By Barbara DiObilda

A teenager from Miami has devised a strategy that she says could revolutionize learning and comprehension among school children—and adults, too.

It's called Mind Mapping, and it has made Lena Israel, 15, a celebrity in the United States, Australia, Asia — and even the (former) Soviet Union.

"Every student wants to get better grades, but they don't necessarily want to study more," said Lena, who will be ajunior at North Miami Beach Senior High School. "With the Mind Mapping Learning system, you write down less and study less, but you retain more information."

How does it work? To understand first place your hands side by side and make two fists. This is approximately the size of your brain. Figure that the left side of it controls logic, language, numbers, and sequence. The right side is thought to be the creative side; it controls imagination, color, music, even day dreaming.

Each side or hemisphere, processes information on its own, but the brain works best when both sides are stimulated equally. And that's where Mind Mapping is important.

"It is a learning technique that makes use of the whole brain," Lena said.

Ready to try for yourself? Start with a blank sheet of paper and, in the center, write a word or draw a picture that represents a specific topic. Try for instance, music. Either write the work or doodle some musical notes to symbolize the theme.

Then draw lines branching out from that topic and add subtopics on each. Write a word or draw a picture pertaining to the topic—one line might hold the word "types," another, "performers," another, "songs," still another, "instruments."

Then, branch again from there. Under "instruments," draw more branches to hold words or pictures of a violin, a trumpet, drums. Under types, print "rock," "country," "jazz" or draw pictures that signify those styles. Keep branching in until a topic is exhausted.

Try to use just one word on each branch line, and draw pictures whenever possible. Use different colors for each branch, too. The strategies all help to stimulate both sides of the brain. The "map" that results will be a learning tool that can serve as an outline for writing a composition, or as a skeleton of the most basic and integral facts in any subject.

When you take notes in a linear fashion—just writing words across the page—you waste 90 percent of your time writing words that have no bearing on comprehension or recall," Lena said. "When you go to study that, you waste 90 percent of your study time, too."

"In Mind Mapping, you use just the key words, so you learn and remember more. My friend's chemistry notebooks are at least three inches thick, but mine is less than one inch thick, and we have all the same information."

Lena's system grew out of a chapter of the book Use Both Sides of Your Brain by Tony Buzan. She figured that a concept that Buzan geared toward helping business people develop better work strategies would make a good science project she tailored it to kids and studying.

It did. She got an "A". But that was just the start.

She was invited to present her findings at the Eighth World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children in 1989 in Sydney, Australia, the first youngster ever to present a paper at the conference.

"That was so exciting," she said. "I gave my presentation to over 250 global educators, who really listened to what I had to say."

When she returned to the United States, Lena self-published the book that she had put together for the conference, "Brain Power for Kids— How to Become an Instant Genius," and sold more than 2,000 copies. She has since formed a company, Brain Power for Kids, and gives lectures all over the world.

Although she insists she is just a typical teen—she still has to do household chores—she has already by passed the indecision that comes with planning her future. You might say she's got that all mapped out.

Brain Power for Kids—How to Become an Instant Genius is available by writing P. O. Box 630503, Miami, FL33163. Cost is $6, which includes shipping and handling.

Helping Your Child Learn To Read

Helping Your Child Learn To Read

When parents help their children learn to read, they help open the door to a new world. As a parent, you can begin an endless learning chain: You read to your children, they develop a love of stories and poems, they want to read on their own, they practice reading, and finally they read for their own information or pleasure. They become readers, and their world is forever expanded and enriched.

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