This one is strange, yet there are multiple experiments that show it works: Writing a huge letter "A" at the top of their papers before doing an assignment makes kids score better. Conversely, writing the letter "F" causes students to perform worse.
"This was 'ucking aw'ul. But don't be too disheartened!"
In one study, over a hundred students were instructed to write one of the following letters at the top of their tests: "A," "J" or "F." Those who wrote the letter "A" at the top of their tests did better than those who wrote the letter "F." Those who wrote the letter "J" (used as a neutral letter without inherent meaning to grades) scored in between the two. Even though students had no idea what the experiment was about -- they just thought their tests were randomly lettered -- just the act of writing those letters on their papers programmed them to succeed or fail. And not just once, but in three different experiments.
Why Does This Work?
In the same way that seeing a picture of the late Patrick Swayze programs us to have the time of our lives, seeing an "A" primes young brains for success. According to researchers, "Exposure to the letter 'A' made the students non-consciously approach the task with the aim to succeed, while exposure to [the] letter 'F' made the students non-consciously want to avoid failure."
Exposure to the letter "B" resulted in a conscious effort to do better, and also wild flailing.
Obviously, the broader point isn't just to make the kids scrawl "A"s on everything; it's that confidence and a positive outlook seem to play a huge role in kids' ability to do their best work. And also, that kids' mushy little brains are not difficult to prime in this direction. Researchers suggested that teachers decorate their classroom with "A+" posters and other symbols of achievement. We suggest playing that speech from Braveheart before every test. Whatever works.
"And if you don't do well, I'm positive I'll behead each and every one of you."
As if anyone needed more incentive to get kids exercising. We've got children walking around with corn syrup flowing through their veins and big fat Jell-O blobs where their bellies should be. We could tell you that getting kids to exercise will result in Hitler coming back to life and you'd probably go for it, just to get these walking marshmallows moving around a little bit.
In which case we could drain their fat and use it in explosives against Hitler.
Even for chronically unfit kids, just a little bit of exercise does a world of good. It turns out that students who take a 20-minute walk prior to taking a test get higher scores and have a 5 to 10 percent improvement in cognition.
Why Does This Work?
A single bout of exercise doesn't just justify your wearing of spandex and muscle shirts, it also makes the executive-function part of your brain work better. And that's important, because "executive function" isn't the part of your brain that makes you create PowerPoints and call meetings, it's the part that controls your attention span, how well you strategize and how you manage your time. Which are all pretty important things to have when you're taking a test. Or taking an anything.
Even taking an aspirin after the initial heart attack.
And all it takes is a 20-minute walk to make it work better. But if you really want to help kids, you can take them on a walk every damn day, because fit children don't just have a social and body edge over their overweight classmates, they also have bigger hippocampi, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.
And, just to remind you, doing this costs the school nothing.
Unlike new windows. Wait, did you forget that already? Get some exercise, fatty.
And see how we're destroying our children in 5 Horrific Ways Bad Parents Turn Their Kids Into Good Money and 7 Things 'Good Parents' Do (That Screw Up Kids For Life).