Make Your Child Brilliant - Thursday February 7

make your child brilliant (5/6)

Education guru Bernadette Tynan continues to put her unique brand of brain training to good use in helping children whose talents are going unnoticed. Tonight, she visits St Clement and St James primary school in west London in search of a child who could benefit from her techniques. After selecting a shortlist of five talented kids, Bernadette decides to work with Aaliyah –a deep thinker who seems reluctant to share her ideas.

Bernadette Tynan has spent more than 15 years researching the secrets of the mind and developing brain-training techniques to unlock children’s talents. She is convinced that the current “examcrazed” education system in the UK is failing to spot the ability of many of the country’s brightest kids. In this series she sets out on a journey across the country to put her methods to use.

This week, Bernadette is in London to assess the potential of a group of eight to 11-year-olds – children at a critical stage in their development. She divides the children into teams and sets them the task of building a cardboard house and solving a word puzzle. “It’s not just fun,” she explains. “It gives me a window into how a child thinks and learns.” During the task, Bernadette spots a range of different skills, including verbal, creative, divergent and kinaesthetic thinking. After speaking to the school teachers, she selects five children to undergo further tests: Tommy, an energetic, cheeky lad; Luke, a talented writer; Abby, a quiet leader; Cairo, an imaginitive girl; and Aaliyah, a deep thinker.

In the Surrey countryside, far away from the classroom environment, Bernadette sets her chosen five a physical, problem-solving trial involving ropes and hooks. “I’m interested in how the children think, not what they know,” she says. After a creativity challenge and a further test to see how two of the children interact with their families, Bernadette selects Aaliyah as the child she will take on a brain-training journey. While Aaliyah clearly has talents, including a particular aptitude for drawing, she has difficulty communicating her ideas. In order to deal with this problem, Bernadette sets Aaliyah a special challenge that will harness her artistic ability and tackle her reticence –in just two months, she will present her own version of a famous painting to an audience at the National Gallery.

Getting straight to work at a London art gallery, Bernadette tells her charge to visualise the presentation of her work at the end of the two months in order to obtain a mental image of success. “Once the mind has that picture, it will never be erased,” she explains. “She can now start working towards the goal.”

Next, Bernadette sets about giving Aaliyah the correct tools for the task in hand, beginning with her home environment. The two prepare a dedicated work space designed to put Aaliyah’s mind in the right state for learning. They adorn the new desk with mental triggers, which can be anything from personal objects to items of clothing, then complete the scene with a photograph taken at the gallery. Then it is off to the library to choose and research the painting to be interpreted. “The key to good learning is ownership,” says Bernadette, as she encourages her charge to use colours and symbols when making notes. Visual images will create dense pathways of connectivity in the brain, helping Aaliyah to remember facts on a deeper level.

Aaliyah is keen to begin work on her own version of her chosen painting –Renoir’s ‘The Skiff’. But Bernadette first needs to train her to articulate her ideas, so employs a technique that relates speech to dance moves. “Words, action and music encourage cross-brain thinking,” she says.

After a visit to a professional artist, Aaliyah begins work on her own Renoir interpretation and the painting soon takes shape. More importantly, her new skills are having a positive effect on her school work. “She is definitely more communicative than she used to be,” reports her class teacher. However, with just two days to go before her big presentation, Aaliyah will have to bring together everything she has learned in order to succeed.

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