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. :-)