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The Memory Game

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By Colette Leudeu Hapi

Most people, if not everybody, are aware of the fact that when we store information, we create memories. Many of us are also aware that there are multiple types of memories: long-term memory and short-term memory. However, did you know that there is a third type of memory that is just as important in our daily lives as the other two? Each type of memory plays a fundamental role in the way we remember, learn, and create. So what exactly is the difference between long-term, short-term, and that mysterious third memory known as working memory? I’m glad you asked!

Short-Term Memory vs Long-Term Memory
Short-term memory differs from long-term memory in two fundamental ways. As its name suggests, short-term memory allows the human brain to keep information in the mind for a very short period of time, such as remembering a phone number long enough until you are able to dial it. The extent of short-term memory lasts within seconds to minutes and then dissipates if effort is not made to retain the information for long-term use. Long-term memory, however, can store vast amounts of information and is usually permanent (nothing lasts forever, alas!). It is responsible for the retention of memories that have to do with life experiences, knowledge about how to perform tasks, and how to properly speak a specific language.

Short-Term Memory vs Working Memory
Working memory allows the manipulation of information and is often interchangeably used with short-term memory, even though the two are very different. Although short-term memory plays a role in working memory, working memory is a theoretical framework of the structure of how memory manipulation works. Working memory is key to learning, as it helps individuals hold on to information long enough to use it. For example, working memory is responsible for many of the skills children use to learn to read. Auditory working memory helps children hold on to the sounds letters make long enough to sound out new words, and visual working memory helps children remember what those words look like so they can recognize them in the future. When working effectively, these skills keep children from having to sound out every word they see. This then helps them read with less hesitation and become fluent readers. 

Working Memory and Executive Functioning
Before something is learned, it must pass through working memory. For individuals with executive dysfunction, they are often distracted while performing a task that the information does not pass through working memory due to inattentiveness. For example, they might need to re-read a worksheet three times before the information travels through their working memory, which will help children remember what they are supposed to.

Three Types of Memory
Remember: there is not one, not two, but three types of memory. Short-term memory allows you to remember a specific piece of information for a short amount of time (hence the name). Long-term memory, on the other hand, is responsible for life experiences and is meant to last for extended periods of time. Both of these types of memories help us function in school and work, but it is really with the help of our working memory that we are able to be successful. When we manipulate information in our working memory, we retain information from a previous task or question and use that to solve a new problem or complete a task. Although it might seem overwhelming at times to strengthen all three types of memory, there are many strategies you can use, such as visualization, mnemonics, or chunking. It is important to note that memory works just like any muscle group and has to be attended to regularly in order to see and keep any improvements that have been made.

Erica MechlinskiThe Memory Game

Coaching a Growth Mindset

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ICYMI on Facebook:

If you want your child to develop a growth mindset, it’s important that you offer support. Altering the type of feedback you give to her, such as focusing on the positives and acknowledging that a task is difficult yet not impossible, can motivate your child to improve her mindset and work habits.
#TipTuesday

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Erica MechlinskiCoaching a Growth Mindset

Thank you, Parents!

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By Rhona Gordon

I wanted to write this blog because it is time to acknowledge all of the hard work parents do for their children. I know that most children do not believe that their parents know what they are talking about, but I believe in you!

When I meet with new families, each family comes to our office with its own dynamic. Some are bantering in the office with their children and all laugh about how many coats went missing this year or how many completed assignments were left at home and never turned in. Some families come and the child tells me that everything is going fine and there is nothing to worry about while the parents report a very different story, and there are some children who really would rather be anywhere besides my office! However, some come to Thinking Organized with anxiety that hinders their performance and ability to complete their work. No matter how the child presents himself or herself, the parents are trying very hard to reinforce a child’s hard work and gently discuss the real reason the family is looking for help. That requires a lot of patience and measured word choice by the parents who are looking to help build a child’s self-esteem rather than punish him or her.

As your child begins his or her work with Thinking Organized, parents again step in to reinforce, encourage and in some cases make sure that the child is using the strategies taught. This is not an easy job because it takes time and stamina, but our parents are committed. Parents are busy with their own obligations, other children and family, yet I get reports that parents stay up with their children when the children are struggling, or some worry silently because getting involved will not be helpful for the child.  Whichever strategy you use, it is hard and stressful for parents to watch their child struggle. This is exhausting work and you are doing it!

It is time for Thinking Organized to remind all of our parents that we are not only here to cheer your child on, but also cheer our wonderful parents on. As I think I have told each one of you when we first met, effective executive functioning skills can be taught and learned, but it takes time. So, don’t give up, but do take a break. And this is the perfect time to kick back, relax and just enjoy your family! We wish you and your family a very happy holiday season and a healthy and happy New Year!

We look forward to seeing everyone in 2018!

 

Erica MechlinskiThank you, Parents!

Smartwatch 101

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By Jennifer Sax

If you are not up-to-date on the latest “smart” technology, a smartwatch is essentially a mini smartphone for your wrist. They are made by a variety of manufacturers and function as a companion to your smartphone. In addition to answering phone calls, reading text messages, tracking steps, and controlling music, there are many features that may help you with your organization, memory, and time management skills. Smartwatches are an excellent tool for individuals with executive dysfunction, so we’ve highlighted a few features that are sure to help strengthen these vitals skills.

Display settings: A useful feature of most smartwatch brands is the option to customize your display. The face of the watch can often be set to ensure important information or applications appear when you glance at your watch or tap a button/screen. This can support your memory and time management skills, as it decreases the likelihood that you will forget about important events, tasks, or even the weather!

Reminders: Another helpful feature for those who struggle to stay organized is to use reminders. Reminders can be set to notify you at specific times or even at a given location (location-based reminders will use GPS to initiate reminders when you are at a particular location). So, if you need to remember to pick up your dry cleaning while running errands in your neighborhood, you can set you reminder to pop up on your wrist when you are in that particular place.

Vibration alerts: When you receive an email or reminder on your smartphone, your paired smartwatch will notify you via vibration. The wrist vibration allows for easier access to notifications than if you relied on your phone, which could be buried in your purse or in your pocket. With a quick glance at your wrist, you are more likely to remember to buy milk at the grocery store or get the notes from your teacher during lunch.

Speech-to-Text: The ability to quickly set reminders, notes, or events by talking into your wrist is one of the best features of the smartwatch. It ensures you will not forget to add items to your to-do list, call your aunt on her birthday, or forget to add you doctor’s appointment to your calendar.

Productivity Applications: Many smartwatch applications, such as wunderlist, evernote, easilydo, and 24me, are smartwatch compatible.  Therefore, you can become more organized when your smartwatch is linked to your favorite productivity app.

Let us know how you use your smartwatch to help you “think organized!”

Erica MechlinskiSmartwatch 101

What’s Going On in This Picture?

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Helping our students develop their critical thinking and inference skills is a key goal of Thinking Organized.

One tool that we use is the New York Times‘ “What’s Going On in This Picture?” feature, where students are presented with an image without context and have to determine what exactly they are looking at.

The Oct. 2 feature displayed this picture and posed the following questions for students:

_________

Students

1. After looking closely at the image above (or at the full-size image), think about these three questions:

• What is going on in this picture?

• What do you see that makes you say that?

• What more can you find?

2. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)

3. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.

Note: Since Oct. 9 is a holiday for many school districts, the next “What’s Going On in This Picture?” will take place on Oct. 16.

Erica MechlinskiWhat’s Going On in This Picture?

Obstacles Strengthen You

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By Rhona Gordon

I love the Olympics and I am sure you do too. To see the best athletes in the world train day in and day out and suspend their lives for years in order to dedicate themselves to their respective sport, is commitment at its finest. Many have to overcome adversities to reach or at least try to reach their athletic goal. But, I was struck today when I read the New York Times article about the World’s fastest sprinter, Usain Bolt, who runs with an uneven gait. The fact that his stride is not the “proper” one makes it amazing that he is still the best in the World, no matter who dissects his running skills. What I didn’t know, and you might already know, is that Bolt’s stride may be a result of his scoliosis, which “…curved his spine to the right and made his right leg half an inch shorter than his left,…” (New York Times, July 23, 2017). He runs with an asymmetrical stride, but instead of it being a hindrance, it is a benefit. In other words, one could say that this handicap worked in his favor instead of his disadvantage. That is fantastic!

Now, for the rest of us mere mortals, this is a lesson to remember. We all have our ups and downs everyday or once a week or sometimes, but we have them. What is hard for you, math, writing reading? Are you frustrated that either you or your child cannot work efficiently or address academic courses without a struggle? We need to remember that obstacles in our way may actually help us get stronger and be more successful. This is a lesson in never giving up. Don’t give up on your child no matter how many times you remind him or her to put papers in order or be ready on time. Don’t give up on yourself or your efforts even when you take one step forward and three backwards. Remember, this is a journey to achieve successful executive functioning skills that are vital for school and life. Give yourself a pat on your back and on your child’s and lace up your shoes and go out for a run!

 

Erica MechlinskiObstacles Strengthen You

Common Application Essay Prompts

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Every year, anxious high school seniors across the country take a deep breath and stare at a dreaded enemy: the Common Application. They have to fill out personal information, decide which colleges to apply to, and write an essay that will impress the college admissions board. But no matter how intimidating the Common App may seem at first glance, it’s actually not *too* scary. The Common App undergoes some changes every year, and the 2017-18 essay prompts have recently been announced. In the past, the Common App released its essay prompts in August, which gave aspiring graduates only a few short weeks to work on their college essays. Now, the Common App releases its essay prompts towards the beginning of the year so that seniors will have ample time to work on their essays and produce the best work possible. So what are the major changes to this year’s essay prompts? Let’s find out!

For years, there have only been five writing prompts students could choose from on the Common App. But for the 2017-18 application, there are now a whopping seven prompts to choose from. Five of these prompts are similar to the prompts that showed up on the 2015-16 application, such as, “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.” However, these prompts have been reworded slightly from their 2015-16 counterparts.

Most significantly, though, is that there are two completely new prompts. They are: “Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?” and “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” In both of these prompts, students are free to write about a topic that they truly enjoy, one that asks them to discuss their passions and intellectual interests. With these prompts, the hope is that students will answer the questions honestly and in a way that shows their true selves. Too often students craft answers that they think colleges want to hear, and these answers do not present an accurate depiction of the candidate. These two new prompts are meant to encourage students to reflect on what they truly love and speak candidly.

A strong college application essay is not one that presents an ideal version of the applicant. Rather, a strong college application is one that shows a human being: one with interests in all sorts of things, one with flaws, and one with the capability to grow. So if you or your child intends to apply for college in the Fall, consider answering one of the new essay prompts in the Common App. Write about your love for the Oxford comma, your interest in animal hibernation patterns, or your passion for debating the place sports has in politics. If you write about something you legitimately enjoy, you offer colleges the chance to know the real you.

Erica MechlinskiCommon Application Essay Prompts

Modeling

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Picture the scene: it’s 7:00 AM, the school bus will arrive in 10 minutes, and your child is frantically searching for her binder. She looks in every room, overturns every pillow, but her binder is nowhere to be found. The bus arrives, and your child sadly shuffles out the door, knowing that she will receive an “incomplete” on today’s homework. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, this is a scene many parents are all too used to. For students with executive dysfunction, it’s incredibly hard for them to keep track of their materials, be it binders, books, pencils, or calculators. Something always seems to go missing, and no matter how hard they search for the item or try to remember when they last saw it, the object refuses to be found. Luckily, there is one important step you as a parent can take to help your child better manage her materials: modeling. Children learn from watching their parents, guardians, or other authority figures perform actions, so if you start focusing on your own material organization skills, you will be inspiring your child to work on her own skills.

If your child cannot remember where she placed her school supplies, show her how you have a dedicated space in your bedroom or near the front door where you store your work materials, such as your briefcase, your laptop, or any documents you may need. Before your child goes to bed each night, show her how you go over a checklist to make sure you have everything you need for the following morning. To encourage your child to keep track of her school assignments with a planner, show her how you create appointments on Google Calendar, or how you write in your own agenda book.

By modeling the benefits of material organization, you can motivate your child to mimic your actions. Gathering materials at the end of the night can become a family affair, and eventually your child will develop the habit of keeping her school things tidy on her own!

Erica MechlinskiModeling

Three Websites for Improving Productivity

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Many of the students who work with Thinking Organized struggle to maintain attention to a task. Often times they zone out without realizing it, or they’re uninterested in the material and cannot absorb it. As a result, homework and tasks are incomplete, and the students (and their family) are left in a whirlwind of panic. So how can these students avoid this panic and better concentrate on a task? By checking out the great websites below!


Noisli
www.noisli.com

Noisli is a sound app that offers a variety of noises designed to help a person better focus on their work and be productive. There are sixteen sounds to choose from: rain, thunderstorm, wind, forest, leaves, water stream, seaside, water, bonfire, summer night, fan, train, coffee shop, white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. You can play as many sounds at once as you would like until you find a unique combination that works perfectly for you. The thought process behind Nosili is that people work better in a relaxing sound environment because it stimulates the brain. In addition to providing sounds, Noisli also offers a text feature so you can write undistracted, a timer where your chosen sounds fade out after a predetermined time to alert you when your timer has reached the end, and a background that gradually changes color. This is a great app for homework and learning how to manage time.


Written? Kitten!

writtenkitten.co

The premise behind this website is so simple and cute that it’s almost genius. For every 100 words that you write on the site’s textpad, you receive a picture of a precious kitten. If you’re not a kitten person, you can change the photos to those of puppies or bunnies. Additionally, if you desire a larger challenge, you can change the settings so that you don’t get a picture until you write either 200, 500, or 1000 words. This is a website that revels in the rewards system as a motivational factor, and it enables students to set writing goals for themselves. For instance, if they get two pictures of a kitten, they can take a fifteen-minute break.


Cold Turkey
getcoldturkey.com

Cold Turkey is exactly what it sounds like: the complete and total stoppage of something. In this case, it’s the complete and total stoppage of utilizing distracting websites. Once you download the software, you can input the websites that you tend to visit when you’re trying to work on a task. You set a timer for how long these websites should be blocked, and that’s it! Cold Turkey blocks access to these sites until the timer is up; even if you try to stop the timer or uninstall the software and reinstall it, Cold Turkey persevers and refuses to let you procrastinate.

Erica MechlinskiThree Websites for Improving Productivity