3 Reasons Why Your Child Does Not Stay Focused In School

3 Reasons Why Your Child Does Not Stay Focused In School

School has been in full swing for a while and you probably have a good idea how your child is performing. It’s not uncommon for parents who get the first report card to say, “she can’t focus and is easily distracted.” 

Sometimes, just being a kid can make it hard to focus.  There are so many distractions. So, if your child zones out at school or at home from time to time, it isn’t unusual.  But what if that happens a lot?

If your child has a hard time focusing, especially with young students, you might be wondering why – and whether he or she could have difficulty learning .  In many cases, the concentration issues children have in school can be caused by a number of different reasons. However, many parents and teachers always assume that the problem is lack of motivation, and forcing your kid to pay attention only makes the problem worse!

This article will help you to pinpoint the cause of your child’s inability — or refusal — to focus in the classroom.

Signs of concentration problems you might be seeing

Having trouble with focus doesn’t mean kids have a “problem.” But it can definitely cause problems in school and in everyday life.  For example, kids might be late for practice a lot. They might be day-dreaming or staring out the window at home or in class. They may be disruptive or unable to finish work in class or may struggle to finish their homework. 

Having a kid with a concentration problem doesn’t mean that kid is not working hard or isn’t intelligent. It also doesn’t mean she’s not interested in something, even if it seems that way. Kids may want to focus on something, but can’t  manage to do it. Trouble with focus can show up in many ways and it can change over time. There are a number of behaviours that you might notice in your child, including:

  • an inability to sit still
  • is easily distracted
  • has problems following instructions
  • has problems organising themselves, or is constantly losing things
  • has difficulty completing school work
  • has poor handwriting compared to other children of the same age
  • is experiencing learning difficulties
  • displays behavioural difficulties such as aggression, moodiness or irritability
  • experiences friendship issues, such as difficulty making and keeping friends
  • shows clumsiness or poor gross motor skills, such as running or jumping.

Since difficulty paying attention is widely associated with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), that tends to be the first thing teachers, parents, and clinicians suspect. But there are a number of other possibilities that can be contributing to attention problems. To avoid misdiagnosis, it’s important that these other possibilities, which are not always obvious, not be overlooked. 

3 main reasons behind your child’s lack of attention

Reason #1 – Mismatch learning styles 

Often, the distractions are environmental or outside distractions that are unique to your child’s individual learning style.  Different students have different learning styles: some learn best by seeing, some by hearing, and others by doing.  If your child’s teacher emphasizes a learning style that doesn’t match with how your child learns, this can result in a lack of focus and understanding.  For example, if your child is a visual learner and they are reading a very boring book with no pictures, maybe they need more visual stimulation to draw their attention. Or maybe your child is an auditory learner and your house is noisy and they can’t stay focused. 

According to Dr. Carly Hannaford, neuroscientist, and educator, up to 85% of students are kinesthetic.  This little fact changes everything. Dr. Hannaford states that only 15% of children can process linearly, look at the teacher when they are talking and can repeat back what they heard.  That’s why our dream of having attentive kiddos in class is not going to be realized. Not without some serious change-up.  Knowing your child’s learning style is key to finding the distractions that are unique to them so that you can help them find ways around it.  If you don’t know your child’s learning style, get them take our free quiz here.

Reason #2 – Your child is not appropriately challenged

Inattention can also be a result of feeling under, or over-challenged.  If you’re repeatedly getting calls or notes sent home that your child is disruptive or acting out, perhaps the source of their behavior is due to a lack of stimulation in a school setting.  Children who aren’t appropriately challenged by their schoolwork can quickly become disengaged. They might start to lose interest in the material, stop paying attention altogether, get lazy at school and actually have worse grades because they zone out.  

When children are under-challenged, they tend to find ways to engage and stimulate themselves.  This may mean energetically disrupting the classroom, or becoming the class clown. When children are over-challenged, they may try to distract others with high energy behavior.  This is also why children having high energy level is often misdiagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Both scenarios can result in a cycle of negative behavior that hinders learning.

Reason #3 – Your child is not getting proper sleep or nutrition

Nutrition also can hugely impact children’s ability to focus at school.  Even us as adults find it hard to focus when you’re hungry, so do our children.  “There is pretty solid evidence that children who are hungry are not able to focus, so they have a low attention span, behavioral issues, discipline issues in the school,” says Sibylle Kranz, an associate professor of kinesiology and a registered dietitian nutritionist in the Curry School.  “Having children who are well-fed and not hungry makes a difference in their individual performance, and also how much they are contributing to or disrupting the classroom situation.”

Brain development and growth depend on nutrition and lay the foundation for learning and behavior.  According to the Society for Neuroscience, recent studies reveal that diets with high levels of saturated fats actually impair learning and memory.  Therefore, changing your family’s diet to a healthy, balanced diet is very important to help your child reach his or her full potential for concentration, memory, focus and mental capacity.  Avoid giving your child processed, sugary foods such as boxed breakfast cereals and snacks. Set a positive example by following a nutritious daily diet yourself. Parents can also refer to our top 7 brain foods you can offer your children to optimise their chances of having a good day at school.

Sleep is very important, as well, especially for young learners.  It helps us recharge, gives the brain a chance to exercise neuronal connections, and gives our bodies time to repair muscles and replace chemicals.  So, when your child is not getting the right amount of sleep, they can be easily distracted and more likely to make errors. Children who have excessive screen-time, especially prior to going to bed will surely have poor focus in class.  Additionally, recent studies have shown that some children diagnosed with ADHD may actually be sleep deprived

So what can parents and teachers do about this?
Like any skill, concentration can be learned and improved.  Just because your child is having a hard time focusing in school, doesn’t mean she has a learning difficulty such as ADD or ADHD.  Whatever your child’s problem is, you can bet that there’s a list of solutions totally unique to her.  

In the next article, we will highlight some of the best techniques to help improve your child’s concentration quickly and easily. You can subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates delivered straight to your inbox, and find more parenting coverage at https://blog.e2.com.vn/e2-talk-tips-and-tricks-parents/

What Everest Education does to help students focus

At Everest Education, we design our classes to engage students from the start to manage these potential challenges.  There are no classes where the teacher stands and lectures at the front of the class. Instead, Everest teachers lead students through fun, challenging activities, and students work through material at their own individual speed.

In our Singapore Math courses, students use learning manipulatives and engage their sense of touch while they derive formulas through play.  When students encounter new concepts, they grapple with interesting puzzles that make them think and test their hypotheses. Using tools like the bar method, students then use pictures to represent their thinking in a more organized way. Only once they have demonstrated understanding with their hands and pictures do students then see and memorize math formulas.  This Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (CPA) method ensures that students don’t get bored, and that the information is always leveled appropriately for them.

In our English courses, students are mastering each sub-skill of listening, speaking, reading, and writing at their own speed and with their own leveled materials.  For example in English reading, students in the same class often have a wide range of reading levels. They each know their own reading levels, and our teachers guide them to choose the books or articles at the right level in Reading A-Z or Newsela.  The key: they choose the books that interest them! One boy might choose a book on soccer, while another girl might read about space exploration. This way, instead of acting out in class, students act responsibly. Most importantly, when they see their reading skills develop quickly, they develop an innate confidence and a love of learning.  Through this personalized learning approach, Everest Education students increase their English skills twice as fast as they would in school alone.

How I got into Stanford?

How I got into Stanford?

One of our students, Linda Tong, has been admitted to Stanford University, Class of 2020 and several other elite schools, including Columbia, Berkeley, Wellesley, Georgetown and Barnard.

We had a great conversation with her where she shared many interesting tips on the college application process, drawing from her own experience.

This video will dissect Linda’s strategy, including how to succeed as a well-rounded (giỏi toàn diện) student, what really attracted her to “The Farm” (the nickname for Stanford), and how she applied our SOAR technique to conquer the dreaded interview.

Scroll down to see the transcript below.


See full transcript

Tony: Oh hi everybody, I’m here with Linda.

Linda: Hi!

Tony: And I’m super excited today to have this conversation with you.

Linda: I’m really excited to be with you as well.  [Shakes hand]

Tony: [laughs] Linda is here to talk about her experience.

Linda: Mm-hmmm!

Tony: Getting into Stanford.  And I’m super super excited; she’s got the right gear on.

Linda: [laughs]

Tony: I wish I brought my Stanford shirt in today too!  So can I ask, what got you excited about applying to Stanford in the first place?

Linda: I think for me it was definitely the interdisciplinary focus that Stanford.  So in high school, I was a very well-rounded student. I never had one single spike or defining interest, but what I did really enjoy doing was exploring a lot of things.  So I was really into coding, but at the same time, I also liked classics a lot. So I’ve been taking Latin and Greek.  

Linda: I love the language, I love the culture, and I love the history. I think Stanford really encouraged that and they have a huge focus on finding intersections between different fields and finding the connection between them.  So, I think that’s what stood out to me the most about Stanford. 

Tony: Hmmmm………Does Stanford talk about a specific program that ties coding and classics together?

Linda: I think Stanford still has a lot of different majors that combine different subjects.  For instance, if you’re doing Symbolic Systems.

Tony: Yeah!

Linda: That’s Computer Science with Linguistics, Psychology, and just a lot of different things.  Or if we’re doing MCS, that’s Math and Computer Science. Or even a Human Biology major.

Tony: Mm-hmmm!

Linda: That’s very unique to Stanford, we cannot find that anywhere else.

Tony: Oh really? I did not know that.

Linda: Well, you can fact check if you’d like. [laughs]

Tony: [laughs] Well, when I was there, they had the element of the BioX department, which was a huge deal, combining Biology and Engineering fields together.  

Linda: Right.

Tony: And I think they were one of the first.

Linda: Yeah.

Tony: You’ve mentioned that you’ve had a variety of interests in high school, but I feel like when students apply, they have a big challenge.  You are generally given this advice, “Hey, being a well-rounded student doesn’t actually help you in this application.”

Linda: Exactly.

Tony: So can you talk about that conflict?  Were you a well-rounded applicant, or were you a “pointy” applicant?

Linda: So, I think for me, it was a combination of both.  I think it’s really good that you bring up that point because it was definitely one of my insecurities in the college admission cycle.  I was very scared that if I did not have one defining interest, I would not stand out in such a competitive applicant pool.

Tony: Uh-huh.

Linda: Especially, I think this year Stanford had…………well, last year, Stanford’s acceptance rate was around 4.3% and they stopped publishing it. [laughs] 

Tony: [laughs] I’m sure it’s not higher than 4%.

Linda: Exactly, so, I actually thought a lot about that. At boarding school, you’re encouraged to pursue a lot of interests and you’re given the opportunity and resources to do just that.  So, I definitely took advantage of a lot of the resources at my boarding school, advice that you gave me that Stanford is actually intellectual vitality-focused.

Tony: Mm-hmmm!

Linda: So, for me, I’ve always considered myself a very intellectually curious person.  I love learning. I really enjoy exploring the subjects and because I think I had well-rounded interests, that was what Stanford was looking for. 

Tony: I see, so step me back, when you look at the application, I often tell students to try to make sure that their position as an applicant is very clear.

Linda: Right!

Tony: So we actually form, what we call, a positioning statement.  

Linda: Sure.

Tony: We didn’t talk about this, but when you submitted your application, could you try to summarize, “Who is Linda?”

Linda: Right, I think for me, it was my diversity of experiences and my diversity of interests.  But also with the classics bent. [Laughs] So, for my main essay, I wrote about how I grew up exploring languages.  So, I came to the U.S. as a second language English learner. So, for me, that was really difficult process, but it taught me perseverance and it made me love the language learning process.

Tony: Mm-hmmm!

Linda: In middle school, I started taking Latin and French.  Now, I’m doing ancient Greek and Python. [Laughs]

Tony: [laughs] All sorts of languages.

Linda: Exactly, and I also started Vietnamese this summer.

Tony: Nice!

Linda: Yeah!  So, I love learning languages.  But at the same time, I think that because I enjoy navigating different situations, that was another big part of my upbringing.  So I’ve been to public school, private school, boarding school, international school, in the U.S. and in China. So, for me, getting to meet people who come from a really wide variety of backgrounds and learning how to connect with them was a huge part of my experience as well.

Tony: Mm-hmmm!  I see, so if I can try to summarize.  It sounds like, it’s not only that you had all these different experiences, I’m sure there are other students out there that have learned 2, 3 or 4 different languages.

Linda: Right sure, absolutely!

Tony: But it sounds like you were able to tie it with a very clear theme about navigating different new environment and cultures.

Linda: And I think, for me, the main essay, I put it in there because I’m a classics nerd, I’m not going to lie. [Laughs]

Tony: [laughs]

Linda: But the theme that I chose was about wandering.  So in Latin, the word for wander is erraverunt, which is where we get the English word, “error” from.  

Tony: Hmmm!

Linda: So usually, in English, when we would talk about error, it does have a negative connotation because you’re failing and making a mistake.  But for me, I learned to love that process. I learned to love wandering, to love failing and to learn how to cope. 

Tony: That is fantastic!  So, I also feel like so many students feel this pressure. 

Linda: Sure.

Tony: That you have to talk about these huge achievements in order to get into Stanford. 

Linda: [chuckles]

Tony: But the reality is, as an interviewer myself or advising other students.  I know it’s not about having that, “I won the Olympics” or “I won first place in this competition.”

Linda: Right.

Tony: But it’s about the learning process. 

Linda: Absolutely!  I think that in such a competitive applicant pool, I think so many kids are qualified.

Tony: Mm-hmmm!

Linda: For me, I also won National AP Scholar, where I got summa cum laude on the National Latin Exam and the National Greek Exam.

Tony: But you don’t need to write an essay about it!

Linda: Exactly!  I don’ t think those metrics are what set you apart, I think  growing up in Asia and living in a very Asian environment , we do put a lot of emphasis on numbers.  

Tony: Yep!

Linda: We talk about SAT scores, GPA and exam scores.  That’s what we’re heavily focused on because we value those metrics so much.  But again, having the boarding school experience and talking to you as well, I learned that there are things that schools look for that we cannot reflect through those metrics.

Tony: Right.  So, is it fair to say though, that to be considered, you do need to have the exceptional metrics like GPA and SAT scores.  

Linda: Right.

Tony: But to differentiate yourself, you need all those credits.

Linda: Right, I think it’s absolutely helpful to have them, but it’s not enough.

Tony: Fantastic.  So again, lots of kids with perfect scores don’t get in; it’s all about that extra step.  

Linda: Right.

Tony: So, on the interview process itself, you and I spoke about how to communicate your story clearly and persuasively, especially in this interview format.  What was it like to interview at Stanford? 

Linda: I actually really enjoyed my experience, so my interviewer, he did his undergrad at Stanford, he studied Chemistry.  So for me, I was applying as a Classics and Computer Science major, but I think the techniques that you taught me helped me connect more with my interviewer.  

Tony: Mm-hmmm!

Linda: Being a reflective listener, asking the right questions, and if I’m talking about something, my experience, how does that relate to you?  So you would ask them about their experience and find the common ground.

Tony: So sorry, just to summarize that.

Linda: Okay!  [Laughs]

Tony: Being a good listener and reflecting back to what you’re hearing in terms of the feedback, right? 

Linda: Yes!

Tony: Okay.

Linda: And something else, the storytelling technique that you taught me,  S.O.A.R. Situation, Obstacles, Actions, and Results.

Tony: Mm-hmmm!

Linda: So for me, it’s really important to have a story because again, as an applicant, you want to appear as a whole person and really humanize yourself by having a story.  I think that’s why it’s so important to be a good storyteller.

Tony: Totally!  So, we work with a ton of students and we find that they have a tendency to either have a very bland list, they list out all the accomplishments they’ve done, resume style.  And that’s what the rest of the application is for.  

Linda: Sure.

Tony: Or they may want to tell a story, but it’s just not clear where it’s going.

Linda: Mm-hmmm.

Tony: So, we have a framework, S.O.A.R, that you and I discussed.

Linda: Mm-hmmm.

Tony: “Situation,” to describe what the environment is like, that you’re in.  And then, what’s the conflict? What’s the conflict and “Obstacle” that you had to deal with in order to succeed and overcome this challenge? 

Linda: Right. Mm-hmmm.

Tony: “A” is the Action.  So what “actions” did you take in order to resolve that obstacle or that conflict?  

Linda: Mm-hmmm.

Tony: Sometimes students make the mistake of identifying stories that are too passive.  Things happen to them and they just think about it. But I think that it’s critical to actually have something where they take thought and describe that process.

Linda: Mm-hmmm.

Tony: And then finally, the Result, “R.”  The result here, again, does not have to be that superstar championship, but actually the key learning.  What the insight? How did you grow as a person? Why was that a meaningful experience to you, right?  

Linda: Mm-hmmm. 

Tony: What was one story that you talked about, either in the essays or in the interview if you don’t mind sharing?

Linda: Sure, actually one story that I talked about was teaching a seminar at my school for Martin Luther King Day.  So, for me, I really like ancient history, but I’m also passionate about the way it relates back to social justice issues.

Tony: Hmmm!

Linda: So I think, it’s really interesting to be seeing classics in the 21st century because it feels so distant, but it’s also so relevant.  

Tony: Totally.

Linda: In my classes, we were discussing Ovid and how the men in these stories relate to the modern Me Too movement.

Tony: Wow! That is deep, in the essay?

Tony: Actually, I have some students go through it and it becomes too mechanical.  “This happened, then I did this and that was the result.” But actually, they want to see those insights of where you were in the moment, what you were thinking, and what you were feeling.

Tony: Any last words of advice for someone who wants to apply to have the best chance to get into Stanford?

Linda: I think a really important aspect is to know why you’re applying.  So, almost every school has an essay and their supplement. It might be, “What are you looking forward to the most when you’re here?” or “Why are you applying to X school?” I think at the same time, you should know why you want to go here.  I think as an Asian applicant, part of it was getting wrapped up in the peer pressure of going to a name-brand school.

Tony: Totally.

Linda: Also doing it for the prestige.  I have a lot of friends who took a shotgun approach to the college process, where they applied to all the top schools, even though they’re so different from each other.  So I think, it’s about really knowing what you want and also knowing what you want to get out of your experience.

Tony: Yeah, Stanford and Harvard were totally different! 

Linda: Right.

Tony: In terms of the day to day experience for me.  I feel like, certainly, when I was in high school, I had no idea that there are these huge differences.  So we work very closely with students to make sure they do their research.

Linda: Absolutely!

Tony: Not just on numbers, but what is it like to live there?

Linda: Exactly!

Tony: What kind of environment are you looking for?  What are the activities you hope to be involved in when you hope to be involved in when you’re there?  Can you imagine yourself in that environment?

Linda: Absolutely, I think, even when I was going through the process my senior self, I wasn’t asking myself the right questions.

Tony: Mmmm!

Linda: It’s only after having gone through the college process.

Tony: Yeah!

Linda: Something started clicking and this is what I realized, this is why I wish I knew the right questions.

Tony: [laughs] Hugely valuable, well thank you so much for your time!

Linda: Thank you so much! [Hugs]

Tony: [hugs] Thank you for coming by!

Linda: But I’m really grateful Tony, for all of your help and for your support.  I don’t think I could’ve done it without you.

Tony: I’m super excited to see how your academic and professional career unfolds and I really hope you stay in touch.

Linda: Absolutely!

Tony: Let us know if we can help anymore!

Linda: Thank you! [High-five]

My 1 Simple Technique to Raise Confident Kids

My 1 Simple Technique to Raise Confident Kids

“You’re so smart!”, “You did a great job”, “That’s terrible” – children receive these messages (or their negative counterparts), along with many other messages on a daily basis from their parents and teachers. Are these just words or do they mean more? How are children affected by the words we use to praise, coach and criticize them? Research on praise and mindsets shows that when we praise children for being smart, it promotes a Fixed Mindset. In contrast, praising your child for their work will encourage a Growth Mindset. It sends a message that Effort is what led them to success. Want more tips on what to say, and how to say, when praising your child?

Meet Tony Ngo – Chairman and Co-founder of Everest Education to learn more about his simple technique to raise more confident kids.

Stanford Psychologist Says Parents Should Do This to Raise Confident Kids

Stanford Psychologist Says Parents Should Do This to Raise Confident Kids

Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University and a leading researcher in the field of motivation, has emphasized differences between two mindsets that people use to understand themselves, guide their behavior and affect their achievement.

The first is Fixed Mindset, which suggests that your abilities are innate and unchangeable. The second is Growth Mindset, based on the belief that you can improve through practice.

Those with a Fixed Mindset are likely to give up when they face an obstacle. Meanwhile, those with a Growth Mindset will view obstacles as a chance to learn and grow.

Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet?

This video reveals the power of “Growth Mindset”, how it can help students succeed in and out of the classroom, and how you can apply a Growth Mindset at home, at school and in your future career.

See the transcript here

World-renowned Stanford University’s psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea.  The power of our mindset.

In her early research, she studied how people cope with failures by watching how kids grapple with hard problems.  So she gave children in a school a series of puzzles to solve. 

The first ones were very easy, but the next ones were hard.  Confronted with the hard puzzles, one 10-year-old boy yelled out loud: “I love a challenge!!!”.  Another looked up with a pleased expression and said: “I was hoping this would be informative.” 

Carol always thought you coped with failure or you didn’t cope with failure.  She never thought that anyone LOVED failure. 

Not only weren’t these kids discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing.  They thought they were learning. At that time Carol thought that human qualities were carved in stone.  You were smart or you weren’t, and failure meant you weren’t. If you could arrange successes and avoid failures, you could stay smart.  Struggles, mistakes, and perseverance were just not parts of the whole being smart picture.  

The other hand those children on thought that human qualities such as intellectual skills could be cultivated through effort.  And it wasn’t just a feeling — working through challenges with this effort actually developed the brain. And that’s what they were doing, developing their intellectual skills or simply put, getting smarter.  So what does this mean for you?

It shows us how a mindset can have a profound effect on your life.  And that there are two mindsets: Fixed mindset and Growth mindset. If you believe that your qualities are carved in stone, you are showing a Fixed Mindset.  You believe you only possess a fixed amount of intelligence, a fixed personality, and a fixed moral character. And everything you encounter is a test to measure these traits.  Well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them! That’s why people with a Fixed Mindset shy away from challenges. They are scared their deficiencies could be unmasked through making mistakes. 

The Growth Mindset is the opposite.  Growth Mindset based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort.  Now Growth Mindset doesn’t mean everyone has the same talents and abilities, but it does mean everyone can grow through hard work, mentoring, and perseverance.  So why waste your time trying to look smart when you could actually be getting smarter?

Let’s take a quick look at the world of sports.  Michael Jordan actually wasn’t a natural. But he was the hardest working athlete, perhaps in the history of sport.  It’s well-known that Jordan was cut from the high school varsity team, he wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for, and he wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him.  Weren’t they foolish?

Now we know he was perhaps the greatest basketball player ever, and we think it should have been obvious from the start.  When we look at him he see MICHAEL JORDAN. But at that point he was only Michael Jordan. 

When Jordan was cut from the high school varsity team, he was devastated. So his mother told him “to go discipline himself”. Boy, did he listen?  After that he used to leave the house at 6 in the morning to go practice for 3 hours before school. He had a Growth Mindset. He believed he could improve his skills through hard work, and that’s how he became the Jordan we all know today. 

So what can we do to engrave Growth Mindset into ourselves and others?

Just knowing about the two mindsets can produce incredible results.  The other thing we can do is praise more wisely. When we praise people for the process they engage in, their hard work, their perseverance, they learn to stick to challenges.  

Praising talent, on the other hand, makes them vulnerable.  When we tell someone: “You did that so quickly, I’m impressed.”  They subconsciously hear: “If I didn’t do it quickly, you wouldn’t be impressed.” Or: “You got an A without working, you’re so smart!”.  They actually think: “Oh, if I work, you’re not gonna think I’m smart.”  

Instead when you give praise to other people, you should try something like: “I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that math problem until you finally got it. You thought of a lot of different ways to do it and found the one that worked.”  This way you praise hard work and not the so-called “talent”. Also telling people they are “smart” is one of the biggest mindset crimes you can commit. In one study, they even discovered that telling people they are smart lowers their IQ!

Here’s a common question people have about mindsets: Can you have both mindsets?  Many people have elements of both. You can have different mindsets in different areas.  I might think that my personality is fixed, but that my intelligence can be developed. Or that my social skills are fixed, but my creativity can be developed. 

Carol found that whatever mindset people have in a certain area, that mindset will guide them in that region.  You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind and you can change your mind.  So try your best to put yourself in the Growth Mindset every time you face a challenge, that way you will be better than yesterday. 

Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this video, please like and subscribe to see more videos like this.  Leave us comments and questions below, and study with Everest Education to see how we apply these methods in the classroom.

WOOP – 4 steps to set your goals for the best school year ever!

WOOP – 4 steps to set your goals for the best school year ever!

It’s that time of year – for newly purchased textbooks, sharpened pencils all accounted for, washed desks awaiting handprints and chairs awaiting new friends.  The time of year that is crisp with newness. The time of year can feel like New Year’s Eve: filled with hope, promise, and resolutions.  

As the first day of school draws near, it’s a great time to envision your goals for the coming year.  Setting meaningful and actionable goals for school will help you get where you want to go. For parents, teaching your children to set goals is a valuable life skill. Through goal setting, students gain self awareness, self-efficacy, and resilience or “Growth Mindset.” 

In this article, we introduce WOOP – an easy-to-follow but effective goal setting framework to get you started.  We also include a blank planning template that students can use for themselves, or allow parents to have their child complete it as they set their own learning goals.

With all your energy recharged, let’s start thinking about what you want to do differently in this next school year.

What is WOOP?

Standing for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan, WOOP is a practical, accessible, evidence-based mental strategy that people can use to find and fulfill their wishes and change their habits.

“WOOP” is based on 20 years of research in the science of motivation by Dr. Grabiele Oettingen — a professor at New York University and the University of Hamburg — and her colleagues.  It presents a unique and surprising idea: The obstacles that we think most impede us from fulfilling our wishes can actually help us to realize them.  WOOP instructs us to dream our future dreams but then to identify and imagine what inner obstacles or hindrances of reality prevent us from achieving these dreams.  When you WOOP, you think about your ultimate goal, the best possible outcome, the personal obstacle(s) that stand in the way, and the plan for getting around those roadblocks.

Why WOOP matters?

A common mistake when setting a goal is to indulge in fantasies about how great life will be after accomplishing it—without considering what’s currently holding us back. This is also the most intriguing part of WOOP – it often requires us to mentally contrast our hoped for outcome with an obstacle that stands in our path.  WOOP also reminds us to step away from a particular goal if it conflicts with one another. WOOP works because it guides students through those in-between and oft-forgotten steps. Rather than pursuing goals that feel imposed by others, WOOP taps into a student’s intrinsic interests.

In schools, WOOP significantly improves effort, attendance, homework completion, and GPA.  WOOP develops self-control so that students can earn better grades, develop physical fitness, and build stronger relationships.  WOOP can help with any kind of wish, whether it’s something large (“I want to start a school newspaper”) or comparatively small (“I want to get an A in Science this quarter”). When used regularly, WOOP builds up what educators call “student agency” or the drive and motivation for students to take control over their own learning.  

The 4 steps of WOOP 

WOOP works in a simple 4-step process: students develop their own goals, they envision what the goal would feel like, they think about why they might not meet their goals, and then they plan ahead on how to deal with these problems. 

Step 1: Wish

Something you really want to accomplish. A wish that is exciting, challenging, and realistic.

First off, think about this school year, what is your one dearest wish that you would like to fulfil and that you also think you could fulfil during this time frame?  Fulfilling your wish should be challenging for you, but you should feel that it is possible. For best results, make it SMART:

  • Specific
  • Manageable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive 

For example: “read three books over each month”, or “finish at least one SAT practice test each week”, or increase my GPA to a 3.0 before end-of-term exams”. 

If you have several wishes, select the one that is most important to you.  The wish can be about your school, relationships, your health, a job, or anything else that is important to you.  Find this one specific wish, summarize it in 3 to 6 words, and keep it in front of your mind. 

Step 2: Outcome

The best outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal. 

Now, identify your best outcome and take a moment to imagine it as fully as you can.  What is the best thing, the best outcome that you associate with fulfilling your wish?  If your wish is fulfilled, where would that leave you?  What would be the best, most positive outcome? How would fulfilling your wish make you feel?  Find the best outcome, summarize it in 3 to 6 words, and keep it in front of your mind. 

For example: “I have more energy and feel better about myself”, or “My GPA is good enough to apply to top colleges”

Step 3: Obstacle

The personal obstacles that prevent you from accomplishing your goal. 

Next, let your mind go and imagine any potential inner obstacle.  What is your main inner obstacle? What is it within you that holds you back from fulfilling your wish?  It might be an emotion, an irrational belief, or a bad habit. Think more deeply—what is it really?

For example: “I’m tired when I get home from work and just don’t feel like reading.” or “I procrastinate and get distracted by Facebook”

When it comes to Obstacle, some students may ask: “What if I cannot control the obstacle?”  However, remember that we’re searching for internal obstacles.  When we look for obstacles within us, we are better able to control and to overcome them.  We often have limited power to change our environment. What we can change is how we respond to and deal with our environment.  If you have trouble identifying an obstacle that feels surmountable, take the obstacle you have thought of and see if you can break it down into several smaller, more surmountable obstacles. 

Step 4: Plan

Finally, we get really practical.  How are you going to make your Wish happen?  Let’s create a simple If-Then plan.

What can you do to overcome your obstacle? Identify one action you can take or one thought you can think to overcome your obstacle. Make the following plan for yourself: If / When _________ (obstacle), then I will __________ (action to overcome obstacle).

For example: “If I get up in the morning, then I immediately put on my sneakers and go for a run even if I don’t feel like it.”, or “If I get distracted during my work, then I will block all distracting websites and get back to work.”


WOOP is a scientifically proven tool that helps us change our behaviors and achieve our goals.  It’s the combination of mental contrasting and implementation intentions. In short, WOOP is just about this simple but powerful question:

“What is it that holding you back from fulfilling your wish?”

We highly recommend you to make WOOP a habit.  The more you do it, the more comfortable and successful they will be with the process.  Pick a goal that’s meaningful to you, and work through the WOOP process.

Last but not least, we also include a blank WOOP template below to guide you through this process.  

Let’s use WOOP to excel at school, learn more, achieve more, and enjoy each day at school more.  We wish you the best school year ever! 


Top 7 brain foods for Back-to-school season!

Top 7 brain foods for Back-to-school season!

School has started again!  This time of year can be crazy: vacation is over, schedules are all over the place, and getting healthy food on the table (and in the lunch boxes) can be tough.  It’s the perfect time to think about some healthy recipes that we’re all in need of.

A healthy, balanced diet is not just good for your child’s body, it’s good for her brain, too.  As you might know, our brain is a very hungry organ – it consumes more than 20% of our daily calories intake, and is the first of the body’s organs to absorb nutrients from the food we eat,  according to Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a Detroit nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Therefore, the right foods can also improve our child’s brain function, memory, and concentration, and get her ready for another successful school year ahead.

We’re all aware of the importance of enough fruit and vegetables, but what else can you offer your children to optimise their chances of having a good day at school?  Below are our top seven nutritious and delicious school snacks to include in your child’s diet weekly.

These are the best foods for the developing brain:

Here’s a quick list of 7 nutrient-dense foods that will boost your child’s brain power:

1. Eggs 

Eggs contain all the nutrients children need to grow.  Children’s brains are developing at a significant rate, especially for the first years of their life.  Rich in choline, the yolk of an egg almost meets the daily needs of children up to eight years old. Eggs are also high in protein and contain iron, folate and vitamin A – all of which are important for growth, repair and development of cells.  So encourage your child to eat eggs regularly, unless she is allergic to it. 

Meal ideas: Hard boiled eggs mixed with a small amount of mayonnaise is perfect in a sandwich, or dipping bread in egg and frying it up to make French toast as a weekend breakfast when you have a little more time.

2.  Oily fish

Rich in omega-3 which is vital for brain development and health, oily fish has so many benefits.   Omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of the building blocks needed for cell development. Certain types of omega-3 fats are the most abundant fat found in the brain and some studies have shown they may help manage behavioural problems due to their role in neurotransmitter function.

Other studies have linked poorer reading ability with low levels of omega-3 and supplementation was linked to improved memory function. 

Salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna, trout, sardines and herring are great sources of omega-3 oils and should be eaten once a week.  Try substituting one of your child’s meat dishes to include one of these healthy fish choices with family-friendly recipes.

Meal idea: Tuna sandwiches, or sandwiches with salmon salad – canned salmon mixed with reduced-fat mayo or non-fat plain yogurt, raisins, chopped celery, and carrots make a great lunch.

3. Oats, cereals & whole grain breads

Packed with carbohydrates, whole grains provide essential glucose and energy to fuel the brain. They are also full of vitamin E, zinc, and B-complex vitamins, which nourish a healthy nervous system.  Numerous studies have shown that a breakfast filled with whole grains improves short-term memory and attention, when compared with refined carbohydrates or no morning meal at all.  Whole grains are found in oats, granary bread, rye, wild rice, quinoa and buckwheat. Whole grain foods are also high in fiber, which regulates glucose supply into the body.  So, why not try and start your child’s days with whole grain cereals, breads or oats? 

Meal idea: Whole grain crackers with tasty toppings such as cheese, mashed avocado or banana are a great treat; hummus or a bean dip with whole grain pita is an easy and quick idea for lunch boxes; or swap rice for whole wheat couscous for dinner.

4.  Berries 

Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, dark cherries, mulberries, goji berries, etc.) are lunch-box-friendly and packed with vitamins that help boost memory and cognitive functioning.  They are also great sources of natural sugars and fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system. “In general, the more intense the color, the more nutrition in the berries,” says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N, a St. Petersburg, Fla. consultant and ADA spokeswoman…  

Berries boast high levels of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, which may help prevent cancer. Studies have shown improved memory with the extracts of blueberries and strawberries.  “But eat the real thing to get a more nutritious package,” Krieger says. “The seeds from berries are also a good source of omega-3 fats.”

Meal idea: Add berries to veggies that may need a flavor boost — like sliced sweet cherries with broccoli or strawberries with green beans.  Toss berries into a green salad. You can also add berries to yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or dips. For a light dessert, top a mound of berries with nonfat whipped cream.

5. Beans

High in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals, beans are an excellent food choice for your kids.  Beans are special because they have energy from protein and complex carbs — and fiber — plus lots of vitamins and minerals.  “These are an excellent brain food since they keep a child’s energy and thinking level at peak all afternoon if they enjoy them with lunch.” Krieger says. Kidney and pinto beans contain more omega-3 fats than other beans which we know are important for brain growth and function.  Not only do they release energy slowly which keeps children filled with energy, it will help them concentrate in the classroom.

Meal idea: Sprinkle beans over salad and top with salsa.  Mash vegetarian beans and spread on a tortilla – and add shredded lettuce and low-fat cheese.  Mixing beans in spaghetti sauce or swapping them occasionally for meat will also make a good dinner choice.

6. Milk, yogurt & cheese

Milk, yogurt and cheese are nutritious and packed with protein and B-vitamins which are essential for growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters and enzymes which all play an important role in the brain.  Another benefit is that these foods are high in calcium which is vital for the growth of strong and healthy teeth and bones. Children have different requirements for calcium depending on their age, but you should aim to include two to three calcium-rich sources a day.  

Meal idea:  Low-fat milk over cereal – and calcium – and vitamin D-fortified juices – are easy ways to get these essential nutrients.  If your child isn’t a lover of milk, don’t worry, as there are other ways that you can add dairy into the diet: use milk instead of water when making porridge, puddings or pancakes.  Cheese sticks and yogurt are great snacks and usually popular with children.

7.  Meat (or alternative meat)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends meat as a first food because it’s such a great source of protein, zinc, iron, and fat.  Plus, a developing brain needs more saturated fat than an adult one. Iron is an essential mineral that helps kids stay energized and concentrate at school.  Lean beef is one of the best absorbed sources of iron. In fact, just 1 ounce per day has been shown to help the body absorb iron from other sources. 

Meal idea: Meatballs on spaghetti, healthy spring rolls, or mini beef and mushroom burgers are great kid-friendly choices for your child (and adults love that, too!). For vegetarians, black bean and soy burgers are great iron-rich meatless options.  Eat tomatoes, red bell peppers, orange juice, strawberries, and other “Cs” with beans to get the most iron.