For those of you who know about Learning Styles, you of course understand that - if you’re lucky! - licking an ice cream may be an important part of your learning methodology.
For those of you who are not so familiar with the almost 50 elements of a Learning Style, please have a look at our website:
But wait, there’s more! Because we understand how difficult it might be to undergo a Learning Style Analysis assessment for somebody who has only begun speaking English, we’ve translated the instrument into several languages, including:
· German
· Swedish
· Finnish
· Spanish
· Norwegian.
Please contact us for more details on
If we don’t have the language you require, you can always complete the LSA Junior MINI, which offers simplified language and fewer questions, but a full report at the end of the assessment process.
Please visit us on

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Coping With Stress And Boredom At Work

by Sharon D'Penha

Are you stressed... or bored... in your job?

Working Styles differ from person to person. Mary, an Office Manager has just started a new job. But will she cope? Mary is the type of person who enjoys routine: change, even a happy positive change like a new job, makes her nervous. Office management is a multi-tasking job that requires the person to be well-organized and meeting deadlines. We can all multi-task and meet deadlines when we need to, but if it’s not our natural style, we will find the experience stressful. Mary likes working with people, but the new job offers little people-interaction (they have a Personnel Manager for that), which may lead to boredom and dissatisfaction.

When you do the Working Style Analysis (WSA) assessment, you learn what type of work environment suits you best and how to organize yourself in that environment. Do you like the environment quiet or noisy while you work? What seating arrangement suits you? How can you most effectively cope with pressure and meet your deadlines, given your unique Working Style?

The WSA assessment shows you how to think positively and what changes to make in your work environment to work more efficiently and effectively. Understanding your own Working Style and that of your colleagues will also improve your relations and communications at work.

Working Style Analysis is the best way to analyze how you can work best. It brings out the real “YOU”. All you need to do is DO THE ASSESSMENT!

So go ahead and learn what works best for you in a challenging world of change at We are here to assist you.

It’s never too late (go on, it’s not a test)
Find out today what works for you best!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Teach your children to master their memory

A few months ago, we sent out a newsletter featuring numerous tips on how to improve your memory, and we received overwhelming feedback from our readers who wanted to find out more.

This is why today’s blog topic is memory. Many scientific articles and books have been written on the subject. By now, it’s general knowledge that you should:
· eat more salmon (rich in Omega 3),
· exercise your brain (if you don’t use it, you lose it),
· think positive (tell yourself that you will remember, and you will),
· use mnemonic techniques (acronyms, method of loci, etc.)

(If you’d like more information about any of the mnemonic methods, please
contact us at Creative Learning on

What’s truly amazing, however, is that so little attention is given to one of the most important aspects of memorising anything from faces and names to important dates: namely, your Learning Style.

Your children’s Learning Style is responsible for the way they learn and memorise best. Your children have their own preferred style of taking in information and then recalling it later.

Just like you may need to put a bit of cheese on the vegetables for your children to eat it, you may need to present information to their brain in a certain preferred way in order for them to respond.

In other words, if your children are visual, they will learn best by using colour coding, pictures and diagrams. Use plenty of sound with auditory children. If your children are not auditory, however, making up rhymes or chants like “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is not going to help them very much.

What do you do when your children are tactile? Or kinesthetic? Do you know what kind of environment stimulates their memory best?

We at Creative Learning recognise the important role that the learning style plays when it comes to remembering things. That is why the multiple page report that you get from us with every Style Assessment contains many useful tips about memory techniques that work best for your unique child.

Please visit us at and get a Learning Style Analysis (LSA) for your children. It’ll be their first step on the road to success.

Your children can get straight "A"s in school.
Simply let their brains work FOR them, not AGAINST them.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

When communications break down in your relationship

Have you ever looked at your spouse or romantic partner and wondered why the person who’s so close to you, can also FAIL TO UNDERSTAND YOU so completely? Why he didn’t hang up the washing even though you TOLD HIM twice? Why she can never stick to the shopping list and why she always has to switch on the radio the minute she walks into the room?

There are times in every relationship when communication channels seem clogged up. Nothing you say penetrates. Your good intentions get misinterpreted. You hate the way he or she hangs up the toilet paper roll and you are beginning to wonder what on earth you saw in each other in the first place.

That’s when it’s time to stop, take a deep breath and learn to talk to your partner all over again in three easy steps. It’s easier than you think, because you have a magic tool to help you along the way....

Step 1:
Take out a piece of paper and write down one thing that you used to like about your partner when you first became an item.... Was that easy? I hope so! Because now you will write one thing that you like about your partner AT PRESENT. It could be his blue eyes, or his honesty, or the fact that she brought you a cup of coffee yesterday.

Step 2:
Here is when you bring out the magic tool I mentioned earlier. Learn something new about your partner by checking out his or her Working Style. The Working Style Analysis is available on and it is a treasure chest of information about your partner’s communication style, stress resolution and problem solving approach.

Step 3:
Do your own Working Style Analysis and check how compatible you are and what areas need attention. Do you handle stress the same way? Is one of you a morning lark and the other a night owl? Does she communicate by talking while you have trouble listening? Is he a systematic person who insists that the dishwasher be loaded in a specific way (his way) even though it’s you who’s doing the loading? Find out all that and more on or by clicking directly on

That’s all you have to do. By drawing strength from your similarities and recognising your differences, you will be able to bridge that communication gap. You might learn to write to-do lists instead of reciting them verbally, or you might come to understand the other person’s need for clicking their knuckles.

Most important of all, you will discover something new and important about your partner. And you might also learn about yourself along the way.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

When Your Child Won’t Do Homework

Children, especially right-brained (holistic) children, need to know why they have to do homework. What’s the benefit of doing something at home that you’ve just done in class? How does homework fit into the general scheme of their education? Explain to your children that homework is important to reinforce skills that have been taught at school. It also gives teachers a chance to monitor the students’ progress. If the children allow it, homework can also be a great way to learn to work independently!

Analytic children, on the other hand, aren’t as interested in the big picture. If they refuse to do homework, it’s probably because the task at hand seems to big and they have trouble breaking it into manageable details. Help them organise the work into step-by-step portions and sub-tasks. Create a list of all the things that have to be done that day and let the child tick them off as they go along.

(If you’re not sure whether your child is holistic or analytic, please take the quick test by clicking on and letting your child fill in an LSA questionnaire.)

Bear in mind that you need to set up an appropriate environment and atmosphere for doing homework. There are many elements to consider when setting up your child’s homework area: the lighting, the temperature, time of day, the correct furniture (that is, furniture that is correct for your child, not furniture that the so-called experts say is good for education purposes), music, and so on. Some children like to have their parents close-by, to interact with and to have them check progress; while others prefer to be left alone to get on with their tasks. Children who thrive on variety might like the study area moved or redecorated several times a month, while children who prefer routine need to do homework at the same time of day and in the same spot every day.

Let your child do the LSA to discover exactly what he or she needs when doing homework.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Underachievers: the Misunderstood Students (and their Learning Styles)

The word “underachiever” is often used as a euphemism for a student who is failing, getting poor grades or consistently not doing their homework. The actual definition of an underachiever, however, is “A child whose academic performance is below what one would expect based on age, IQ, achievement test scores and potential.”

I’ve met very bright underachievers who were consistently getting A-scores in subjects they loved and C-scores in the rest. While an A-C report card is a perfectly respectable result for a child who works hard, some A-C students could have easily got straight A-scores had they only applied themselves a little.

So what makes some otherwise bright children underperform at school? Part of the challenge may lie in their Learning Style. It may be that the child’s motivation system is incompatible with that of the school’s, or that the teacher doesn’t recognise the child’s learning style needs. A bright underperformer may also display a preference for non-conformity. In addition, gifted children may deliberately choose to underperform in order to fit in with their social group.

Creative Learning’s new tool, Learning Style Analysis (LSA) Junior MINI, provides a quick and easy way to assess a student’s Learning Style. Find out whether your child may be underperforming at school and learn how to provide a perfect study environment at home according to your child’s Learning Style.

Your child’s Learning Style consists of 48 elements unique to them. How many can you name?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Learning Style of Pooh

A.A. Milne was a great author and an even better observer. The characters in his “Winnie the Pooh” books all have very distinctive personalities. Pooh, for example, is a very easy-going, likeable bear, who is slow and doesn't get upset very easily. Tigger loves to try new things and will barge ahead, full of false confidence, living in the moment. Eeyore is the eternal pessimist.

Now, A.A. Milne wrote the books a long time before Learning Styles were discovered, but even so, it’s not difficult to analyse the Learning Styles of the Hundred Acre Wood dwellers.

Pooh is a reflective person. He is a problem-solver who needs intake when thinking (it could be honey or Roo’s watercress sandwiches). Piglet, who is frightened of almost everything, has a definite non-preference for change and relies on other people to give structure to the tasks he tackles. Rabbit is a highly analytic animal who loves order and doing things the correct way. Tigger is impulsive and thrives on change. Roo loves his friends and would probably learn best with a peer, and he’d like his work overseen by authority figures. Kanga is a multi-tasker (the way all mothers are). Owl works best in a quiet place and at night (he sleeps most of the day). Eeyore has a high persistency: he keeps rebuilding his house, which always falls down or gets knocked down by butterflies.

What about you: are you an impulsive or reflective thinker? Are you analytic, holistic, or a bit of both? Do you know what environment best suits your learning and what causes unnecessary stress in your life?

To find out the answer to these questions, or to learn more about Learning Styles, please visit us on

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Can computers change our brains?

Recently, I’ve read an article that postulated that computers are changing the way we think. They train us to become more sequential as we program or use software such as Microsoft Excel, but at the same time they expect us to be simultaneous as they present us with the opportunity to write a document while checking emails and browsing the web for the latest research results.

Still, can computers really change our biological learning styles? Can they make us more sedentary even if we have a preference for mobile or kinesthetic learning? Can the log hours of surfing the net change us into night owls and loners? What do you think? Please take a moment to drop us a comment below. Are computers really changing our lives?

In case you’re wondering what the whole sequential/simultaneous discussion (also known as the left/right brain dominance) is all about, please have a look at

But, you may argue, what does it matter whether your brain is sequential, simultaneous or both?

Replies Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age: “Until recently, the abilities that led to success in school, work, and business were characteristic of the left hemisphere (sequential). They were the sorts of linear, logical, analytical talents measured by traditional tests. Today, those capabilities are still necessary. But they're no longer sufficient. In a world upended by outsourcing, deluged with data, and choked with choices, the abilities that matter most are now closer in spirit to the specialties of the right hemisphere (simultaneous) - artistry, empathy, seeing the big picture, and pursuing the transcendent.”

To check your own learning style, visit us on

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Improve Reading with Coloured Overlays

A true story: Sue, a fifth-grade student from a professional family, is having trouble in school. When given an assignment requiring reading, she daydreams, talks with friends, and looks around the room . . . anything but read. Sue also has trouble accurately copying work from the board and often leaves out letters, words, and even sentences. She complains that words don't stay still and that numbers disappear; sometimes she gets headaches. She listens in class and raises her hand to answer questions but does not do well on tests. Her teachers insist she could do better if she would just try harder.

It stands to reason that, once classic vision problems are corrected or ruled out, everyone perceives the world in the same way, right? Well, that’s what I thought until a few weeks ago when I was introduced to the concept of "Perceptual Distortion".

Research has determined that not all individuals see the printed page in the same way. Some children see double letters, or letters that seem washed out in the middle, or letters dancing on the page in river patterns. These individuals suffer from a specific type of perceptual problem called Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS), also known as Irlen Syndrome. It is estimated to affect up to 12% of the general population and a much higher percentage of the dyslexic, learning-disabled, ADHD, and autistic populations.

This means that such students find it almost impossible to read. Their reading comprehension suffers and they may not be able to copy text into their books. They may skip lines, change the order of the letters in the words, or simply give up and stare out the window or become disruptive.

Developmental Optometrists say that for those children who suffer from "Perceptual Distortion", placing coloured filters or overlays on top of the printed page may help see the page more clearly. You can find the overlays here:

Why coloured filters may work: in the 19980s, researchers discovered a visual-perceptual processing deficit caused by light sensitivity. Such people have a problem with the timing in which the brain receives and processes visual information. This timing difficulty can cause distortions of print and of the environment. Altering the timing (with coloured filters) permits the visual information to be more accurately received and processed.

Symptoms of Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS) may include:
· Sensitivity to light;
· Inability to judge distance or spatial relationships;
· Eyestrain;
· Problems concentrating during tasks such as reading, computer use and watching;
· Problems with high contrast, such as black on white, bright colours, and “busy” patterns, e.g., stripes and polka dots;
· Inability to read words in groups or see groups of objects;
· Problems with tracking, skipping words, skipping lines, rereading for information, and slow reading rate;
· Reports of images, backgrounds, and/or print moving, fading, disappearing, swirling, sparkling, or shimmering.

Of course, not all reading problems are SSS-related. If your child is not reaching his or her reading goals, it may simply be that they are not being taught according to their Learning Style. If they have trouble concentrating on books, computers or watching things, for example, it may simply mean that they are not visual learners.

Please check your child’s Learning Style (and how best to teach them) on

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The uncanny effect of office lights

“The uncanny effect of office lights” was the title of an article I’ve recently read in The Cape Times.

Scientists are investigating the biological rhythms that affect people’s levels of alertness at work. They look into phenomena like “the post-lunch dip” - and they are surprised to discover it may occur whether or not you eat lunch! Well, they clearly haven’t heard of our Working Styles model, which pays attention to which time of day the individual finds productive, and which are counter-productive.

The same scientists also they believe these biological rhythms can be influenced by a
hitherto neglected office feature - the lighting. Again, our Working Styles model takes lighting into account when determining the most optimal area of work. It’s important to realise that an area deemed the most optimal for one person (who performs well under bright lights, in a separate quiet office) may be quite unsuitable for another (who might prefer the hustle and bustle of a crowded office which is only dimply lit).

(If you would like to discover your own Working Style, please visit us on

The article goes on to offer a warning about fluorescent tubes (again, something that we’ve been warning about in our assessment reports). The good news is, researchers are now experimenting with lamps that emit a different spectrum of light - of a cooler, bluish hue, which looks almost like daylight. Our receptors respond well to this light, by sending signals to the hypothalamus in the brain, which regulates circadian rhythms and the production of the hormone melatonin.

The year-long experiment discovered that the staff exposed to this light during office hours “felt more alert” and were doing their work “to a higher standard”, as opposed to the staff on other floors."

The hope is that manipulating lighting may improve health, and tackle problems such as depression, insomnia and variation in levels of on-the-job alertness.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Brain Food

We all know that some food is healthier for us than other: better for our waistline, our arteries, or heart. The brain often gets ignored in the equation.

Some of the must-haves for our brain include:
· Fresh air &
· Water &
· Fruit &
· Nuts &
· Seeds &
· Fish &
· Oats &
· Eggs.

An ideal breakfast that allows the brain to function to the max contains a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein:
· Grains
· Dairy or fish or beans &
· Fruit.

Below you will find a few examples of brain-balanced breakfasts:
1. Muesli with low-fat milk, one portion of fresh fruit (1 apple, 10 strawberries, 3 apricots)
2. Bran cereal with dried fruit and no-sugar yogurt
3. Scrambled eggs, whole-grain toast, an orange
4. Omelette, bran muffin, fruit with no-sugar yogurt
5. Whole-grain pancakes or waffles, berries, no-sugar yogurt
6. French toast with fruit, no-sugar yoghurt
7. Low-fat cheese melted on whole-grain toast with a portion of fresh fruit
8. Beans on whole-grain toast with a portion of fresh fruit
9. Peanut butter and banana slices on bran muffins, milk
10. Smoothie (1 raw egg, honey, no-sugar yoghurt, banana, berries, with optional ½ avocado and cinnamon).

Remember: fibre steadies the absorption of carbohydrates and therefore contributes to a steadier blood sugar. We therefore suggest using rich sources of fibre, like whole-grain bread, muesli, bran.

In case you’re after some “real” scientifically-proved brain food, have a look at this article about choline on Evidence suggests that supplemental choline given to a pregnant female can alter brain development in ways that facilitate learning later in life. The best-known choline-rich foods tend to be animal products, especially ones high in fat. Don't be afraid of eating eggs despite their cholesterol, as their yolks are among the richest known natural sources of choline. A tall glass of skim milk offers as much choline as an egg does.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Introducing the LSA Junior MINI - what’s new in Learning Style Analysis

We’re very excited at Creative Learning this week, as we’ve just launched our latest product: the LSA Junior MINI.

Aimed at the 5-10 year old market, the LSA Junior MINI delivers the same comprehensive report as the LSA Junior, and it also offers the 3 report versions: one for the student, one for the parent, one for the teacher.

So, what’s different? For the LSA Junior MINI, we’ve reduced the number of questions to make it easier for the younger students to complete the questionnaire in one sitting. We’ve also introduced the option to reply “I don’t know”, thus giving the child more freedom to explore their learning styles.

We’ve also introduced a few new sections in the Parent version of the LSA report:
· Is my child gifted?
· Is my child underachieving at school?
· How safe is my child on the Internet?

The LSA Junior MINI... so minute it will only take a few minutes to complete.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Learning Styles and the latest Education Crisis

I saw an alarming piece of news the other day: the New Zealand statistics indicate that in 2005 almost 30 percent of students left high school with no qualifications. When this figure is compared with “only” 19 percent in 2004, the trend is worrying.

While several factors may be to blame, starting with the old favourite the TV and ending with the way the NCEA has been implemented, pointing fingers is not as important as finding the cure.

Think about it. The falling standards of schooling shouldn’t be happening in the world of the Internet and nanotechnology. We can do surgery on babies before they are born, we can fit a whole encyclopaedia of knowledge on a single CD, but we fail to educate our children.

Assessing the students’ Learning Styles ( can help them learn better by showing them their own optimal highway to leaning success. What’s more, knowing their Learning Style can help them feel better about school and themselves, and thus to be more disciplined and less prone to violent behaviour.

All that for the price of a single take-away meal. Now that’s food for thought.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Learning Styles and Empowering Your Children

As parents, we get used to being in charge all the time. We are usually the ones who set the rules, decide what time bedtime is and what goes into the lunchbox. We know best how to tie a shoelace and what Tommy next door would like for his next birthday. If we do our job too well, however, we run the risk of becoming too prescriptive.

So, next time you find yourself doing too much around the children - stop and think: is there any way I can empower my child to tackle this task?

1. Conflict:
Let’s say your child took a toy off their friend. Instead of telling them to apologise or sending them to time-out (or whatever it is you usually do), ask them the following questions:
“How do you think the other child felt?”
“What can we do to make them feel better?”

2. Problem solving:
Let’s say we only have 3 boxes of Smarties and there are 4 children. Ask your child: “What can we do about it?” If they respond: “One of the children can go without,” ask a leading question like: “Is there a way we can all share the Smarties in a fair way?”

3. Chores:
Grandma is coming over for morning tea, and the sofa is full of toys. Ask the child where they think she will sit and what they can do to make sure she feels welcome in your home.

In particular, children who have a preference for non-conforming or for no external guidance (if you’re unsure, please check their Learning Style on, will welcome this empowering style of parenting.

In contrast, if your children look up to you to tell them exactly what to do, this is a good way to let them develop the skill of thinking for themselves. The idea is not to change their wonderful unique Learning Style: it is simply to teach them a life skill in a gentle non-threatening environment.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cooking with your children = quality time

Continuing the theme of learning styles in the kitchen, here are five reasons to let your children into the kitchen and do some baking (even if you are the type of person who prefers to get things done yourself):

1. You get kudos for being a great mother who spends quality time with her children.

2. You get kudos for being a great mother who spends quality time with her children while furthering their education: teaching the children to measure cake ingredients is a fundamental stepping stone towards basic maths skills.

3. It’s fun.

4. You get a cake at the end of the process - cheaper and yummier than the store-bought stuff.

5. Cooking together is a great way to assess your child’s Learning Style.

Of course, the most reliable way to discover your child’s Learning Style is to do the online assessment on But observing your child first and then doing the assessment gives you the satisfaction of being right when your instinctive evaluation matches ours.

So, does your daughter prefer mixing the ingredients with a spoon or is she begging to knead the dough? If she wants to touch the cake all the time, she’s probably tactile.

Does your son place tasting the raw mixture above all other activities of measuring and stirring? He may have a sweet tooth, but he may also need mouth stimulation when concentrating on a difficult task.

Does your child want to know what type of cake you’re making? If so, his or her information processing style is probably global (holistic).

Is your child happy to follow instructions, or do they prefer to do their own thing? (If the latter, your child may be one or more of the following: non-conforming, not needing external guidance, holistic, change-oriented.)

And if the child offers to help you clean up afterwards, they may well be analytic.

For toddlers, I would suggest using a shop-bought cake mix (just add water and eggs, and stir) and teaching the child how to crack an egg, how to measure the water, how to mix effectively.

For older children, go all the way with flour, butter and baking powder. Remember to explain what each ingredient is for (sugar for sweetness, baking powder to make the cake grow in the oven, egg for holding the ingredients together, salt to bring out the sweetness, orange peel for aroma). Talking and explaining is a great way of making the children feel included.

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Learning Styles in the Kitchen

Have you ever wondered how analytic and holistic people differ when it comes to baking a cake? To begin with, an analytic person will need a recipe... and not just any recipe.

The other day, I tried to give my so-called-recipe for muffins to a highly analytic person.
“What do you mean by whatever fruit you have?” she asked suspiciously.
“I mean, whatever. Frozen blueberries, fresh blueberries, chopped kiwi fruit, diced apple, or a mixture. They all work.”
“But how can you say to always add a cup of fruit if it’s different fruit every time? Frozen blueberries will take up more room than chopped kiwifruit, so the ratio of fruit to batter will be different.”

A holistic person will happily substitute all bran flour with white flour if they run out of all bran, and if they don’t know what “broil” means, they will improvise.

A tactile person will stick their finger into the dish long before it’s ready. They will prefer to knead the bread dough by hand, foregoing the expensive electric appliances.

A visual person will decorate the pie with crust cut-offs, the muffins with little cherries and the plates with sprigs or parsley.

Now, if you’re familiar with the Learning Styles Analysis on our website,, you might like to answer the following questions:
· What type of personality will hum as they’re cooking?
· What Learning Style type will line up all the ingredients on the bench top before they begin cooking?
· Who is least likely to want to use measuring cups?
· Who likes help in the kitchen while they’re cooking?
· Who is most likely to clean up afterwards?

Are you and your spouse / partner / flat mate compatible in the kitchen? What cooking arrangements do you have and do they work for you? Write a comment to this blog and let us know, or do the test on to find out.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why “Creative” Learning?

People often ask us about the name of the company: why “Creative” Learning? Being a very good question, it doesn’t have a simple answer.

One reason for the name is to distinguish our method of learning (using Learning Styles) from “traditional” learning (traditional learning takes place in a brightly lit classroom, with the teacher at the blackboard and the pupils uncomfortable on hard chairs).

"Creative learning" also means: be creative when you learn, use learning tools to help you, have fun.

Some examples (and there are literally thousands) of learning using the Creative Learning approach include:

· making and using specific learning tools like electro-boards, flip chutes, wrap-arounds,
· playing a board game with a child to teach them to count,
· playing a board game with a child to teach them to recognise at a glance the visual patterns made by the dots on dice,
· becoming detectives for the day and taking a walk through the neighbourhood to find all the numbers "3" on the houses - great for kinesthetic children,
· making a gigantic letter A from cardboard, then cutting it up into jigsaw style pieces and putting it back together again (to teach the alphabet) - great for tactile children,
· playing bank or post office (using official forms) to practice writing / adding up,
· playing FlySwat to teach a foreign language: you write the vocabulary on the black board, give 2 children a fly swat each, then you call out a word and the first child to find the translation on the board gets to swat it - again, good kinesthetic fun.

What else can a teacher do, apart from finding out their own Teaching Style and their pupils’ Learning Styles (available from

· At the end of each lesson, let kinesthetic children throw a ball around or hit a balloon to one another as you call out one thing you remember from the lesson,
· For a geography lesson: let visual children paint and write a postcard from a pretend-holiday describing typical weather of that month, tourist attractions, cuisine, industry, farming,
· For a geography lesson: let kinesthetic children set up a drama play about their experience as tourists in a foreign country,
· For a geography lesson: let tactile children build a topographic map of the region using coloured clay.

Still stuck for ideas? Then please email me on and let me know the age group and the school subject you’re targeting, and we can brainstorm together.

Alternatively, please leave a comment on this blog.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Extended DISC Work Pair Analysis Report

· Are you considering setting up business with a friend?
· Are you going to work closely on a specific project with a team member?
· Is you company about to recruit somebody to work alongside an existing employee?

Work Pair Analysis is a tool used to determine how well two individuals can work together. While two similar DISC styles often get along well, their partnership amplifies not only their strengths, but also their weaknesses. As a result, their performance is not optimal.

The tool identifies the styles of the individuals, how the styles complement each other, and where
the behaviour gaps exist. It also provides a visual, easy to understand report about what the individuals should:
• remember,
• accept and
• practice
when working together.

Work Pair Analysis does not require the participants to complete another DISC questionnaire: it can be generated from the data set provided by your original responses.

To perform your Work Pair Analysis, please contact

Thursday, August 10, 2006

DISC Personality Assessment

Are you a D or an S? We’re talking about the DISC Personality Assessment, of course. DISC is a reliable way to gain insight into interpersonal relationships, work productivity, teamwork and communication, using a 4-dimensional model of behaviour.

D stands for Dominance: People who get high scores in this area enjoy dealing with problems and challenges. They are described as demanding, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.

I is for Influence: “High I” people influence others through talking. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Those with Low I scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings and are described as reflective, factual, calculating, sceptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact and critical.

S is for Steadiness: People with High S styles scores want a steady pace, security, and don't like sudden change. They are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. People with Low S scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive.

C stands for Conscientiousness: Those with High C scores adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High C people are cautious, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate and tactful. Those with Low C scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic and careless with details.

Comprising 24 multiple-choice questions, this quick fun test is available in paper or online versions from Creative Learning Systems ( Are you Analytical and Concerned, or a Good Listener and Sympathetic? Find out today by sending an email to for more details.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Single Sex Education

“By almost every benchmark and across every demographic group, boys are falling behind at school.”

This statement was made about the shape of education in America last year, but it’s equally valid in most parts of the globe. Whereas fifty years ago the education system advantaged boys, nowadays it measures academic success in a way that seems to benefit girls.

For some strange reason, the solution of choice appears to be single-sex education. Journalist Christine Flowers put it as follows: “males and females should mix at parties, at sporting events and in holy matrimony, but that it's far too distracting to have a member of the opposite sex sitting in class beside you.”

I disagree.

School is a place where you learn many things: logarithms, Shakespeare, basketball, how to spit and how to stay out of trouble, how to make friends and how to hurt enemies. Learning how to deal with members of the opposite sex is an integral part of the beautiful process of learning, in the fullest sense of the word.
I know the statistics, about how girls in particular, but also boys, fare better in single-sex schools. I know that in New Zealand, some secondary schools are choosing to split boys and girls in subjects such as English, Maths and Science. In England, parents are choosing single-gender schools. In European countries where co-ed education has been the only mainstream option since the Second World War, private single-sex schools are mushrooming.

To all that I say: stop, think. Boys’ brains differ from girls’ brains, nobody can argue with that. Boys and girls are developmentally and psychologically different, true. And yet, it would be a gross error to generalise along the gender lines to say “all boys need mobility and a certain level of noise during the learning process, while all girls need to sit still in a quiet room in order to concentrate better.”
Teachers need to recognise it and learn how to bring out the best in everyone, and Learning Style Analysis ( is the best place to start. That’s where teachers find out whether their pupils need visual stimuli or kinesthetic activities, brightly lit rooms or a sip of water, external rewards or rigid guidelines, early morning tests or background music, in order to learn to the best of their potential.

STOP PRESS: “Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm announced in July 2006 that she had signed the first bill on the way to allowing single-sex education in Michigan.”
How many pupils in Michigan have had their Learning Styles assessed, I wonder.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Learning Styles and Bullying

By Sharon D'Penha

School bullying is a very common cause of poor performance among students. Children who are bullied by other children tend to slow down as far as progress at school goes, and they tend to want to stay away from school altogether. Research has shown that violence among peers may cause a low rate of literacy among children of various age groups.

According to a September 2003 report in the Journal of Urban Health, 15% of children reported feeling unsafe in school, while only 8% felt the same way outside school. In the same study, nearly 31% of all children said their schoolmates "get away with anything." Billingsley, Janice, "Many Children Don't Feel Safe at School”,, Sept. 2003.

School bullying peaks during your child’s early teenage years, but it is experienced in most primary and secondary schools. In order to help our children, we need to know more about the nature of bullies and their victims.

Our task as parents and educators would be easy if all we had to do was give a child a questionnaire to complete in order to discover whether they are a potential bully or victim. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complex than that.

How to spot a bully?

There are different types of children who turn into bullies.
· Some are ‘Attention seekers’: they want to be the centre of attention most of the time. They can be very friendly to some people (to the point of being overfriendly or overgenerous) and aggressive to others.
· The other type of bully may be dubbed ‘Wannabes’: they are underachievers and underperformers, but they want recognition for skills they don’t have.
· Yet others are known as ‘Gurus’: they are task-focussed and have no people-skills. They are sometimes regarded as favourites and valued by the teacher, either because they come from rich and famous homes, or because of their genuine knowledge in a narrow field.
· There are also those called ‘Sociopaths’ who interest only in personal gain, survival and can be very deceitful, manipulative and evil.

Is your child being bullied?

If your child is being bullied, you will be able to observe both physical and social signs. You may notice your child has come home with wounds and torn clothes, and when questioned, he won’t give a satisfactory or believable answer. Complaining of headaches and stomach-aches could be another sign of being bullied, especially if this happens right before the child is leaving for school.

Socially, a child can run down in numbers at school: his grades may suddenly go low instead of going higher, he may not like to participate in school activities and events anymore, not like to talk to his best friends any longer, he might keep to himself all the while. It’s important to find out what is causing this distress and change of attitude in your child, and it would be unwise to put it down to “typical teenage angst”.

What you can do?

You may not always be able to confirm your suspicions. "Bullies may instil a sense of shame in victims," says Kate Cohen-Posey, author of How To Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies. "Either they internalize the names they are being called, or feel like they should be able to handle it themselves."

All children are entitled to courteous and respectful treatment by students and staff at school. Educators have a duty to ensure that students have a safe learning environment. Fortunately, most educators take their responsibilities to stop bullying very seriously.

If you have any concerns or even unproved suspicions, speak to your child’s school in the first instance and ensure that together you form a Plan of Action to combat not only the bullying, but also the resulting issues (lower grades won’t necessarily go away when the bullying stops: you will need to bridge your child’s gap in knowledge).

For a chance to understand your child’s learning potential and strengths, as well as to increase their sense of self-worth, assess their Learning Style on

Make your children ‘BULLY-PROOF’: get wise, act now!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Carrot and stick - how to motivate our children using Learning Styles

There are two types of people in the world: those who are internally motivated, and those who are motivated by external means. That’s according to the Creative Learning Systems’ learning styles found on

It’s very easy to get an externally motivated child to do her homework, put away her shoes and be nice to her baby brother: all you have to do is promise her a reward. The reward can be verbal (you’re such a good girl, I’m proud of you), material (a chocolate bar if you allow your kids sweets), accrued (a star-chart with a well defined end-goal, such as a pair of skates once the child accumulates 20 stars) or a withdrawal of privileges (no TV after dinner if you don’t load the dishwasher). In the old days, there was also active punishment (the stick approach), but I’m glad to say that’s being phased out to the point of being made illegal in some countries.

(Do you have an opinion as to whether it should be illegal for parents to smack their children? If so, please comment at the bottom of this blog.)

It’s even easier to get an internally motivated child to do her homework, put away her shoes and be nice to her baby brother: you don’t need to do anything at all, because your child will do it all out of her internal sense of “I want to get this done”. That’s provided she herself sees that homework, putting away the shoes and being nice to the baby brother as important matters worthy of engaging her internal motivation system over. If she doesn’t see them as important, you have a huge problem on your hands, because no amount of chocolate or withholding of privileges is going to have an effect on her.

So, what do you do as a parent? The first step is, naturally, to establish what type of motivation works on your child, and to what extend: your child may have a strong or a slight preference for external motivation, she may have a non-preference for it (in which case it’s really not a good idea to offer her external rewards), or she may be flexible in this area (in other words, a combination of internal and external motivation would work well on her).

If your child is strongly internally motivated, all you can do is continue to instil your values in her and hope that her internal motivation system will make her do the right things. Particularly if she also has a non-preference for external motivation and would be unhappy with an external reward system, your task as a parent is very hard indeed.

If your child is externally motivated, set up a reward system for her. But - I hear you argue - isn’t it wrong to have to reward my child for doing something that’s her duty? Well, let me ask you this: how many hours would you spend at your place of work if you didn’t get paid for it? Also, the rewards need be nothing more than a clear and positive acknowledgement from you of the fact that your child did indeed perform her duty. It’s amazing how far you can go with loving and sincere praise.

Which brings me to the topic of over-praising. It’s currently fashionable to give your children praise whether or not they really deserve it. In my opinion, that’s wrong, very wrong, because it leads the child to believe that they need not put any effort into their tasks: whether they try hard or not, they will hear “good work, great drawing, you’re so clever!”.... In particular, internally motivated children will look with disdain at such empty rewards.

So, make sure the praise is deserved, sincere and specific. Avoid general feedback: “this is wonderful” in favour of “I like the way you drew the scales on the mermaid’s tail”, “Thank you for sharing your bun with your brother” and “I’m proud of all the effort you put into cleaning your room”.

And do remember the best praise of all, to be used on internally and externally motivated children alike: “I love you”. You can make it as general and as frequent as you like!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Learning Styles the “Magic Tool” in School Discipline

(By Sharon D'Penha)

There is a lot of competition in the marketplace today. As parents or teachers, we would like to make sure our youngsters are prepared for it. But the constant change in the world as we know it makes it all the more difficult to teach our children. What’s more, changing laws and rules alert the children to the fact that they need to respond to the changing environment at a moment’s notice.

It’s possible that these constant demands have a negative effect on our children when it comes to their performance and behaviour at school.

The growing need for discipline is a big challenge at school and at home. And yet, “How can we guide our children, if we are unable to understand their difficulties?” is the question on the lips of most educators.

Younger children tend to think and act differently every day. What can we do to teach them discipline and how can we make their learning effective in school?

Teachers naturally play a very important role in enhancing a child’s learning, but they can’t do it alone. Learning Styles (available from is a great tool for classroom management and can show teachers how to keep students motivated and effective in their studies. For example, if the class consists mainly of tactile students, then providing them with hands-on projects will keep them occupied (and thus happy and quiet) during the lesson. Best of all, it’ll teach them the syllabus far better than a lecture would have. Identifying the group’s sensory modality preferences is the first step towards teaching excellence.

Knowing the Learning Styles of their students will also allow the teacher to teach in a way that’s suitable to the Information Processing needs of the group: namely holistically, analytically, or a combination of the two.

Finally, Learning Styles will help the teacher set up the classroom in the way that’s most conducive to teaching their students. For instance, some students prefer to sit upright and study while others like to sit on the floor with their feet stretched out and relaxed. Some are happy and alert in a brightly lit room, but the same room can make other students hyperactive and stressed.

Learning Styles come with a free Group Profile: a summary of the group’s classroom needs. Visit today to see how you can change the world tomorrow.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How to read with your tactile child

You will most likely know whether your child is tactile. They are the ones who look down when you speak to them and explore clothes in the shop by touching instead of looking. They love fingering fabrics, stroking wooden furniture, experimenting with play dough. If you cut out stars and moons from a piece of felt, a visual child might want to glue them onto a piece of paper to create “art”, but your tactile child will be happiest just handling them.

An auditory child will enjoy hearing you read a book to her. A visual child will want to read the book herself - even if she’s too small to read, she’ll want to look at the pictures, so you must remember to position the book for her, not for you.

But how do you encourage a tactile child to read, particularly if they’re not a mixture of auditory/tactile or visual/tactile?

As with any other child, the trick is to begin early, as soon as your baby can sit up. Use touch-and-feel baby books specifically designed to introduce texture: fur, wool, felt, silk, sandpaper, mirror, bumpy surfaces. Try interactive books for older toddlers: ones with flaps, sound buttons, jigsaw puzzles. For bath time, use specially designed waterproof books - some of them even come with squirt-buttons or bubbles.

Props are a fantastic reading aid for tactile children. If you’re reading “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”, for example, let your child cuddle a soft toy bear and make her point to Teddy’s “two furry ears” and “two goggly eyes”.

Allow your child to handle the book themselves: to hold it, to read the pages, to point at pictures. When your child begins to read herself, make sure she is allowed to follow the text with her finger as she reads, even if she’s “advanced enough not to need that”. Remember, tactile children need tactile input, no matter what their age or skill level.

With tactile children who are also kinesthetic, act out the book together as you read it (it may be a good idea to record the words onto tape first). Move from the sofa through the lounge as you’re going on your bear hunt. Wade through the river. Get stuck in the mud. Stumble in the forest. Tiptoe through the cave (by now you should be at the other end of the house).

The most important lesson you’re teaching your child is that reading is fun. As soon as you notice their attention fading, stop. Little and often is better than none at all!

If you’d like to check whether your child’s tactile, kinesthetic, visual or auditory, have a look at

To improve your child’s reading skill, have a look at:

Friday, June 23, 2006

S.O.S. - Office Relationship in Trouble

Yes, I know. The office is usually a great place to form friendships. But sometimes things simply don’t work out, be it due to personality differences or miscommunication. And sometimes they even escalate out of proportion altogether, into something you wouldn’t believe unless you experienced it yourself.

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you at the office? Did you and the boss have a heated argument that turned into something ugly? Did you have to share an office with a “wet blanket”: somebody who’s always negative about everything from the weather to the latest project? Did you find yourself a new addition to an already well-established team?

Please share your war stories with us (use the comment facility below). The writer of the best one will win a free Working Style Analysis (WSA) for themselves... or for their difficult colleague. The WSA on is a great place to start when you want to understand somebody’s behaviour at work. If you think John looks sleepy in the morning because he’s not committed to his work, or Jane is deliberately trying to be disruptive the way she always paces the room, you might be surprised at what you find out. You may even find an excuse for having a messy desk yourself!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Three “Rs”

I’ve read a frightening article recently: 20 percent of New Zealand students are failing within the school system. And I believe the overseas figures are no better.

What makes our situation unique is that New Zealand doesn't have national standards for judging if primary students can read, write, or do maths (Reading, Riting, Rithmetic). If such standards were to be introduced, the experts argue, teachers would know what to aim for and parents would know what to expect of their children.

While I agree that a benchmark is needed, I’m concerned that it might, by establishing the lowest allowable level, somehow create the misimpression that the level is a “good enough” achievement. Our country can be so good at cutting down Tall Poppies! (For our overseas readers, Tall Poppies are high achievers who are sometimes encouraged by their peers to step down and settle for mediocrity.)

I’m further concerned that such a measure would add even more strain and stress and paperwork to our already overloaded teachers. Let’s face it: bureaucracy creates results that usually look good on paper but are often not practically beneficial, and it always but always creates more work and stress for the people involved.

Incidentally, if you’re a teacher who’s currently under stress due to work pressures, burnout or discipline issues, why not check out our Teaching Style Analysis (TSA) on It might - just might - make your year easier!

Style Analysis and YOU

(By Sharon D'Penha)

Because we see and meet so many people, it’s now become very important to make Learning Styles a part of our lives. Whether you are a parent, teacher or student, you will be amazed to understand how your style affects your work or study pattern.

You put your best into your daily work at office, but working hard is sometimes not enough. It’s all about working SMART. That’s why it’s so important to know what you are best at and what your style is in order to build your career.

What would happen if you enter the office one day and realise that it’s just another day, that your work pattern is the same dull and tedious one, that it simply gets no better and that you’re going nowhere? Would you just sit there? Or would you want to take yourself through to the test of discovering your true style, vision and goal of performance?

Find out what makes your work situation truly “work” for you. Perhaps you like the music on, or maybe you need to take power breaks while working. What’s the best time of day for you to hold an important meeting? Will to-do lists really help you in organising your daily tasks?

It’s all about making the best decision for yourself. It’s never too late. is the best place to discover your style. It will open up new opportunities for you and help you discover a whole new “YOU” out there in a competitive world.

Style Analysis is becoming a diverse concept in today’s world. The results and motivation are simply phenomenal and of course a step towards success.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

To your health: Prevent Stress and Burnout

You arrive at the office way earlier than you would have liked. It’s winter, so the place is brightly lit with fluorescent tubes, some of them flickering like a disco machine. The place is unnervingly silent as everybody is going over the papers they need in the upcoming monthly strategy meeting. You still have five minutes to spare, so you put the coffee on, you check your email while dialling in to hear the voicemail messages. Then you spot the memo that the boss put on your desk (why didn’t she email it, you wonder). Just as you begin to read it, the coffee machine beeps, your mobile phone starts to ring and your computer announces brightly that you have new mail.

If, at this point, you feel like giving up and crawling back to bed, don’t feel embarrassed. The latest research shows that multitasking - the very quality so sought after by most employers - can often lead to stress and burnout. This can be exacerbated by working in an environment that clashes with your natural working style in terms of lighting, noise levels, time of day and social interaction.

Working in an environment that’s comfortable and compatible with your own can prevent stress and burnout. What’s more, it can motivate you, energise you and increase your productivity.

Do you know your optimal Working Style? If not, please complete the Working Style Analysis (WSA) on It’ll be good for your health.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Teaching your child to read and write using Learning Styles

I attended a seminar on reading and writing recently, and, I must admit, I was a bit taken aback to discover how children in New Zealand are taught to write. Spelling, for example, is something that is no longer important for the first couple of years. The idea is not to learn that “mummy” is spelled M-U-M-another M-Y - the idea is to sound it out: “what does it sound like, mmmm-mummy? Does it sound like something that begins with the same letter as mmmm-mouse?”

Consequently, children learn to spell “cat” as “k” or “kt” if they’re lucky enough to hear the “t” at the end. Their writing books are full of sentences like “i l m k” (I like my cat” and “trtlsl” (turtles are slow). The idea is to liberate the children from the restrictions of having to know how to spell a word and just to let them write what and how they like it, and then to "correct" it further down the line. The trouble is, some children (typically those who love rules and doing things "right") might struggle with the concept that "kt" is now supposed to be spelled "cat" and that what they were originally taught was "wrong".

I’m sure it’s a valid approach, this sounding. But what about children who are not auditory? “Not a problem,” said the presenter. “We use a combination of phonics (sounding) and whole-word learning”. “Whole-word learning is when you show the child a whole word as a picture and tell them the word is “and”. Which is fine for children who are visual. As usual, tactile and kinesthetic students are left behind in this mode of teaching.

So, if you suspect your child may be tactile or kinesthetic (you can assess their Learning Style on, do find out how they are being taught “the three Rs” at school. You may discover that the Montessori approach of drawing letters in sand and tracing them in sandpaper cut-outs works better for your youngster.

Another innovation (since my day, anyway) is teaching to write and read small letters only (they are the ones that are more common in reading books) and in groups of “letters that look similar”, e.g.,: r, n, m all look similar, so do l and t, etc. Again, for children who are not good with visual detail, teaching “similar-looking letters” together may lead to confusion.

Do you know how your child is taught the basics at the local school? How were you yourself taught? Every country is bound to be different, of course, and I’d be fascinated to learn about the various approaches taken worldwide, particularly in non-English speaking countries. Please email me on or leave a comment on this blog.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

ADHD - can it be misdiagnosed?

Is your child diagnosed with ADHD? If so, you may want to let him or her complete a Learning Style Analysis (LSA) questionnaire on before you give him the drugs.

If you search for ADHD tests and symptoms on the Internet, you will find plenty of information. Some of it will probably scare you enough to take your child to the doctor. According to the Internet, signs of hyperactivity may include symptoms like: “Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat”, “Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected”, or “Is 'on the go' or acts as if 'driven by a motor'”. When you do the LSA questionnaire, you will discover that children who display such symptoms simply have a different Learning Style, one that requires mobility instead of sitting still. If that need for moving around during learning is satisfied, you’ll be amazed at the improved school performance as well as a change in the child’s confidence and behaviour.

Other ADHD symptoms listed on the Internet may include behaviour like: “Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities” or “Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities” or “Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly” - all of which can easily be explained by Learning Styles.

Running around, shouting and being easily distracted are all part of being a child. A normal, healthy child.

In the USA, 9% of school children take ADHD medication on a regular basis. That’s a lot of children. Are they suffering from ADHD? Or is it a case of misdiagnosing their Learning Style needs?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Broaden your child’s horizons

Today I’d like to show you an example of how we, at Creative Learning Systems, walk our talk.

Barbara sent us a postcard from Helsinki... and it was addressed to my 3-year old daughter. Apart from the expected delight of a little girl receiving “her own post”, the postcard had an unexpected consequence: a barrage of questions:
· Why do people send postcards?
· Why was there a fire in the city?
· Was it a bad person who started it?
· Where is Helsinki?
· Is it close to where Babcia (grandma) lives?

Just one postcard - and so many opportunities. We looked at the map and saw that Finland was closer to Poland than it was to New Zealand. We talked about the language people speak in Finland and their long winters and the wonderful summer berries (cloudberries and cowberries). I told her that the person who wrote the “Valley of the Moomins” came from Finland.

So, next time one of your friends goes overseas, ask them to send a postcard to your youngster. With a slightly older child, you could turn in into a homemade Geography lesson:
· Is Helsinki the capital city or just a city? What does it mean to be the capital city?
· If you wanted to take a car from Helsinki to Vienna, which way would you travel? Which borders would you cross? What do you have to do at a border check point?
· What currency do they have in Finland? What did they use before they joined the European Union?
· What crops do they grow?
· What industry do they have?
· What animals would you find living in the wild?
· What do they eat in Finland?
· Cook a traditional Finnish recipe together with your child: pea-and-ham soup or buttermilk cake, then serve it to family or friends.
· Let your child draw a picture / make a clay model / write a poem about one aspect of Finland.
· Plan an imaginary holiday in Finland. What would you see? What would you do there? What would you pack?

Vary the tasks according to your child's Learning Style (which you can assess on visual, tactile, analytic, etc.

Remember, the most important lesson your child will learn is this: I am special enough for somebody to send me a postcard and I am special enough for Mum/Dad to spend time with me discovering a fun new world.

Happy learning!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On Owls and Larks - Body Clock and Learning Styles

Is getting up with the birds every morning a challenge for you? Do you find it difficult to stay awake at Saturday night parties? You can blame your genetic makeup.

The Learning Styles Analysis (LSA) pyramid is not surprised by the latest scientific discovery that the “Time of Day” preference is hereditary (or, as we call it, biological).

Researchers at Britain's University of Surrey have identified a gene called Period 3 which helps to regulate our internal body clocks. Period 3 can occur in two sizes: long or short. People who have an extreme preference for early mornings are more likely to have a long version of Period 3, while those who stay up way past midnight are more likely to have the shorter version.

Of course, that's the simplistic explanation. The body clock is governed by a combination of genes, and it’s influenced by external circumstances such as late nights. You can try to fool your body clock by making it follow a certain lifestyle pattern... but you’ll be doing it at a cost.

Do you want to know whether it’s best for your health to work first thing in the morning, or after dinner? Go to and find out by filling in a Learning Styles Analysis (LSA) or a Working Styles Analysis (WSA) questionnaire.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gifted Children and Learning Styles

Many people believe that gifted children have no special needs. After all, they learn easily and can do so in almost any environment... right?

However, being gifted is not synonymous with being an all-rounder: a child can have a gift of music yet struggle to write good compositions. Being gifted doesn’t mean that you necessarily “do well at school”, either. Many gifted children struggle to achieve their potential at school because of their unconventional behaviour and questioning attitude, or because of their incompatible learning styles. For example, if your child is gifted, but also holistic and tactile, he or she may suffer in the conventional schooling systems that favour analytic visual-auditory learners.

Of course, you will want to know whether your child is gifted. You want to be able to help them achieve their potential. You don’t want them to become distressed through frustration and boredom. You don’t want them to deny their intelligence in order to become more acceptable to their peers.

But how can you tell? Unfortunately, there is no easy (or indeed accurate) test. A lot of your evaluation will be based on your own observation. Your child may be gifted if they display many of the following characteristics:
· inquisitiveness
· exceptional powers of observation
· wide-ranging vocabulary
· phenomenal memory
· ability to talk early
· ability to read early
· good levels of concentration
· creativity to form unusual advanced questions
· ability to grasp ideas quickly.
Learning Style Analysis (LSA) available on can also offer good insights into your child’s learning needs. Look out for the following criteria in your child’s LSA report:
· highly integrated in analytic and holistic thinking
· can learn through all sensory modalities with ease
· can learn at any time, forgets to eat or do other chores when lost in learning
· prefers to work alone or with true peers
· won’t accept authority
· is highly internally motivated - often learns for pure knowledge
· never gives up - has often extreme persistence
· dislikes rules - makes his or her own ones
· doesn’t need help in structuring their learning, dislikes guidance.

The report will also give you a detailed analysis of the biological and non-biological elements that make up your child’s Learning Style. It will show you how to create an ideal homework spot and how to talk to the teachers about any concerns you may have.

Remember, gifted students need to learn in challenging settings, where they can have opportunities to develop their abilities. And yet, many schools fail to recognise the efforts and needs of the high achievers.

Whether your child is truly gifted or “just” very bright, what you want is to produce a happy switched-on child who doesn't want to miss school. LSA will help you achieve that goal.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Young Learning Styles - how early is too early?

Barbara and I were enjoying an Easter brunch with my family, when my daughter deliberately ignored one of my requests. Up until then, she was a model child, enthralled by Barbara’s attention and eager to please... quite unlike the daughter I know and love, in fact. But clearly, enough was enough, and she decided to assert herself by returning to her non-compliant self. Fortunately, she’s also externally motivated, so it was easy to guide her back into model-child behaviour.

In case you’re wondering, my daughter is three years old. Barbara and I just looked at each other and laughed: “That’s learning styles for you.”

So there you have it. While some elements of the Learning Styles Analysis (LSA) Pyramid can only be assessed at a later stage (statements like “I remember best when I can read about it” only make sense if you can already read), others come out much, much earlier.

The other day, we talked about soccer, and how, regardless of which team member scores the goal, it’s the whole team that wins. My daughter looked at us seriously: “Mummy,” she said. “I don’t like team work. I want to win all by myself.” I carry the LSA pyramid in my head, so I immediately put a large cross (for non-preference) through the social element called “Team” and a circle (for preference) around the social element “Alone”.

I also know that my daughter is visual, auditory and kinesthetic, although whether that last one remains a preference, or becomes a flexibility later on, is yet to be seen (from my personal observations, I believe that some of today’s couch potatoes were once children who enjoyed physical play). She also needs mouth stimulation: she bites her nails, and I can’t even begin to count the holes she’s bitten through sleeves, collars and hat strings, and I’m very glad I know about Learning Styles or else I might have ended up punishing my lovely daughter for something that’s not her fault.

My 19-month old son, on the other hand, is a strong tactile learner: he has to touch everything to figure out how it works, he loves the feel of different fabrics and textures, and he needs to hold the board book we’re reading in his own hands or he gets bored. He is also an obedient child (compliance) who loves playing with his sister (pairs). His favourite pastimes are sweeping and putting toys back into their box at the end of the play - that penchant for neatness, combined with his insistence to get everything “right”, points towards analytic tendencies, though I hesitate to pronounce anything definite this early on, because most children tend to start off as holistic, so I’m a bit thrown by this observation.

The LSA Junior assessment on is recommended for children aged 7 -12. Nevertheless, if you have a younger child, you can still deduce several of their learning style elements by simply observing them at play (let the questionnaire guide you).

But how early is too early? Well, for the sake of being a better parent who understands their child, I say: the earlier, the better.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Learning Difficulties

An interesting article in today’s New Zealand Herald ( which confirms that dyslexic people read with the right side of their brains, while “normal” readers use their left brain hemisphere.

This ties in with my blog of a few weeks ago about dyslexia, but, more importantly, it also has tremendous implications in terms of finding a way to help dyslexia sufferers learn to read and survive in today’s alphabet-oriented world.

Of course, not all learning difficulties and not all learning disorders can be blamed on dyslexia and ADHD. Research has shown that people learn in different ways: some learn visually, others kinaesthetically; some learn best in the morning, others in the evening; some need background music, others can only concentrate in absolute silence. In fact, we at Creative Learning Systems ( have identified 49 elements to consider when analysing a person's Learning Style.

So if you think your child may be an underachiever (in other words, if they are getting grades that are below your expectations or not reflecting their potential), if they have trouble concentrating in class, if they appear hyperactive, stressed or lethargic when it comes to their studies, we would strongly urge you to let your child complete their Learning Style Analysis (LSA) to see whether the cure is as simple as changing the light bulb in their study or letting them snack on an apple while doing homework.

Please go to to improve your child’s learning future today.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

3 quick relaxation tips

In many parts of the world, Easter holidays are upon us. It’s time to kick off your shoes, meet up with family and friends, eat too much festive food.

Now is a good time to de-stress, especially if the thought of a family gathering makes all your nerves stand at attention. So here are 3 quick relaxation tips:

1. Eat chocolate

Chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa is rich in anti-oxidants and therefore good for us. So whether Easter eggs are part of your tradition or not, have a little chocolate this season.

2. Take a long bath

Leisure activities like a long bath or shower often fade away when life goes into overdrive. Don’t let them: aqua-therapy really works.

3. Read for pleasure

Reading is part of everyday life. We all read our email, newspapers, specialist literature, books that have won the Booker Prize, instructions on the vitamin pills and our own Working Style Analysis (WSA) found on But the best way to relax is to read something for pleasure. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. Leisure reading is not an indulgence or a waste of time - it is good for your creativity, it expands your mind and exercises your imagination.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tactile learning

If your child doesn’t look at you when you’re talking to her, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s not paying attention. On the contrary, it may mean that she’s listening so hard she is not able to look at you at the same time. That’s because her preferred mode of input may be via her hands, not via her ears or eyes.

Tactile learners touch things to get a sense of them. They learn by handling objects. If they have to use their listening skills, they prefer to supplement that with a tactile activity like clicking a pen on and off.

To interest a tactile child in books (which is the first step towards teaching them to read and write), let her hold the book in their hands during the reading session, as opposed to placing it on a table. Let her turn the pages, point to the pictures, trace the word lines. For babies and toddlers, the “Touch and feel” books with textured pictures are best.

When the child is ready to start learning the alphabet, cut the individual letters out of small-grained sandpaper and let her trace their grainy surface with her fingertip. Buy three-dimensional magnetic letters to stick on the fridge. Make letters together from play dough. Bake letter-shaped cookies. Let the child write and draw with her fingers in fine sand.

Tactile children of school-going age will most likely find the traditional teaching methods (via the blackboard and auditory lessons) a challenge. Augment their learning by encouraging them to make models of what they’re learning, create textured maps and complete educational jigsaw puzzles. Help them make the very learning tools they need, such as flip chutes and wrap-arounds and electro-boards. (Feel free to contact us for instructions on how to make those.)

Your child’s Learning Style Analysis (LSA) report on will tell you whether your child is a tactile learner and whether they will respond well to tactile learning tools.

(Inspired by Maria Montessori, who said: “Never give to the mind more than you give to the hand”.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Never give to the mind....

Maria Montessori once said: “Never give to the mind more than you give to the hand.” She’s talking about teaching children, about the fact that you should teach them by placing an object in their hand and talking only about that object.

Let’s take a book, for example. Before you read a bedtime story to your little one, show them the cover. Ask: “What do you think the story is about?” A younger child will look for the clues in the pictures, an older one may find additional information in the title. Show the child how to hold a book properly and in which direction to turn the pages. If they try to bend the book so that the cover is folded inwards, or bend the pages, or try to tear them - explain why we don’t do it.

As you read, point out the illustrations. What you’re doing here is showing them how to build the bridge between words and pictures in your head.

It’s all right to abandon the text altogether and ask the child what they think the wind is whispering to the tree. This way, you’re teaching them creative thinking.

With older children, it’s important to teach them the difference between reading for pleasure and reading to glean information. Later on, when they are adults, they will learn the skill of speed-reading, with all its advantages and disadvantages.

But Maria Montessori was also talking about something even more important than teaching one thing at a time: she was talking about tactile learning. She understood how important multi-sensory input was for the learning success of our children. We will discuss that in our next blog.

Meanwhile, did you know that your child’s Learning Style Analysis (LSA) report on can give you important insights into their Reading Style and what they need in order to learn to read effectively?

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dyslexia - The Different Brain, The Creative Brain

I've been reading a lot of articles about dyslexia lately. For no particular reason, as, to my knowledge, there is no dyslexia in my family. Well, ok, when I was just learning to write, I confused the small “d” and the small “b” (it’s a stick with a circle, but which way does the circle point?), as well as ”u” and “y” (it’s the same letter, but one of them has a tail, now which one?). But I think that particular muddle was due to the fact that I’m not a (picture) visual person, not due to dyslexia.

Simply put, dyslexia is a hereditary neurological disorder that makes it extremely difficult for the person to read, write and spell in their native language. It may also impede remembering names, placing events into the correct sequence, reading comprehension and the ability to follow a story line. But that’s only a tiny insight into what dyslexia is all about.

Imogen Stubbs, in her brilliant article about her dyslexic son, writes: “when asked what you got when you added two plus two, he replied: "April?"”. Now, before you laugh his reply off as nonsense, let me tell you that "April" is a perfectly valid and correct answer. April is the 4th month of the year, and the little boy wanted to say that two plus two equals "4"... and yet, the word that came to his mind was the one that described another aspect of the number 4, namely the month that is 4th on the list! That’s thinking outside the box for you. That’s creative and non-linear.
Research shows that people with dyslexia actually are brain-different, i.e., they have a significantly larger right-hemisphere. So it’s not surprising that they often excel in areas controlled by the right-side of the brain (art, music, mechanical manipulation, 3-D visualisation, creative problem solving skills, people skills).
This has been partially recognised in the book “Thinking Like Einstein” by Thomas G. West, who argues that visual-spatial abilities and difficulties with language often go hand in hand. According to him, "the kids who were at the bottom of the class in the old system based on words and numbers are already at the top of the class in the new system based on information-rich computer images. But almost no one knows this - least of all the educational professionals who are stuck in the old ways of thinking."

So, are dyslexic children the new gifted learners? We’d love to find out. If your child is dyslexic, please send us his or her Learning Style Analysis (LSA) report. To complete one, click on and the address to send it to is We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

How to stop violence before it starts

“Jump in boys' violent crimes alarms judge”

“The judge in charge of sentencing young offenders is becoming increasingly worried by a surge in serious violent offences by teenagers,” states a New Zealand Herald front-page article (27 February 2006). Although its title implies that it is the jump in “boys' violent crimes” that alarmed the judge so, it is a sad fact that it’s both boys and girls who are becoming more violent, not only in NZ but also in Germany and other countries.

The increased violence among very young offenders (teenagers aged between 14 and 16) is disturbing. We can blame the TV, or drugs, or the divorce rate, or the Double Income Long Hours family model. But it’s not about blame, it’s about solutions.

To solve the problem, let us examine the reason behind it. Let’s ask ourselves what is really going on with these troubled teenagers.

So what is really going on? Chances are, these young people turn to violence out of frustration, boredom, low self-image or the sense of not belonging (reasoning that it’s better to belong to a criminal gang than not to belong at all). In all likelihood they don’t have a support structure at home and they don’t perform well at school. (To improve your child’s school results, please check Learning Styles on

Now, I’m not saying that Learning Styles are a cure for all evils of today’s society, but I can’t read about these violent incidents without wondering whether we could reduce the future crime rate by making teachers and parents aware of children’s needs at school and at home.

Of course, it would lead to better school performance and a better self-image for the teenagers, but Learning Styles are not just about learning. Learning Styles are about day-to-day behaviour. They are about understanding why your teenager seems listless or hyperactive or stressed. They are about knowing what it means when they answer with an “I dunno”, or stare into space when you’re talking to them.

Knowing your teenager’s Learning Style will help you know your teenager. And that’s the first step towards keeping them safe from ill influences.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Barbara's New Book

Good news, everybody: Barbara's written a new book. This one is called "Learning Styles in Action", and is precisely that: the application of Learning Styles. Think of "The Power of Diversity" as the textbook, and of "Learning Styles in Action" as the workbook.

The book is full of scenarios and diverse real-life situations. Among others, Barbara's book shows you:
- How learning styles can help underachieving or disruptive students
- Multi-sensory teaching and learning in action
- Ways to integrate learning styles and ICT (computer technology)
- How to create a real learning styles classroom
- The do’s and don’ts of using learning styles.

The book will be out later this month, so please contact us if you'd like to pre-order a copy.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Video Gaming Debate

The video gaming debate? What video gaming debate, you may well ask. We all know that playing video games, computer games, Gameboy games... call them what you will... is a bad idea, right?

Right. So I was understandably shaken when I read the following:

"Before you assume gadgets and video games fry the minds of the future, consider this: Canadian researchers are finding evidence that the high-speed, multitasking of the young and wireless can help protect their brains from aging."
(Better living through video games?, CAROLYN ABRAHAM, Globe and Mail)

Research carried out on 100 students in Toronto suggests that playing video games provides benefits in exercising the mind. Video gamers become skilled at shutting out distractions in order to be able to switch attention between different tasks.

In effect, the study suggests that playing video games may help you learn the skill of multitasking. But before you rush off to play Doom - or whatever it is teenagers play nowadays - consider this: multitasking is not always a desirable thing. Multitasking can lead to stress and burnout in certain individuals. If you want to find out how susceptible you are to stress in a multitasking situation, please purchase a Working Style Analysis profile from our website (

Also, bear in mind that video gaming can become addictive. To see whether you or your family are at risk, please see our earlier blog on Internet Safety.

So, to video game or not to video game, that is the question. Well, here is a thought for you: remember our recent blog about the benefits of knowing more than one language? Consider this: video gamers consistently outperform their non-playing counterparts in tricky mental tests... BUT... if they also happened to be bilingual, they are invincible.

In other words, if you want to be on the safe side, instead of perfecting your Nintendo skills, you might like to consider learning Esperanto. :-)

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Learning Styles Debate

The other day, I came across a debate on the web: are Learning Styles just a lot of hot air? Those who criticised said things like "Learning Styles are too simplistic", "they are a cog in the wheel of the learning process", "many other factors (am I hungry? do I like the subject? am I tired?) are at play" and "it is not very likely that the self-concept of a student, once he or she has reached a certain age, will drastically develop by learning about his or her personal style".

Let's take these comments one by one.

Learning Styles too simplistic? They may certainly seem simplistic, and some of them probably are. But our Learning Styles on http:\\ consider almost 50 different elements and they go waaaay beyond the simple holistic-serial classification. Our report explains all the elements in a simple, accessible way, but let's not confuse "simple" with "simplistic".

A cog in the wheel of the learning process? Well, a cog is a good thing, it's a little gear that drives the learning machine. So if Learning Styles help the learning machine chug along, that's fantastic!

Many other factors (am I hungry? do I like the subject? am I tired?) are at play? You bet! Our Learning Styles on http:\\ actually make Food Intake one of the elements of the Learning Style.

Now my favourite: not very likely that the self-concept of a student will drastically develop by learning about his or her personal style? I beg to differ. How can you not benefit from learning about yourself?

If I ever doubt whether Learning Styles worked, I only need to look at my 2 children: one is visual and right brained, one is tactile and left brained. I raised them the same way, but they came out different. That's genes and Learning Styles for you.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

2 languages good, 4 languages better?

The advantages of knowing more than one language are well known by now:
- Bilingualism increases mental flexibility for children.
- Bilingual children are more willing and able to learn a third language.
- They show an increased ability to analyse a language.
- They score higher on verbal tests conducted in English.
- They perform better in maths and logic skills than children.
- Bilingualism increases self-esteem, creativity and problem-solving skills.
- Bilingual children maintain a strong sense of their own identity and are more tolerant of other people and cultures.

About 20 years ago, Prof. Ellen Bialystok noticed that bilingual children were good at blocking out irrelevant information when it came to problem solving. When asked to identify a grammatically correct sentence, both bilinguals and monolinguals are, by age 5, able to choose, "Apples grow on trees," over "Apple trees on grow" as the correct one. But when it came to asking "Apples grow on noses" versus "Apples nose on grow," only the bilingual children were able to choose the right answer. Although the first sentence is grammatically correct, monolingual children could not get over its silliness. "That's crazy," they'd shout, "You can't say that!"

A range of cognitive tests has confirmed that bilinguals are always better at problems with tricky, misleading information. But did you know that it could also protect you from cognitive decline? Prof. Bialystok recently compared 94 bilinguals and monolinguals between the ages of 30 and 80. The study found that while both groups started showing cognitive decline by age 60, the rate of slowing for bilinguals was much slower.

The question now remains: if 2 languages are good, are 4 languages better? The jury is still out on that one.

Meanwhile, if you haven't started teaching your children a second language, it's never too early. Experts agree that before the age 4 is best, and that it will not lead to confusion with the mother tongue.

However, if your children are 5 years old or older, don't despair. The LSA report will show you how best to teach your child a new language. It will also tell you whether your child is likely to learn languages easily (children with a strong preference for words and for external auditory input are likely to enjoy learning foreign languages, as are children with a strong analytic component).

You can do your child's LSA assessment on

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Is your child's IQ as high as yours was at their age?

Last week I read a fascinating article on, one which I'd like to share with you today.

The message is not a happy one: after studying 25,000 children in the United Kingdom, a professor of education at King's College London declared that the intelligence of 11-year-olds had fallen by three years' worth in the last 20 years. He bases this observation on the results of a test that was given, in its original form, to 11-year old audiences today as well as 30 years ago.

The questions did not require any specific knowledge of the 1970s world. One of the tasks, for example, was to compare the volume of two containers based on the amount of liquid they could hold.

It seems that by giving our children more complex toys, more access to information (both on TV and on the Internet) and a more stimulating environment, we have actually done them more harm than good. And no wonder: while computers, the Internet and the Gameboy all have their place, they have left the youngsters with little time for playing with construction blocks, chemistry sets and microscopes.

Of course, it's all too easy to blame it all on the Internet and on inadequate amount sof time spent playing in the sandpit. Learning Styles play a crucial role in children's education, and I firmly believe that if today's youth were being taught to their unique Learning Style preferences, they would ace that test of 30 years ago... in fact, they would exceed our boldest expectations.

Take the example of the water containers. If the children were shown at school what happens to water when it's poured from a larger container into a smaller one, and vice versa, if they were allowed to watch it and perform the experiment themselves, then they would have no trouble answering the test question about container capacity.

Is _your_ child missing out on the best education they could possibly get?

If you think they might be, let them discover their unique Learning Style today on

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Barbara's Whereabouts in February

Barbara, in her true wizard style, is in Oz at the moment. She is conducting follow-up LS training with teachers in a large rural high school in Tumbarumba, NSW.

A big hand for the Tumbarumba teachers! They have transformed a rather drab country high school into a marvellous place of learning. The school caters for students' true learning needs right from the beginning and it now even has a beautiful Zen garden right in the middle of the main block for students to enjoy tranquillity, calming green environment and relaxing atmosphere.

Tumbarumba, you rock!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Internet safety

Internet safety is a bit of a buzzword nowadays. Everybody knows not to give out their personal details in chat rooms and not to send their credit card number in an email. Parents are aware that they need to supervise their teenagers (and, increasingly, pre-teens) when it comes to their browsing the Internet.

But did you know that the results of your child's Learning Style Analysis (LSA) can help you assess how safe or how unsafe your offspring is on the Internet?

It's simple. If your child has a preference for visual and tactile stimulation, if he or she prefers learning alone and structuring their own work, and if on top of it he or she has a non preference for kinesthetic and auditory activities, then the chances are high that the youngster will enjoy spending a lot of time on the computer. That in itself is not dangerous, of course, but it shows a predisposition towards favouring the computer as a means of gathering information, communicating and even socialising from a safe distance. That's just one step away from being bored one day and deciding to try one of the forbidden activities like surfing for porn, chatting in an adult room or playing in an on-line casino, gambling away on their parents' credit card. This can be prevented by knowing your children's learning styles, what interests them and how their preferences can be utilized in a meaningful way, enhancing their school performance.

To find out your child's Learning Style, please visit our website and let them do the LSA on-line questionnaire. They will love it because they can download their personal results within minutes and become proud owners of their LSA Profile and Report. This will make them proud of their special learning skills, giving your whole family a good understanding how they learn best and how to help when they are struggling. And of course, it will give you and indication of how safe your child is on the Internet.