The Brain that Changes Itself

The way you measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 98 – 8th December 2010

Welcome to Kidz Newz especially to all new subscribers.  Kidz Newz is a regular newsletter with information and teaching tips for anyone involved with young children. You are receiving this because you have attended one of my workshops, purchased a book, or you have requested to be on the mailing list. Thank you. Please forward this to anyone you feel it may be of interest to. Feedback is welcome.

New Classes

The new classes in the northern suburbs in Perth are going well. If you know of any parents of young children (2-5) in the area, please let them know about these classes. They can enrol online or contact me for more details at

PD Update

Singapore – (late) January. Date and venue to be advised soon. Full day training, networking, notes, fun and friendship. If you are outside of Singapore, consider taking a partly tax-deductible break during the holidays and joining in the fun.

Perth – 21/22 January. ASME WA Summer School. Performing Arts Centre, John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School, Mirrabooka.

Mary Mountstephen PD

I have just had an email from Mary about her trip to Australia. It has been postponed to Easter next year. She is still looking for a host school, so if you are able to help and you live in Sydney, please get in touch with me and I’ll pass it on. There’s a chance she will also come to Perth. I will keep you posted on details as they come to hand. This is one PD you will not want to miss!

Employment Opportunity

Looking for a part-time teaching opportunity? Love working with children? Love teaching music and movement? I am looking for people to train to run Kidz-Fiz-Biz classes. I have had 25 years in this industry (23 specifically with children) and want to start up classes again due to ongoing demand. Good income and lots of fun. If this is something of interest to you now or in the future, please contact me at or phone 0410 642 781.

The Brain that Changes Itself

At the moment I am reading Norman Doidge’s book with the above title. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it as it has enormous relevance to anyone working with children, especially those with learning difficulties. In it, the author researches the pioneers in neuroplasticity  (that is, the study of how the brain can and does change – how new pathways are found to replace damaged parts of the brain, provided appropriate exercises are conducted to allow this to happen).

I reproduce here some excerpts from the book that I’d like you to consider with reference to how education is delivered today. These excerpts are taken out of context so you  need to read the book, but the points are highly worthy of consideration.

“We all have some weak brain functions, and such neuroplasticity-based techniques have great potential to help almost everyone. Our weak spots can have a profound effect on our professional success, since most careers require the use of multiple brain functions…

The Arrowsmith approach, and the use of brain exercises generally, has major implications for education. Clearly many children would benefit from a brain-area-based assessment to identify their weakened functions and a program to strengthen them – a far more productive approach than tutoring that simply repeats a lesson and leads to endless frustration…

The irony of this new discovery is that for hundreds of years educators did seem to sense that children’s brains had to be built up through exercises of increasing difficulty that strengthened brain functions. Up through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a classical education often included rote memorization of long poems in foreign languages, which strengthened the auditory memory (hence thinking in language) and an almost fanatical attention to handwriting, which probably helped strengthen motor capacities and thus not only helped handwriting but added speed and fluency to reading and speaking. Often a great deal of attention was paid to exact elocution and to perfecting the pronunciation of words. Then in the 1960s educators dropped such traditional exercises from the curriculum, because they were too rigid, boring and ‘not relevant’. But the loss of these drills has been costly; they may have been the only opportunity that many students had to systematically exercise the brain function that gives us fluency and grace with symbols. For the rest of us, their disappearance may have contributed to the general decline of eloquence, which requires memory and a level of auditory brain-power unfamiliar to us now. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 the debaters would comfortably speak for an hour or more without notes, in extended memorized paragraphs; today many of the most learned among us, raised in our most elite schools since the 1960s, prefer the omnipresent PowerPoint presentation – the ultimate compensation for a weak premotor cortex…

It is far better to nip brain problems in the bud than to allow the child to wire into his brain the idea that he is ‘stupid’, begin to hate school and learning, and stop work in the weakened area, losing whatever strength he may have. Younger children often progress more quickly through brain exercises than do adolescents, perhaps because in an immature brain the number of connections among neurons, or synapses, is 50% greater than in the adult brain. When we reach adolescence, a massive ‘pruning back’ operation begins in the brain, and synaptic connections and neurons that have not been used extensively suddenly die off – a classic case of ‘use it or lose it’…still…every adult could benefit from a brain-based cognitive assessment, a cognitive fitness test, to help them better understand their own brain.”

Food for thought? We all know the importance of providing a stimulating environment in early childhood, but Doidge explains why. The theory also explains why children raised in bi-lingual households generally appear smarter, especially in language-based tasks.

The book is published by Penguin 2007 with ISBN: 978-0-141-03887-2.

Christmas Special!

In light of the above article, I though you’d better get a copy of my multicultural book and start teaching your children some songs in foreign languages. Normally retailing at $95.00, for the month of December it will be $55.00. You will need to contact me directly to get this special –

Quotes of the Week

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” ~ BC Forbes, Founder Forbes Magazine

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” ~ Voltaire

“Wait for a miracle and it will never come. Take responsibility and you’ll invite a miracle.” ~ Laura Berman Fortgang


How tragic would it be if you could not see, or your brain could not process, these stunning images?

At first glance, it looks like a giant child armed with a box of crayons has been set loose upon the landscape. Vivid stripes of purple, yellow, red, pink, orange and green make up a glorious technicolor patchwork. Yet far from being a child’s sketchbook, this is, in fact, the northern Netherlands in the middle of the tulip season. With more than 10,000 hectares devoted to the cultivation of these delicate flowers, the Dutch landscape in May is a kaleidoscope of giddy colors as the tulips burst into life. The bulbs were planted in late October and early November, and these colorful creations are now ready to be picked and sold as bunches of cut flowers in florists and supermarkets. More than three billion tulips are grown each year and two-thirds of the vibrant blooms are exported, mostly to the US and Germany.


“I love this website, the information is great and I have bookmarked it in my favorites. This is a well organized and informative website. Great job!” ~ Ethel, June 2010, from Kidz Newz Blogpost (

“You are such an inspiration Marlene. I admire what you have achieved with your books. It has been such a big project for you but you succeeded…FANTASTIC…”~ Monica Wardman, International Ballet Examiner, Royal Academy of Dance

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E:

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Until next time … continue being a legend in your classroom.

Marlene Rattigan, Editor
Kidz Newz

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