Brain Box in Parenting magazine.

28th September 2015 | Tim Benton | Revision

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We didn’t get to be Editor’s pick in this magazine – but to be fair, Malala is more deserving, so fair enough, but it’s still nice to be included.

Remember, even those teenagers in your life on the Naughty List should have a copy of The Brain Box in their stocking this Christmas!

Revise the Rugby Route!

14th September 2015 | David Hodgson | Motivation, Revision


What can we learn from the Rugby World Cup about revising more effectively?

By David H.

The Rugby World Cup starts this Friday.

The favourites are New Zealand.

Have you seen their team run through the haka before a match?  If not see here:

Taking part in the haka helps the players access the right mood for the match they are about to start, and it can put their opponents into a poor mood for the battle ahead too.

Do you get in to the right mood before revising? If not, you’re really wasting your time.

Make sure you are focused and relaxed at the start of your homework or revision session. Then you can make the most of the time you have.

Nobody would start a rugby match in the wrong mood and expect to win. 

Recently, I asked a  group of Year 11 students to think about a sporting activity in which they excelled.  I then asked if they got in to the right mood beforehand and they all said they did.

That’s what made the difference and it only takes between three and 20 seconds.  They did it before sport, but none of them did so before revision!

What a wasted opportunity.  Get your Revision Haka sorted today!

There’s more about the importance of mood in the Brain Box book. The tips are easy to implement and will have a positive impact on your results.


Tim adds: This is a great idea.. What might your ‘haka’ look like?  Maybe it’s putting on some music you love (and dancing in your room?), perhaps it’s saying to yourself “Come on, you can do this”.  Maybe it’s setting an alarm for 20 mins – and then promising yourself time on Facebook after your 20 mins of work. Perhaps you have a cat or dog and you spend a few moments with it to lighten your mood. Maybe watch something funny on YouTube…   My ‘haka’ is tidying up my desk and getting my work area nice for working in.  Maybe your ‘haka’ is just making a cup of tea and finding a nice biscuit (I do this too!).  Whatever you do, do it with a smile and raise the mood.  What doesn’t work?  Having a row, shouting at family members, putting it off indefinitely.  You’ll just get ‘haka’d off!  Geddit? Hacked off..  Sorry. I’ll go now…


David Hodgson is co-author of The Brain Box.  To find out more about David, visit:

Tear and Share

14th September 2015 | Tim Benton | Motivation, Revision



It’s good to work together.

A problem shared is a problem halved.

So divide up the work and put your heads together.


You learn one bit.


Your mate can learn another bit.


Then come back together and teach each other.  You’ll learn it because:

  1. You have to teach it.
  2. It’s easier to learn from our friends.


Tim Says:

I used to live in Dudley.

There were two year 11 lads there who were fast approaching their GCSEs.

They had to revise, but they’d rather play basketball.

So what did they do?

They took their books down to the basketball court.  One would ask the other a question.  If he got it right, he got a shot at the basket.  If he scored, he got to answer another question. If he missed, or got the answer wrong, they swapped.

Then more of their mates joined in.

Then their girlfriends came along too.

Soon there were about a dozen of them, at the basketball court, taking shots at the basket and quizzing each other for their exams.

And that’s how they did their revision: working smart. Not hard.


Teacher tip:

Why not have a mini basket ball hoop in your class?  If students get an answer correct, they have a shot at the hoop.  Motivation!

Brain Box – A review “Highly recommended”


This Brain Box is a book that focuses upon guiding students through that sticky period of preparing for and taking exams at all levels. This encompasses presenting good learning habits and how they can become habitual and normal practice as well considering motivational issues. The book is written primarily for students as it is part guide, part notebook, part reference book. However, I would argue that the book would be of great use for teachers, as the book contains easy to implement activities, particularly for revision, which can be used in lessons for any subjects, as well as parents, as there is plenty of practical advice which can enable parents to support their child effectively in that nervous exam season. I would also add, that this book would be an ideal resource for any teachers who oversee their school’s PSHE programme, as the activities in this book can (and might say) should be implemented in a Year 11 PSHE provision.

The book is well structured and starts with considering effective habits of success and motivation issues, which are clearly rooted in theory and modern thinking as mindsets and the theory behind flow are covered extremely effectively here. Indeed, this resource would be very effective in a CPD session on how these ideas can be implemented in the classroom. Then, it takes us through exploring effective ways of working including some great strategies and the best explanation I have seen on how to use the popular idea of foldables. Then the book methodically looks at how to deal with revision, exams and results, which all students and parents should read as they would gain great advice and confidence from the information given here.

As with all Independent Learning Press books, The Brain Box is gorgeously and attractively designed which makes this wealth of great advice and information eye catching and well-structured. Benton and Hodgson have adopted an informal and accessible writing style which adds greatly to the value of this book and helps communicate a range of potentially challenging and demanding theoretical ideas effectively. This is a resource, which can help all those – teachers, parents, and, most importantly, students – who are stakeholders in the examination season maximise performance at whatever level they are at or role that they carry out. Highly recommended.

Reprinted from Jivespin

Parental Reading List

11th September 2015 | Tim Benton | Parents

At the Tears, Tantrums and Tiredness parent nights, I suggest certain reading materials.  Here are a few recommendations. I’ll add more as I find them.


Inside the Teenage Brain  

A useful, American book which looks at what happens to teenagers’ neurology alongside practical parenting tips and ideas.

Sheryl Feinstein  R&L Education    isbn: 978-1-60709-118-9


“The New Science of  the Teenage Brain” 

Article in National Geographic, exploring recent discoveries in teen neurology.  You can find it online here:


The Parenting Book

First class book which covers all aspects of parenting, from babies to teenagers and beyond.  Possibly the best book on parenting on the market right now.  Highly recommended.

Nicky and Sila Lee  Alpha  isbn: 978-1905887


The Brain Box 

Tim Benton and David Hodgson

See link here:


App, App and Away!

11th September 2015 | Tim Benton | Revision

Revision has changed! 

These days there are so many new apps and websites to help you navigate your way through the madness of revision, and more and more are coming on the market all the time..

Here are a few we’ve discovered to get you started (we’ll add to this page over time – let us know if you find any other great apps or sites that work well for you, and we’ll share them):



Revision Buddies

Top 20 Revision Tips App

Learners Cloud

Collins Revision App

GCSE Exams


GCSE Revision App

Ultimate Revision App

Simple Mind (for mind mapping)

Evernote (keep all your notes in one place)


Maths Alarm Clock (if you struggle to get up – solve a maths problem to turn off the alarm!)

Timeline Maker (organise events in order – can be printed too)




CPD Revision Guides

Revision World

Get Revising (pay site, but lots of user driven content)

BBC Bitesize

My Maths

Education Quizzes


Badger Learning

Blue Caterpillar (obviously!)


If you struggle with online distractions, try this software:

Mac – Self Control

PC – Cold Turkey

The software blocks chosen websites for a certain period of time.


More revision app ideas:


How to make an revision planner (also see our Brain Box book):


To get you thinking about podcasts;

Here’s a teacher whose made a load of history podcasts and put them on iTunes!  You could do the same and, if they’re good, you’ll make some money at the same time! Win-win!


Happy searching!



Binge, Splurge, Spew!

9th September 2015 | David Hodgson | Revision

Binge, splurge and spew…

By David Hodgson


Which of these learning tactics are best?

Can you rank them in order of best to worst?


1. Using a highlighter/underlined pen on your notes or text book

2. Rereading your notes

3. Summarizing the main points after reading notes

4. Cramming

5. Test yourself using flash cards or aps like quizlet

6. Spaced learning and practice


According to research by John Dunlosky at Kent State University in the USA the above list is accurate from worst to most effective.

Methods 1 to 4 are very ineffective! One of the best ways The Brainbox helps you is by sharing the tactics that make your learning both effective and efficient. So you won’t be wasting your revision time. Professor of Surgery, B. Price Kerfoot, at Harvard Medical School replaced the ‘binge, splurge and spew’ learning model with a spaced learning and practice model and improved student exam performance by 50%.

David Hodgson is co-author of The Brain Box.  To find out more about David, visit:

Do you talk teen?

9th September 2015 | Tim Benton | Parents


Confused by what your teenage son or daughter is doing online? The i published this handy guide the other day! You may find it useful to de-code what mischief they are actually up to!



Who’s in the driving seat?

8th September 2015 | Tim Benton | Motivation

I used to have a SAT NAV.  When it worked, it was great and I became very reliant on it getting me where I needed to go.  Maybe a little too over-reliant…

A few years back, I had to speak at a school in Bedfordshire.  I fell out of the hotel, first thing in the morning, and got into the car.  Fixing the SAT NAV to the dashboard, I typed in the school’s postcode.  The SAT NAV led the way:

“Turn left at the end of the road…. “

“At the mini round-about, take the second exit… “

“Continue for one mile…”

We kept going.

“Turn right…”

Further instructions were followed and it eventually informed me:

“You have reached your destination.”

I looked out the window.  Was this right?

I was around the back of Bedford rail station.  There was a burnt out car, a supermarket trolley, a skip with a mattress in it, and some homeless guy talking to his own shoes! This did not look like a school!

It wasn’t a school.  Flippin’ SAT NAV got it wrong!!!

A few minutes later, and after some hasty map reading, the SAT NAV was back in the glove box and I was speeding my way to the school.  The SAT NAV had taken me 2 miles in the wrong direction and I was nowhere near where I needed to be!  Fortunately I arrived, just in the nick of time…

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  I had been so used to my SAT NAV telling me where to go, I’d stopped thinking for myself.

Some of you may be like that; your teachers or friends are doing your thinking for you and you are getting to a point where you can’t think for yourself.  It’s what psychologists call ‘learned helplessness’: if someone does something for you too much, you will struggle to do it yourself!

Remember: All answers are good, not necessarily correct.  A wrong answer is always better than ‘I don’t know’.  A good guess on an exam paper is better than writing nothing (and you may still get marks for what you put).

Google maps on my iphone is brilliant (much better than my old SAT NAV) and it helps it me no end.  But I don’t follow it blindly anymore – I always check it’s taking me to the right place (eg St Ives in Cornwall not St Ives in Cambridgeshire!).

Sometimes, Google is wrong.

If you don’t end up where you wanted to be – don’t blame someone else, find your own path.

Make your own map!

Revision C.A.T.S.

3rd September 2015 | Tim Benton | Revision

Revision! We all hate it, we all need to do it.

Reading The Brain Box will help you take the pain out of painstaking and if you remove the pain, you’re just left with staking which is an anagram of skating, and skating is fun! See – it’s all about how we see these things…

Confused?  Never mind – this will help:

Cats have an easy life.  Frankly, I’d like to be a cat!  Here’s how we can all be revision CATS:


Don’t just stare at the page.  Try and do something a bit creative with your revision – draw a mindmap, make some cards, do a poster, tweet friends, make an mp3 file of you speaking out loud what you need to learn.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”

– Albert Einstein.


Think you can do it? If you believe you are more likely to achieve.  Hard work and a positive attitude are proven to give students great results in their exams.

What does a poor attitude look like: not believing you are capable… trying to ‘wing it’ without any work… Not caring how you do…  Assuming everything will be alright and thinking you don’t need good grades. Be wise! Get a good attitude.

“If you can believe, you can achieve. Innit.” – Dizzee Rascal.


Plan your time.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Break your revision into 15 minute chunks.

Plan to spend a minimum time revising each day.  This could be 15minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, two hours.  But once you’ve decided how much you will do, stick to it.

Have a revision planner of some sort (see our Two Great Methods in The Brain Box book)

“Procrastination is the thief of time.” ~ Edward Young

Strengths (and weaknesses)

Play to your strengths and try to work on your weaknesses.

Do you work best straight after school or later in the evening? Are you better first thing in the morning?

Do you work better alone or with others?

Do you find doodling helps or hinders?

If your X-Box is a massive distraction, unplug it while you are working.  We heard of one student who took his games console into school and asked his form tutor to lock it away until after the exams!!

Does it help you to revise online or do you just end up playing games, going on social networking sites and wasting the time?

“If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.” ~ Confucius

Work smart not hard.

Use the revision CATS!


Tim Benton is an associate of Independent Thinking Ltd and co-author of The Brain Box. He is also the lead practitioner at Blue Caterpillar.