• People cannot listen and take in information for more than 8-20 minutes at a time (depending on their age and physical/emotional/mental state, and the difficulty or interest of the subject matter).
• According to Zeigarnek’s research, people are more likely to remember information from the beginning and end of a session – which is known as the ‘primacy’ and ‘recency’ effect.
It therefore makes sense to break your Anatomy and Physiology studies up with activities of short duration and include energizing breaks – more beginnings and more endings!
It has been proven that doing certain coordinated exercises can improve academic performance. The actual Brain Gym® system was devised by Paul and Gail Dennison (who produced a book under that title), and some of the supporting research has been done by Dr Carla Hannaford (see her book Smart Moves).
• Drinking water is the first step in brain gym. It oxygenates/hydrates your body.
• Cross crawl Stand up straight. Raise your right knee (straight ahead) and touch it with your left hand, making sure your arm crosses the midline of the body, and (optionally) look to the left. Raise your left knee and touch it with your right hand (and look to the right). Repeat several times slowly.
• Uncurl your ears Take hold of the top of your ears with your first fingers and thumbs. Massage around the outside of the ear, moving across the top down to the earlobe, as if you were uncurling your ear outwards. Pull the earlobes downwards. Repeat.
• Brain buttons First find your brain buttons! With your forefingers, follow your collar bones from your shoulders towards your breast bone till you find their ends (near the centre of your neck). Move your fingers back 2-3 centimetres and down below the collarbones about 2-3 centimetres where there is a slight hollow. Massage firmly with your fingertips – it might be a bit tender, which is a sign that you are in the right spot and that you need this stimulation!
• Lazy eights Make a fist with your thumb sticking up. Hold it out at arm’s length in front of you. Draw a figure 8 on its side – start in the middle, move up to the right, round, down the outside, up towards the middle again and then round over the top on the left, down the outside, up into the middle again. Keep going. Keep your head still and follow your thumb with your eyes.
• Owl With your right hand, grasp your left shoulder. Keeping your spine straight and your chin level with the floor, turn your head to the left and look as far as comfortably possible over your left shoulder. Then turn your head to the right and look as far as comfortably possible over your right shoulder. Repeat with your left hand on your right shoulder.
• Hook ups Stretch your arms in front of you with your palms facing out and your thumbs pointing downwards. Put one hand over the other so palms are together, and interlace your fingers. Roll your hands in towards your body. Cross one leg over the other. Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Take a few deep breaths and feel yourself become more relaxed and focused.
• Feet/thumbs cross over Stand with your feet pointing inwards (like a letter A) and the thumbs pointing out. Jump and change over, ie feet pointing out (like a letter V) and thumbs pointing in.
• John Travolta Look at your right arm stretching up to the right while your left arm and left leg stretch diagonally away to the left. Do the same on the other side. Repeat several times on both sides.
• Hold your ear and nose Clap your hands on your knees. Bring one hand up to your nose and the other hand up to the opposite ear. Repeat on the other side – and then continue the sequence.
• Marching – making sure that the right hand moves forwards at the same time as the left leg and vice versa.
The right side of the brain controls movement on the left side of the body and vice versa. Also the two hemispheres of the brain are partially specialized for different functions (in broad terms, the right deals more with pattern, colour, imagination, pictures, harmony, the big picture, while the left deals with logic, language, numbers, sequence and detail). Since learning happens by making connections all over the brain, it is important to keep information flowing between the two hemispheres via the corpus callosum. Activities which stimulate both sides of the brain at once (by crossing the midline of the body), therefore serve to ‘wake up’ the brain.
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