Cognitive Training

Cognitive training has been around for quite some time, but with the spike in technology and technological devices for children, we often overlook this very important aspect of teaching.

I have seen in my experience of working in schools and even in myself that my brain just isn’t holding onto memories very well. I find myself much more easily distracted and find difficulty in just being still. Unfortunately, we have trained our brain to be this way.

Here’s more information on cognitive skills from the LearningRx webage

Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Working together, they take incoming information and move it into the bank of knowledge you use every day at school, at work, and in life.

Each of your cognitive skills plays an important part in processing new information. That means if even one of these skills is weak, no matter what kind of information is coming your way, grasping, retaining, or using that information is impacted. In fact, most learning struggles are caused by one or more weak cognitive skills.

Here’s a brief description of each of your cognitive skills, as well as struggles you may be experiencing if that skill is weak:

Attention/Sustained
What it does: Enables you to stay focused and on task for a sustained period of time
Common problems when this skill is weak: Lots of unfinished projects, jumping from task to task

Attention/Selective
What it does: Enables you to stay focused and on task despite distractions
Common problems when this skill is weak: Easily distracted

Attention/Divided
What it does: Enables you to remember information while doing two things at once
Common problems when this skill is weak: Difficulty multitasking, frequent mistakes

Memory/Long-Term
What it does: Enables you to recall information stored in the past
Common problems when this skill is weak: Forgetting names, doing poorly on tests, forgetting things you used to know

Memory/Working
What it does: Enables you to hang on to information while in the process of using it
Common problems when this skill is weak: Having to read the directions again in the middle of a project, difficulty following multi-step directions, forgetting what was just said in a conversation

Logic & Reasoning
What it does: Enables you to reason, form ideas, and solve problems
Common problems when this skill is weak: Frequently asking “What do I do next?” or saying “I don’t get this,” struggling with math, feeling stuck or overwhelmed

Auditory Processing
What it does: Enables you to analyze, blend, and segment sounds
Common problems when this skill is weak: Struggling with learning to read, reading fluency, or reading comprehension

Visual Processing
What it does: Enables you to think in visual images
Common problems when this skill is weak: Difficulties understanding what you’ve just read, remembering what you’ve read, following directions, reading maps, doing word math problems

Processing Speed
What it does: Enables you to perform tasks quickly and accurately
Common problems when this skill is weak: Most tasks are more difficult. Taking a long time to complete tasks for school or work, frequently being the last one in a group to finish something

Brain training helps to train the brain to have self control as well as learn to think and process and store information better. Here are some tips to include in your lesson plans or to do all together as a family.

 

  1. Physical Activity

    We know in our current society that in order to have our muscles and heart to function properly we need to exercise it. Physical activity is great and gets your blood pumping and also helps with cognitive abilities (Hilman, C., Erickson, K., Kramer, A. “Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9: 58-65, January 2008.)

    Children should definitely play outside more. Play helps to develop social skills as well. I’ll write more on the benefits of play in another article. I know that my lesson plans are extensive, but I want to stress that physical activity and play are also very important. It’s much easier to squeeze in more activities and worksheets when your little ones wake up at the break of dawn. Everyone can find a good balance that works best for them.

    Physical activity could be participating in a sport, special disciplines like defense, or even playing tag. These activities help children to learn how to create and achieve goals and organize information appropriately (Tomporowski, P.D., Davis, C.L., Miller, P.H. et al. Educational Psychology Review 20: 111, 2008.)

  2. Learn an Instrument

    Studies have also shown that children who learn and play an instrument also develop enhanced cognitive abilities. Even “6 months of musical training thus suffices to significantly improve behavior and to influence the development of neural processes as reflected in specific pattern of brain waves (Cerebral Cortex  19 (3): 712-723, 2009, http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/3/712.full).” Musical training also showed significant improvement in speech, helping children to hear pitch variations, reading skills, and encouraged brain plasticity-which means even their memories were improved.

  3. Talk to YHWH OUT LOUD

    Yes, this one might seem strange. Studies actually state talking to yourself out loud is what helps organize and control ideas. However I believe that our Creator is always with us. Matt 18:20 states “For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.” Maybe I’m taking it a little too far but I see no reason why we can’t discuss out loud to our Heavenly Father. To me it’s like a mental tzittzit that helps us to remember that YHWH is with us and not against us. Besides, if we share our thoughts/ideas to Him, it’s more likely that we’ll get an answer to regulate those ideas rather than our own self. 😉

  4. Dramatic Play

    This doesn’t necessarily mean to participate in theatre or acting, rather it involves play on more of a recalling of scenarios. Re-eacting what children see and hear helps improve not only memory skills and cognitition but behavior as well. Children can play and share their toys with one another, but there is something significant in their brain that happens when they act a particular way. Neuropathways in their brain connect the action to the consequences (Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. “Preschool Program Improves Cognitive Control.” Science (New York, N.Y.), 318(5855), 1387–1388, 2007. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.1151148).

    My oldest one, though three still trembles when he disobeys. Not because of the discipline that he will receive but more so because of the story of Jonah that he recalls. Now please don’t use this story to manipulate your children into obedience. This is simply an example of how children connect and remember actions related to consequences. Remember, children from ages 2-7 often take things literally and store up all the information. It is not till later where they can truly rationalize when exceptions are appropriate and understand why.

  5. Tools

    There are many tools out their can improve brain training. Many of them can be found by searching for brain tools or executive functioning skills. I like to use this exercise with my children when we need a “brain break.”
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    These Brain Gym Cards are free to download and are excellent to use as well.

What do you think? Do you incorporate brain training activities in your day? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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