Everyone can learn

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Name _______________________________ Form _______


Introduction Page 3

The Memory Page 4
Brain Waves Page 5

Diet Page 7
Environment Page 8
Preparation Page 9
Attitude Page 11

Processing Page 14
Organizing Page 15
Visualising Page 18
Memorizing Page 20
Testing Page 21

Exam Preparation Page 24
Exam Technique Page 36
Exam Stress Page 41
Goals and Competition Page 42
Active Learning Page 43
Motivation Page 45
Seeking Help Page 46

The Brain Page 48
Whole Brain Learning Page 49


Everyone can learn.
But it's a fact that some people find learning easier than others.
There are two reasons for this.
1 No two brains are the same. Everyone has a different number of brain cells. This number is fixed at birth. You can decrease this number by abusing your brain with drugs, but you can not increase it.
2 Some people know how to use their brain better than others.
It's just the same as with the human body. Everyones' is different. Some people get the most out of their bodies. Others don't.

Regardless of the size of your brain, you can make better use of it, if you know how.

Every day hundreds, if not thousands, of images flash past us.
These include words, pictures, sounds, people, actions, tastes, smells and sensations
What happens to them?
Lost forever
The vast majority of these images make little or no impact upon our brain. We barely notice them, or do not consider them worth remembering.
For example, how many of the people you saw on the way to school this morning do you remember? How many sounds that you heard on the way to school do you remember?
Short Term Memory
Many images will be remembered for a minute or two. They will enter the short term memory. But the short term memory can only handle up to nine pieces of information at a time. As new information enters, old information will be lost.
For example: if you look up a phone number to give someone a ring, do you remember that number 30 minutes later? Ten minutes later? Probably not.
Long Term Memory
A small and selective amount of information will enter our long term memory. This will be remembered maybe for a week or two, maybe longer. If this information is 'revised' it may be remembered for a much longer period of time, perhaps forever.

Learning is storing information in the Long Term Memory.
To do this you need
1 The right conditions 2 The right techniques


Learning occurs when our brains send messages - in the form of electrical energy - from one brain cell to the other.

These messages are commonly known as brain waves
There are different kinds of brain waves. This section will tell you which are best for learning. The next section will tell you how to get them.
Beta waves (13-25 cycles per second)
Beta are the fastest waves, with the shortest wavelength.
They occur when we are very active, or when we are in a busy place with lots of distractions. (In a Beta state we can cope with nine things at once.)
When we play sport we are usually in a Beta state. That is why it is often difficult to remember what happened afterwards.
Beta waves are good for short term memory only. When we forget things (i.e. where we put that essay, or left our lunch) it is often because the information came through our brain in Beta waves. It did not penetrate our long term memory.

Symptoms of Beta
You are in a Beta state when you can't concentrate on one task because
• there are too many distractions, or

• you are tense, hyperactive - can't settle at anything, or

• you are tired, drowsy, or

• you are panicky, nervous, stressed, or

• you are just plain bored, and can't get motivated
Alpha waves (8-12 cycles per second)
These occur when we are more relaxed, but still alert. Alpha is a state of totally concentrated focus, when we are thinking of only one thing at a time - for example when we are in our room working on the computer, and lose all track of time.
Alpha is the best state for learning, because it opens up our long-term memory, for input and output. Without full use of the long-term memory, our learning will not be effective.
Symptoms of Alpha
• Concentration on one task only

• Unaware of the time

• No distractions, or unaware of them

Theta waves (4-7 cycles per second)
These occur when we are deeply relaxed - day dreaming or not thinking about work at all. Sudden flashes of inspiration may then come. Answers to thorny questions suddenly enter our brains after we have stopped thinking about them.
Theta is not best for 'study' - but it is best for creativity, insight and problem solving. Often the best ideas come while we are jogging, showering, or almost asleep. Theta waves give good access to long term memory.
Delta waves (0.5-3 cycles per second)
These occur when we are asleep.

Activity: Which are the best waves for studying?




The brain gets its energy from sugar compounds which are manufactured in our bodies from the food we eat.

• Fruit, vegetables, nuts, grain and seed products.

These are best for brain energy as they keep our blood sugar high.

• Oily fish (herrings, tuna, mackerel, sardines).

These are rich in the minerals, vitamins and oils that improve brain function.

• Raw foods of any sort.

These increase the rate at which the brain uses oxygen.

• Water.

It is essential to avoid the brain dehydrating. Drink six to eight glasses a day, or more. Water should be the major source of your liquid intake. People have found that suddenly drinking more water, and fewer caffeine drinks, such as tea, coffee and cola, has made a major difference to their mental and physical health.

Natural un-sweetened yoghurt is a natural antibiotic, and aids the digestion.
Do not eat
• Large meals. These cause drowsiness as our energy is used up on digestion.
• Too much fatty, processed food, sugar and salt.
• Too much food or drink that relies upon taste enhancers, artificial colourings or sugar.
Do not drink
• Caffeine products. Caffeine is a diuretic. This means that it removes water from the body cells. After drinking tea , coffee or coke, you therefore need more water, not less.

Note: most of the 'energy' and 'smart' drinks on the market today have high levels of caffeine.


Activity: Homework Environment Checklist:
[ ] A quiet room away from TV, people, distractions
[ ] A good desk, that can be left undisturbed from night to night
[ ] A comfortable upright chair. You should not be slouching.
[ ] Good light - natural light during the day.

[ ] A dictionary
[ ] Fresh air
[ ] Plenty of pens, of different colours. Scrap paper.
[ ] All past work for the year readily accessible in a filing cabinet, or box, or drawers
[ ] No phone calls. (Call people back when you are finished).

Guide to scores

8-9 A very good homework environment.

This will encourage an Alpha state.

6-7 Can be improved

1-5 A Beta environment.

You are not making the most of your homework time.

My score:

What if I live in a small noisy house?
1 The Auckland Public Library is open until 8.00 p.m. every week night and, during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. The Auckland University Library is open until 11.00 p.m. every week night, and during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. Any person may study in these libraries.
2 Is there a friend or relative's house nearby where you could study quietly?
What if I can't get through the work without some music?
Many teenagers like to work with rock music in the background, or on headphones.
Researchers have discovered that music can be beneficial to study. But only slow music with 40-60 beats per minute. This is because it produces a 7.5 cycle per second brain pulse, which is firmly in the Alpha-Theta range.
Most slow music is classical music. If this is not to your taste, you might find some more modern music that is also slow and relaxing.
Or study in silence.
Listening to fast rock music might help you 'get through your study' - i.e. you may not feel so bored. But you won't learn so much. And if you are in a proper Alpha state for study you are less likely to get bored anyway.


A good sports person will warm-up their body before training or playing. Likewise, a good student needs to warm-up the brain before studying.

The following activities help to relax the brain and prepare it for study; in other words, they help to produce Alpha waves

Take a shower or a bath

Go for a walk, run or any other kind of exercise
Listen to slow beat music
Take a nap
Deep breathing

What is the importance of oxygen?
A quarter of our oxygen intake goes to our brain cells. Without enough oxygen, we become drowsy. With plenty of oxygen we are fit and alert.
Studies have shown that students who regularly exercise, improve their grades. Students who exercise before an exam are more relaxed during the exam.
How can I improve my oxygen intake?
1 Fresh air. Keep the window nearest to your desk open.
2 Good posture.
3 Deep breathing, rather than shallow breathing. Do regular breathing exercises. Breathe in and out deeply, while placing a hand on your lower

rib cage. Your diaphragm should be moving in and out like a balloon. Breathe out going 'ha ha ha', forcing all the stale air out of your lungs. Shallow breathing leaves a litre of stale air in your lungs. You can tell that your breathing is shallow if your upper chest and shoulders rise and fall as you breathe.

4 Exercise. The more the better.
Eye movement
Take a deep breath, close your eyes, raise your eyeballs up and lower them again, immediately. Do this only once.
This tricks your mind into thinking you are going to sleep.
It is a good way of moving from the Beta to the Alpha state.

Brain Gym (Kinesiology)

The registered trade mark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation
The idea of Brain Gym is based on the link between body movement and brain function.
Brain Gym is simple exercises that stimulate the brain. A combination of exercises is advised.
1 Energising movements
These strengthen the neural connections between the body and the brain.
• Eye massage

• Temple massage

• Unroll the outside of your ears

• Gently tap the top of your breastbone with alternating hands

• Gently rub the bone behind your ears, with alternating hands

• Hold one hand under your lower lip, the other on your navel, and breathe deeply

• Write your name twice, simultaneously, using two pens (and two hands)
2 Lengthening movements
Any stretching exercises, especially involving the back or neck, will release back and neck tension, resulting from long hours of work.
3 Across body movements.
Any exercise in which the arms or legs cross over the front of the body will help in the co-ordination of the left and right brains. Sir Richard Hadlee and Grant Batty are two sportsmen who used this type of exercise before playing.


Tired? Stressed out?
We generally do our school work and study at the end of the day, when we are not at our best. The accumulated strains of the day may have got us down.
If we are tired, or stressed out, it may not be easy to study. It is all the more important to prepare the brain properly first.

Determined to get the work done?
If study is not easy, we tend to try to overcome this by 'trying harder'; by making an even greater effort to concentrate. We tense our muscles, furrow our brow, clench our fists, give ourselves a headache, and produce even faster Beta waves.
• Don't try harder. Stop. Take a good break. Do some warm up exercises. Do anything that gives you Alpha waves. Then start again.
Something on your mind?
Money worries? Girl friend? Fight with a parent? Is this why you can't study?

If you find that you keep day-dreaming about something and can't concentrate on your study, try this:

• Stop studying. Write down everything you can about what is troubling or distracting you.

• Then take a short break: go for a walk, do some exercise, watch some TV.

• Then set yourself a short-term challenge - i.e. 30 minutes uninterrupted study with a reward at the end.

Summary activity
Use the factors below to make two lists on the opposite page.

One list will show what will give you Alpha waves.

One will show what will give you Beta waves.

Nutritious diet - high energy food • Lack of water

Physical or emotional stress • Stuffy rooms

Eye movement • Brain Gym

Fluorescent lights • Quiet

Slouching, lying • Shower/bath

Relaxation • Trying too hard

Exercise • Natural light

Distractions - TV, people, phone • Slow beat music

Taking it as it comes • Take breaks

Deep breathing • Binge - too much food

Plenty of water • Poor nutrition

Fatty or sugar-high food • Fresh air

Fast beat music • Good posture in upright chair

Keep going when its not working

Smoking/alcohol caffeine/other drugs

Alpha Beta





Finished ? Now highlight any items in your Beta column that apply to you now. How are you going to change these?


Real learning takes place when information is translated into mental pictures and stored in the long term memory system of the right brain.

Often this happens without us even trying. Information that is really important, or of great interest, tends to be easy to remember.

But most of the time we have to make an effort, and to use the right techniques, to remember things well.
Study techniques will vary according to the subject

(suggested approach)
1 Start at Exercise 2 worksheet 1. Find the relevant theory in your theory book. Read it, make sure you understand it, write it out again as your swot notes.
2 Do several questions on the exercise without referring to your swot notes
3 If you have problems, refer back to the theory. If your answer is correct, move on to the next exercise. Work through as many problems as you can

Most other subjects:
1 Process the information so that it 'sticks'.
2 Organize the information so it can be recalled easily.
3 Visualise the information.
4 For information that is really hard to remember, use acronyms or mnemonics - 'tricks' to aid the memory.
5 Most important of all: Test yourself


The more you do with the information you are learning - the more you process it - the more it will stick.

The following are the main study methods used by students. State what is good about each method and what is not good.


Good Not Good


Reading and



Reading and



Verbal testing

with others


Reading and




Now rank these techniques 1-5 in order of effectiveness for processing.

1 is best.

[ ] Reading and note making

[ ] Reading and copying

[ ] Verbal testing with other students

[ ] Reading and highlighting or underlining

[ ] Reading


Brief Guide to Notemaking

1 Find the main point
• If you are making summary notes from a book, pick out the main point or generalization from each paragraph.
• The main point is usually (but not always) contained in the first sentence - the 'topic' sentence. Sometimes it is in the final sentence.
• Being able to pick out the main point or generalization is by far the most important skill in note making.

2 Then add the detail that supports the main point - but no more detail than you need

3 Use arrows, simple diagrams, and abbreviations to save time.
Build up a 'memory bank' of your own abbreviations, such as:

e.g. for example = the same as

i.e. that is = not the same as

imp important therefore

c.f compared with bc because

adv advantage C Century

cond condition & and

esp especially +ve positive

ind industry -ve negative

op opinion ... leads to

4 Make your notes clear and attractive to read, with large headings and consistent format. Avoid clutter, and keep lots of white space.
5 Break information up into bite-size pieces that you can remember.
The brain can only remember so much at a time.
For example it can probably remember 6753917
But to remember 64802783648920 it has to break it up into smaller sections
6 Your summary notes will be easiest to organize, remember and test yourself on when you can reduce them to lists
Simple Lists

• Categorized Lists

• Contrasting Lists
Simple Lists
For example
Eight important points about Christopher Columbus • 1 Born 1452, Genoa

2 Died 1506, Spain

3 Aimed to find a quicker western route to Asia

4 Given support by King and Queen of Spain

5 Three voyages to New World

6 Thought he had reached Asia.

7 Had not reached Asia, or discovered a route to Asia

8 However, was first European to reach Bahamas, Central and South America

(In your title always include the number of points: that reminds you how many points must be recalled)

Categorized lists
These organize your information more. You now memorize, and recall, information in two steps: firstly the categories, and secondly the information inside each category.
Which list is easier to memorize and recall from?
Simple list Categorized list

Columbus 1 Raw Data:

1 Born 1452, Genoa • Born 1492, Genoa

2 Died 1506, Spain •. Died 1506, Spain

3 Aimed to find a quicker western route to Asia 2 Aims:

4 Given support by King and Queen of Spain • Find a quicker ,western route to Asia

5 Three voyages to New World 3 How achieve them?

6 Thought he had reached Asia. • Given support by King and Queen of

7 Did not reach Asia or discover route Spain

8 However, was first European • Three voyages to New World

to reach Bahamas, Central and South 4 How successful ?

America • Thought he had reached Asia.

• Did not reach Asia or discover route

• However, was first European to reach

Bahamas, Central and South America

Contrasting lists
Often you have to learn about things that can be compared to each other - for example different characters in a novel, or different explorers.
If you make lists using the same categories for both people you are studying it will be easy to contrast and compare them in an exam. For example:

Columbus Magellan

Raw Data:

1 Born 1492, Genoa 1 Born 1480, Portugal

2 Died 1506, Spain 2 Died 1521, Philippines


1 Find a quicker ,western route to Asia 1 Find a quicker, western route to Asia

How did he achieve them?

1 Given support by King and Queen of Spain 1 Sailed around the world

2 Three voyages to New World

How successful ?

1 Unsuccessful 1 Successful

2 Did not reach Asia or discover route 2 First European voyage around World

3 However, was first European to reach 3 First European to reach Asia from the

Bahamas, Central and South America West.
Activity: Make a contrasting and categorized list from this information:

Titokowaru and Te Kooti
Titokowaru and Te Kooti were both Maori warriors who challenged Pakeha authority in 1868 and 1869.
Titokowaru was trying to defend confiscated land in south Taranaki.
Te Kooti's aims were more complex. He was fighting a war of utu against those who had unfairly imprisoned him on the Chatham Islands in 1865 (from where he escaped in 1868) and against those who had treated him badly beforehand.
Their methods of fighting also differed. Titokowaru built pa with killing zones, and then lured the government soldiers into them. He never attacked Pakeha villages.
Te Kooti used guerilla warfare. In November 1868 he attacked Matawhero (near Gisborne). In December government forces attacked Te Kooti's traditional pa at Ngatapa, but he escaped.
In March 1869 he burnt down Whakatane. In April he massacred 64 people at Mohaka.
Te Kooti's downfall came because he did not know how to build a modern pa, and he suffered major losses when he fought a pitched battle at Te Porere, south of Taupo, in October 1869.
Titokowaru's weakness apparently was his love for the wife of another chief. When this was discovered his warriors deserted him. Later in life Titokowaru became a follower of the pacifist Te Whiti.
Of the two warriors Te Kooti probably posed the greater threat to the government as he attacked, whereas Titokowaru defended.

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