Calm and relaxation are key to good performance

September 30, 2005|by LISA PREJEAN

Does the name Sir Wilfred Grenfell mean anything to you?

Perhaps you've heard of the college named for him in Newfoundland.

After traveling from England to the Canadian island in 1892, Grenfell became a legend among the people there.

He worked hard to combat poverty by helping to build hospitals, schools and an orphanage. He also helped to organize industrial work projects for the impoverished fishermen living there.

Other than this being a good example of a historical figure who made a difference, why should we be concerned with these snippets of information about him?

I became interested because Grenfell is mentioned in the history textbook we're using in my fifth-grade classroom.

When I was preparing to teach the lesson on people of the tundra, I wondered if any of my students had ever heard of this missionary. How would they remember his name if they had no connection to him?


Because silly associations always seemed to help me study when I was in school, I thought I'd try to provide one for my students.

After teaching the lesson, I wrote Grenfell's name on the board.

Since this man's name is uncommon, I suggested they remember it this way: Missionaries work hard and can at times be sad. They lose their smiles. Their grins fall. Grins fall. Wilfred's grin fell. Wilfred Grenfell.

Did it work? Many students got the question right on this week's quiz. Perhaps because they remembered that Wilfred's grin fell or perhaps they studied hard. Maybe they came up with their own way to remember it.

At times I was bored in school, so I decided I would entertain myself. Likewise, I try to encourage my students to channel their creativity in a constructive way: "What makes learning interesting for you? Can you think of a fun way to remember things that will perhaps make you smile while you are taking a test? You have to take the test anyway, so why not make it tolerable or even humorous?"

Laughter works wonders and enables the brain to recall information. If we're in a calm, relaxed state, it's easier to perform at our best. We all wonder from time to time why we need to know certain things. Instead of being reluctant learners, we should decide to have as much fun as possible while we're learning everything we can.

I often use this method with my own children.

At times, it's just as relaxing for me as it is for them. What parent hasn't been frustrated at their child's seeming lack of familiarity with material that they will be tested on in a day or so?

Last year when my son was in fourth grade, he seemed unable to recall the information he had learned about Maryland's role in the War of Independence.

His notebook revealed that all the information had been covered in class. It just seemed as if he had a mental block. The more I tried to drill the information, the more frustrated we both became.

We were tired and it was getting late, so I decided to shift gears.

"Name the four men from Maryland who signed the Declaration of Independence."

He looked off into space and came up with one: "William Paca."

"That's one," I said. "Now get up and run around the kitchen."

Normally he and his sister are not allowed to run in the house, so he jumped at the chance. Imagine his surprise when I got up and ran after him, telling him that I was going to catch him. We took a couple of turns around the kitchen island and then flopped back into our chairs.

"What just happened?" I asked.

"We ran around the kitchen," he said.

"What's another way to describe it? You ran and what did I do to you?"

"You chased me."

"Exactly. I chased you. Now name another Marylander who signed the Declaration of Independence."

I could tell the second the connection was made. "Chased me? Chase? Samuel Chase!"

Who were the other two Marylanders who signed the Declaration of Independence? Here are the clues I gave my son:

1. His last name sounds like a woman's first name.

2. I pointed to the diamond in my engagement ring.

I'll put the answers in next week's column.

'Til then, have fun learning.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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