From Fort Smith Educational speaker shares brain magic in SSDEC schools

Maria Church, Northern Journal

September 16, 2013

Armed with nearly 30 years of teaching experience, a background in cognitive psychology, charisma and a little bit of magic, educational presenter Terry Small brought a simple message to five communities in the South Slave region last week: how to get better grades in school.

"It all has to do with the brain," Small shared with The Journal.

Small, considered a leading educator in his field, has taken his presentation on learning and memory techniques across the globe for the past 10 years.

Using magic tricks as examples, Small shared his presentation with students and parents in Hay River, the K'atl'odeeche First Nation reserve, Fort Resolution, Fort Smith and Lutsel K'e last week.

Small's goal is to explain to students and parents that everyone can learn to control their brains and, by doing so, can study smarter instead of harder and set goals that will see them achieve more.

"The message I want them to walk out of here with is, 'Hey, my brain's pretty cool, I need to learn more about it. I can grow a better brain and I'm never stuck with the brain I've got, and if my brain is fantastic I better look after it because it can go away,'" he said.

"All the issues that schools and parents deal with, getting homework done, alcohol, drugs, relationship issues, my diet, how much time it's okay to be in front of video games, all these things are relevant from our brain's point of view because neuroscience is shedding a fascinating light on all of this."

His suggestion to parents and students was to utilize simple techniques such as cue cards that allow students to physically hold the answers, or to create future report cards with realistic grade goals. On top of that, Small recommended daily physical activity to increase brain power.

Small admitted that while the subject material can sometimes be boring, he keeps his audience engaged by using magic tricks.

"Magic sheds a fascinating light on how brains engage with their environment," he said. "The reason magic tricks work is because your brain is wired to think about what is essential, not what is real. Brains get good at seeing what they are looking for."

Similarly, a student who doesn't set realistic goals will continue to see themselves as an average or failing student, which will not allow the brain to reach its full potential, Small said.

While formal feedback from parents and students is encouraged, for Small it's evident if his presentation has hit home.

"The feedback that's important is what I see in the audience. Nobody has to tell me how I've done. Faces mirror what's going on in your brain, so in real times I'm monitoring audiences and I know how I'm doing and I know what I've done," he said.

To learn more about Small and his learning and memory techniques, visit