The Key to Better Grades

Richmond News, Friday, May 09, 2008

Better grades in less time - sounds like a goal many students would share.

Some Richmond students and their families learned new study strategies to do just that this week.

Terry Small promises better grades, self-confidence, more free time and fun learning. Small, a former teacher, was in Richmond on May 7 presenting Get Better Grades in School at MacNeill secondary.

"Anyone can learn how to learn easier, better, faster, and that learning to learn is the most important skill a person can acquire," Small says.

The seminar is suited to students from Grade 4 up to adult.

I start by asking the kids who'd like to get better grades in less time, and, of course, they all would," Small said.

"I like to make the distinction between study skills and a study strategy.

One of the ways I get that across to the kids is to use hockey as a sports analogy. Passing, skating, shooting -- they're all skills and they're important, but how the players put it all together when they play the game, that's the strategy."

As an illustration of one of his strategies, Small suggests a person close their eyes and visualize an apple. Once the apple is visualized, Small asks whether it is in black and white, or in colour. Of course, most people visualize an apple to be red.

This makes Small's point that colour is very important to the brain. "People remember 13 per cent more instantly if they present their notes in two colours as opposed to one," Small said.

Diet is another element in Small's strategy.

"That's just massive in terms of learning. We talk about the number one food for the brain, which is unsalted walnuts," Small said. "If kids have a can of Coke, or a donut or a Snickers bar, they'll get a hit, but then half an hour later they've got low blood sugar and they're worse off than when they started; but if they eat six or seven unsalted walnuts, that will provide wonders in terms of good sustainable brain energy."

Small promises tips on how to set up a binder, how to take notes, how to remember material, how to prepare for a test and how to get along with teachers.

"We talk about how to make it more test-like with questions and answers and how to present the material in different ways to your brain," Small said.

"There's so many different ways you can engage all three neural pathways to the brain: visual, auditory and kinesthetic."

Small says it's never too late to learn a study strategy.

"I also do lots of seminars for adults who are heading back to school, or studying for their realtor's test, or whatever," he said.

Small presents in Richmond about four times each year.

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