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"Not Yet" mindset: Increasing motivation and perseverance

Posted on November 5, 2016 at 9:52 PM Comments comments (881)
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a TED talk by Dr. Carol Dweck on the "power of not yet." She describes that a "not yet" mindset encourages students to approach novel and complex tasks with enthusiasm and grit. Her research was inspired by a high school in Chicago that was giving out scores of "not yet" to students who had not passed a course. A "not yet" score implies there is a learning curve and the person just has not reached it yet, rather than the negative connotations of a fail such as "I'm nothing. I'm nowhere." 

In Dweck's early research, she observed that when 10 year old students were given problems that were slightly too hard for them, those who reacted positively made statements such as "I love a challenge," or "I was hoping this would be informative." Those children understood that their "abilities could be developed," stayed engaged, and hence had a growth mindset. Such children process errors, learn from it, and correct it. Students who feel negatively--that it's tragic, catastrophic, their intelligence is up for judgment & they have failed, disengage.

She advises parents and teachers (1) to praise students for their efforts, strategies, focus, and perseverance rather than intelligence or talent. She describes that when her and scientists from the University of Washington teamed up to create a new online math game that rewarded effort, strategy, and progress rather than the typical game that rewards only the right answer, they got more effort, perseverance, engagement over longer periods of time, and strategies, on really difficult problems. Second, she advises (2)  that just utilizing words "yet" or "not yet," give students a confidence booth and increases persistence.  

To watch or read the TED Talk this is the link:

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Posted on August 6, 2012 at 6:48 PM Comments comments (396)
The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Do you ever arrive to appointments early, or finish projects, deadlines, assignments ahead of time? If not, why not?

When I was in graduate school, I decided to complete all my reading assignments several days prior to their due date. This allowed me to enjoy my week without having the readings hanging over my head and it also meant I did not feel scrambled and pressured the night before. Thus, I was able to enjoy what I was reading and also had time to organize my thoughts. I would usually review highlighted material the night before the class.          


Set a deadline that is earlier than when your project is due.


Many people plan on being exactly on time which can often lead to being late since life has a tendency to happen. You may forget your keys, get caught in unusually bad traffic or their might be an accident on the freeway, etc.  If you plan to be 15 minutes early, that will usually be enough time for you to be on time.
                  ….OR ARRIVE EVEN EARLIER…
If you arrive even earlier, take the extra time to enjoy your surroundings, relax, take a short walk, grab a coffee, appreciate nature, review your notes…

Some of you are probably thinking this is not possible. You are just way too busy. If you are always busy, you may want to consider decluttering your schedule or getting curious about why you need your life to be so busy.  


Wake up earlier and give yourself time to enjoy your morning. But also give yourself enough time for sleep. Sometimes people underestimate how much time they will need in the mornings and find themselves eating breakfast as they are running out the door. If you are always feeling rushed, that is something to notice as it probably prevents you from enjoying day to day moments…


Once you have made a commitment to finish something early, other fun tasks may present themselves and sometimes it may be a well needed break. However, if you find yourself consistently saying yes to distractions, then you may be avoiding/procrastinating.


Make sure you get some time to take-care of yourself to prevent burn-out. You will be more productive if you are feeling emotionally satisfied.

Sometimes people underestimate how much time a task will take to be completed and again are left feeling stressed and pressured. So plan ahead and leave some cushion time.

4 Easy Time Management Tips

Posted on April 12, 2011 at 4:53 AM Comments comments (244)
4 Easy Time Management Tips
A. Planning
*At the beginning of each week, take 15-30 minutes to plan your week.
*Also,create a to-do list each morning.
  • Keep lists simple—jot down one word for each task. Your list will look more organized and less overwhelming to look at.
  • Prioritize your list! This will help you spend more time on the things that matter to you.
  • But, you can also do easy tasks first. Some people feel more motivated when they knock tasks off their list.
  • If you are a procrastinator, getting started is the hardest part. So, commit yourself to 15 minutes each day. For example, if you have a paper to write, and do not feel like writing the paper, spend time brainstorming. When the 15 minutes is up, you can then choose to continue or stop.
B.  Learn to say NO!
* Most people over commit. This often leads to feelings that drain energy.
C. Get Rid of Bad Habits
* Make a list of habits that are wasting your time and then work on removing them from your life one bad habit at a time.
D. Create Me Time!
* Plan pleasurable activities and time for rest. No matter how busy you are, make the most of what little “you-time” you have—be present to the moment and remember to play!

Test Taking & Managing Anxiety

Posted on April 6, 2011 at 1:08 AM Comments comments (68)
Test Taking and Managing Anxiety

A certain level of anxiety is helpful as it inspires one to take action and study. However, too much anxiety can lead to avoidance behavior as one may procrastinate, or it may cause one too freeze during test time. This can lead to going “blank” during the test—all of a sudden your forget everything, perhaps you lose your ability to focus, your heart starts beating faster, and you become more panicked and flustered. You may find that you run out of time or are unable to complete problems you have already studied.
So, how can you cope with test anxiety?
1.    Adequate preparation.    

  • Waiting till the last minute creates feelings of being overwhelmed as there is too much information to be learned in too little time.    

  • So, break studying down into small chunks and prepare ahead of time.

~~>Study a little bit every day. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, so commit to 15 minutes a day. You may find that once you get started, you will go over the 15 minutes.

~~>Try to see the bigger picture. Often, titles and highlighted words can key you into the big picture. Make connections to previous readings or notes.

~~> Create 5-7 key words that represent the material you learned and be able to verbally elaborate on each word/concept.

  • Get a tutor. They can help ease the burden of studying if you are too overwhelmed.
2.    Be kind to yourself.

  • Practice self-care.

~~> Practice deep breathing. Individuals tend to breathe shallowly or even hold their breath when feeling anxious. Sometimes they are not even aware of it. Shallow breathing limits your oxygen intake and adds more stress to your body, creating a vicious cycle. Breathing exercises can break this cycle. Set 15 minutes to practice breathing. You may be surprised how energizing or relaxing this could be. If you dismiss this suggestion, just notice and get curious about why.

Exercise 1        
~~> 1. Sit up straight and allow your feet to touch the ground.
2. Place one hand on your diaphragm and the other on your chest.
3. Take in a deep breathe in through your nose and exhale slowly though your mouth.
4. Inhale and exhale on a count of 5 and overtime try to work your way up to a count of 8.
5. Your hand should move out as your inhale and the hand on your chest should stay relatively still.
6. If you lose your concentration, just come back to your breath.
7. Do this for 15 minutes.
8. Notice your experience. Notice if this helps you feel more relaxed or nervous. If you become more anxious, notice where your mind went. Notice why an exercise that was meant to relax was anxiety provoking. Did you have judgements? Was it too boring? Waste of time? Just notice and keep practicing. Try this in the now or tomorrow morning!

Exercise 2                
~~> 1. Cover your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left.
2. With your index finger cover your left nostril and exhale through your right.
3. Then switch sides.
4.Practice this for at least 5 minutes. Try this now!

  • The importance of good posture cannot be overstated. While sitting, we tend to slouch, which compresses the diaphragm and other organs, resulting in shallow breathing. Slouching also strains muscles in the neck and back. It is helpful to sit in a chair with good back support to avoid fatigue that leads to slouching.
  • Get enough sleep. If you don’t there is no amount of coffee that will compensate for your lack of sleep. Also, research shows that sleep helps to solidify learning and memory.
  • . Talk to yourself as you would talk to a 4 year old. For example, you may have a big test coming up.  You might say something to yourself like “Off course I’m feeling nervous and overwhelmed. I have a huge test and have had several assignments and I’m feeling really tired.” If you can’t talk to yourself in this way, get curious about why not…

* Stop, breathe, smile, and go slowly!
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A.

5 Study Tips for Math (Part 2)

Posted on January 20, 2011 at 1:26 AM Comments comments (395)

1.Distinguishing similarities vs. Differences

Go over the titles of each lesson and be able to distinguish how they are different    and similar.
*How was yesterdays homework lesson different than today?
*What is the difference between problems in each subsection of your homework?
* How is this chapter related to and different from the previous chapter?
2. Be able to explain these differences.
*Explain what the difference is out loud.
            This helps to organize what you have learned.
Perhaps you are more visual.
*Break problems down into steps and in your own words describe what you did at each step. Color code steps.

3. Representative Problems

After you complete your homework, pick out a problem that is representative of each subsection and be able to explain how to do it. Again, explain what steps you took and distinguish how this problem is different or similar to other problems in the section.
4. Homework

Do all your homework problems.
*Don’t skip a problem because it is too easy or overlook it when studying for a test. Sometimes we think we understand or know the problem and at test time we go blank. We go blank because we don’t have experience doing the problem. The problem is familiar but we cant generate how to do it.
5. Review for the Test
*Don’t wait till the last minute as this may be overwhelming.
*However, do review everything the night before the test.  If you have time, review the day of or right before the test. This helps to activate the material in your short term memory and is also called the recency effect.
*Do practice problems, especially problems that you find challenging.
*Also, review problems that are representative of each section.
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A., Ph.D. Cand.

11 Study Tips for Math (Part 1)

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 3:58 AM Comments comments (61)
Study Tips for Math:
  1. Read titles of chapters and lessons prior to completing the lesson.
  2. Read any highlighted terms and pay attention to diagrams/charts. They often contain important information.  
  3. Go over your class notes before you start your homework.  
  4. Do the practice problems in the beginning of each section (even though they are not a part of your homework).  
  5. This may be seem obvious but complete your homework and check your answers.
  6. At the end summarize what you learned in the specific lesson and connect the information to previous lessons.
  7. Practice verbally explaining what you learned. This is often difficult for students at first but gets easier with time. Practice after a challenging problem and at the end of each lesson.
  8. Be willing to teach the material to others.
  9. Ask questions in class!
  10. Understand what you are learning rather than just memorizing information.
  11. Lastly, sit in the front row.   
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A.

Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 3:36 AM Comments comments (202)

Individuals differ in their learning styles. Below you will find descriptions of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. However, remember that they are just categories and things are not always so cut and dry. Individuals can have a predominant learning style and yet display characteristics of the other learning styles.

Your learning style may be the single most important key to improving your grades.

Students learn in many ways, like seeing, hearing, and experiencing things first hand. But for most students, one of these methods stands out.
Why is this important? Research has shown that students can perform better on tests if they change study habits to fit their own personal learning styles.
For example, visual-learning students will sometimes struggle during essay exams, because they can't recall test material that was "heard" in a lecture.
However, if the visual learner uses a visual aid when studying, like a colorful outline of test materials, he or she may retain more information. For this type of learner, visual tools improve the ability to recall information more completely.
A simple explanation of learning styles is this: Some students remember best materials they've seen, some remember things they've heard, while others remember things they've experienced.

You may recognize your own style quickly, once you look over the characteristics. If any of the traits and characteristics below sound familiar, you may have identified your own style.

Visual Learner Characteristics

Visual learners are those who learn through seeing things. Look over the characteristics below to see if they sound familiar. A visual learner:

  • Is good at spelling but forgets names.
  • Needs quiet study time.
  • Has to think awhile before understanding lecture.
  • Is good at spelling.
  • Likes colors & fashion.
  • Dreams in color.
  • Understands/likes charts.
  • Is good with sign language.

Learning Suggestions for Visual Learners

  • Draw a map of events in history or draw scientific process.
  • Make outlines of everything!
  • Copy what's on the board.
  • Ask the teacher to diagram.
  • Diagram sentences!
  • Take notes, make lists.
  • Watch videos.
  • Color code words, research notes.
  • Outline reading.
  • Use flashcards.
  • Use highlighters, circle words, underline.

Best Test Type for Visual Learners:
Diagramming, reading maps, essays (if you've studied using an outline), showing a process
Worst test type:
Listen and respond tests

Auditory Learner Characteristics

Auditory learners are those who learn best through hearing things. Look over these traits to see if they sound familiar to you. You may be an auditory learner if you are someone who:

  • Likes to read to self out loud.
  • Is not afraid to speak in class.
  • Likes oral reports.
  • Is good at explaining.
  • Remembers names.
  • Notices sound effects in movies.
  • Enjoys music.
  • Is good at grammar and foreign language.
  • Reads slowly.
  • Follows spoken directions well.
  • Can't keep quiet for long periods.
  • Enjoys acting, being on stage.
  • Is good in study groups.

Auditory Learners Can Benefit from:

  • Using word association to remember facts and lines.
  • Recording lectures.
  • Watching videos.
  • Repeating facts with eyes closed.
  • Participating in group discussions.
  • Using audiotapes for language practice.
  • Taping notes after writing them.

Worst test type:
Reading passages and writing answers about them in a timed test.
Best test type:
Auditory Learners are good at writing responses to lectures they've heard. They're also good at oral exams.

Kinesthetic Learner Characteristics

Kinesthetic learners are those who learn through experiencing/doing things. Look over these traits to see if they sound familiar to you. You may be a kinesthetic learner if you are someone who:

  • Is good at sports.
  • Can't sit still for long.
  • Is not great at spelling.
  • Does not have great handwriting.
  • Likes science lab.
  • Studies with loud music on.
  • Likes adventure books, movies.
  • Likes role playing.
  • Takes breaks when studying.
  • Builds models.
  • Is involved in martial arts, dance.
  • Is fidgety during lectures.

Kinesthetic Learners Can Benefit from:

  • Studying in short blocks.
  • Taking lab classes.
  • Role playing.
  • Taking field trips, visiting museums.
  • Studying with others.
  • Using memory games.
  • Using flash cards to memorize.<.li>

Worst Test Type:
Long tests, essays.
Best Test Type:
Short definitions, fill-ins, multiple choice.

Quotes on Why Children Need Play

Posted on December 4, 2010 at 7:16 PM Comments comments (100)
Quotes on Play and Learning 
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson   
“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the  free expression of what is in a child's soul.”
-Friedrich Froebel (Father of modern kindergarten)
“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”
-Leo Buscaglia, author, educator
“Adults who criticise teachers for allowing children to play are unaware that play is the principal means of learning in early childhood. It is the way through which children reconcile their inner lives with external reality. In play, children gradually develop concepts of causal relationships, the power to discriminate, to make judgements, to analyse and synthesise, to imagine and to formulate. Children become absorbed in their play and the satisfaction of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion fixes habits of concentration which can be transferred to other learning.”
-BASS Early Years Advisory Team
“Play is a major avenue for learning to manage anxiety. It gives the child a safe space where she can experiment at will, suspending the rules and constraints of physical and social reality. In play, the child becomes master rather than subject.... Play allows the child to transcend passivity and to become the active doer of what happens around her.”
-Alicia F. Lieberman, author, The Emotional Life of the Toddler
“It’s not so much what children learn through play, but what they won’t learn if we don’t give them the chance to play. Many functional skills like literacy and arithmetic can be learned either through play or through instruction—the issue is the amount of stress on the child. However, many coping skills like compassion, selfregulation, selfconfidence, the habit of active engagement, and the motivation to learn and be literate cannot be instructed. They can only be learned through selfdirected experience (i.e. play).”
-Susan J. Oliver, Playing for Keeps

5 Healthy Ways to Improve Learning...

Posted on December 1, 2010 at 4:11 AM Comments comments (139)
5 Healthy Ways to Improve Learning, Memory, and Concentration
  1. Exercise: 
Do not underestimate the power of regular exercise. It helps increase oxygen to your brain and releases endorphins, which help reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance memory. Some studies have also shown that exercise may cause neurogenesis, which is the creation of new neurons. 
2.   Reduce Stress:
Long term stress produces a hormone called cortisol which can have damaging effects on the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
                                                      3. Sleep deficiency:
The sleep cycle allows your brain to rest and repair. Too little sleep causes us to be drowsy and have difficulty concentrating. Studies have also linked REM sleep with learning and memory. Researchers have found that REM sleep deprivation leads to poor performance on recall tests and logical tasks. Findings also demonstrate that memory loss occurs when sleep is deprived on the same night or two nights after the material has been learned. Studies with animals have shown that rats  exposed to learning tasks, spend more time in REM and also fall into REM sleep faster if they have more trials of the learning activities.
4.     Water: 
Drink 8 cups of water a day. Water helps to cleanse your system by washing out toxins and to also increase metabolism. It helps to increase energy and make your body work properly. The human body is made of 58-78% water depending on body size.  
  • Tiredness
  • Migraine
  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irregular blood-pressure
  • Kidney problems
  • Dry skin   
5.     Nutrition:
Studies have found that free radicals may be associated with poor brain function. Vitamins B, B6 , B12, and folic acid can protect neurons by breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid, that is toxic to nerve cells. These nutrients also help to produce red blood cells which help carry oxygen. Spinach and other dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, melons, black beans and other legumes, citrus fruits, and soybeans are a good source for these nutrients.
Antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E as well as beta carotene fight free radicals which may damage cells. Antioxidants also help improve the blood flow to the brain and body. Foods that contain these antioxidants include: blueberries and other kinds of berries, sweet potatoes, red tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green tea, nuts and seeds, citrus fruit and liver.
Omega 3 fatty acids are associated with cognitive function. They are considered "healthy fats" and can be found in foods such as: salmon, herring, tuna, halibut, mackerel, walnuts, walnut oil, flaxseed and flaxseed oil.
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A.        

How to Improve Memory

Posted on November 27, 2010 at 4:44 PM Comments comments (394)
How to Improve Memory
Memory formation can be divided into three phases: acquisition, storage, and retrieval.
Once something is encoded into memory, the memory remains stored. The problem is not that the memory is gone, but that the connection or retrieval path cannot be accessed. Think of memory as a city. The more routes and modes of transportation you have to this city, the easier it is to access this place. Once you have traveled this route, you are less likely to get lost on subsequent trips and no longer need to rely on directions and a map, especially regarding trips you have made recently and frequently. The city doesn't disappear! 
So the question becomes how can one learn information in a way that strengthens retrieval paths both in the short and long run. 
  1. Attention
  2. Repetition
  3. Spacing
  4. Generation
  5. Connection
  6. Understand/Organizing
E.g. Let’s say that I am at a party and someone introduces herself to me. Her name is Jasmine. I need to be attentive to learn this new information. If I am not attentive the information perhaps will not encode. Perhaps I am paying enough attention for it to encode but do not manipulate the information in any way. Thus, I cannot access her name from memory but when she restates her name, I experience an “oh yah” moment.
If I repeat her name in my head a few times, I will be more likely to remember her name, especially if I space the repetitions. What I mean by spacing is the amount of time that passes before I repeat her name again. If I retrieve/generate her name after 10 minutes, I had to work harder to retrieve that information than if I allow 2 minutes to pass.
Perhaps when I first meet her, I try to connect the information with other information I already know. For instance, I know Jasmine means flower and this person also happens to look like Princess Jasmine from the Disney cartoon Aladdin. Now I have connected this information to two other networks, which will also make the retrieval path stronger.
E.g. I am studying for a history exam. I am reading the chapter. When I am reading the information, I need to pay attention to it in order to encode it. After each paragraph, I might verbally summarize what I read. If I summarize from memory, I am generating the information, as well as repeating and organizing it. I may connect the information to a previous section or chapter thus increasing connections to other networks and forming multiple retrieval paths.
After I read the whole chapter, I might try to generate the information I read from memory. I may do this an hour later, five hours later, and two days later. Thus, I have not only had multiple repetitions, but I have also had experience generating the information.
However, if it is multiple choice test I may only need to recognize and be familiar with the information and multiple generations may not be useful or efficient. For an essay test, I would need to generate the information and thus multiple generations over time may be more useful.
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A.