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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in brain-based teaching

Posted by on in Early Childhood

Teachers, do you know the Mozart Rondo in A minor? Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1? Perhaps you, like many Americans, prefer to stick with what you know when you play music for children. It is certainly understandable. When I started teaching, I mostly played this music in my classroom because my undergraduate degree was in music. I knew “classical” music through and through. I was trained to identify Beethoven in two bars. I still can! So why should you, as a teacher, use music you are less familiar with? After all, the children won’t like it, will they? Not so, of course. Young children love music, and do not discriminate, as adults do, on the basis of genre. Just as they do not on the basis of race or culture. Music penetrates their undefended hearts.

Let me say that I myself had a learning curve once I began teaching young children. Multi-cultural classrooms enticed me into multi-cultural musical genres. Other genres caught my attention on iTunes and I introduced those as well. In my years of teaching preschool, I played all of these musical gems in the background during centers. Placing instruments or scarves near my boom box, children could participate in the artists’ music making. During Vivaldi’s concerto, Summer, the storm sequence (presto), two little boys spontaneously invented a partner dance that reflected the energy of the piece. Jittering their bodies in place, making claws with their hands as they looked at each other, they expressed the feelings of the music as they experienced it. This is called creative movement and meets a national dance standard for pre-k. The way the children danced was play-based because it was spontaneously chosen. They started and stopped at will. So using classical music created an opportunity for play-based learning. 

I have taught college students that there is no end to the possibilities of playing music for young children, and they have proved my point by bringing in anecdotes such as this one, involving behavior management: A teacher was substituting in a classroom of threes. The children were “off the wall”.  I had taught her about how music from the Baroque period, especially, created a more purposeful and balanced atmosphere for children during play due to its steady beat (Baroque composers believed in keeping the beat steady in each movement. The beat is called the tactus). So, at her wit’s end, she put on Vivaldi. The mood in her classroom shifted to one of calm, and the children stayed longer at their chosen activities.

This, of course, is anecdotal information, but there is ample research available to prove the point. For me, no proof is needed. When I played the opening from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana for a class of teachers, and told them children could benefit from this music, they looked at me in horror. “It will scare them!”, they said. So I took it to the voters, my preschoolers, as an experiment. I played the opening of the piece and they, sitting in a circle on the floor, began pounding their heels into the carpet, ecstatic smiles on their faces. I gave them feeling words to choose from to express their response. Only two words resonated: Happy, and excited. Needless to say, they wanted to stand and dance.

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Posted by on in Education Technology

We may have come a long way since the days of filling the blackboard with Latin declensions, but the field of formal language teaching and learning is still relatively young. The demand for language instruction is surging: the British Council anticipates two billion people studying English by 2020—and that’s just English. While this field is growing dramatically, technology is changing nearly every industry out there, so without a doubt, technology will dramatically reshape what language learning looks like within our lifetime. Let’s take a look at some emerging technologies with the potential to transform the language-learning industry.

 

Immersive Video

Virtual reality—like other items on this list—first debuted decades ago, but back then it was a hefty investment in a clunky headset, cord-bound to a CPU that would transport you to a digital world of wonder. Or if not wonder, at least a world of pixelated polygons. Today, things are different: our iPhones pack all the necessary tech components—magnetometer, gyroscope, etc.—and Facebook’s 360 Videos and YouTube 360 put actual VR (now often called “immersive video”) into our pockets and onto our feeds.

 

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Remember the story of Icarus?

Here's my take...

Icarus died, because his father Daedalus was a bad teacher. The youngster flew too close to the sun, causing the wax binding his wings to melt and his body experience terminal velocity before it hit the sea.

But his father warned him! you may be thinking. He sure did, but the problem is that Daedalus did not teach his boy the secret methods to understanding the power he possessed. Without the understanding, Icarus did not learn. He did not learn, so he perished.

The legend of Icarus reminds me of education today. Fortunately, most of our students don't perish as a result of it. Unfortunately, many fall victim to miseducation. This is what Sir Ken Robinson suggests when describing a shortage of skills and abilities in the workforce needed to fill today's industry needs. To combat this, he emphasizes the importance of lifelong learning, which, I conceive, requires knowing how to process information effectively to understand, learn, and apply it in new ways.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

There is nothing wrong with your screen. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. I am controlling the image. I control the horizontal and I control the vertical. I can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next 10 minutes, sit quietly and I will control all that you see and perceive. You're a subject in my experiment. You're about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits.

Follow the directions below carefully.

  1. Imagine you are Picasso, Elizabeth I, Michelangelo, Maya Angelou, Marie Curie, Steve Jobs, Einstein, Jackie Kennedy, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams or whoever that one extraordinary person you aspire most to be like is. Imagine what their life is/was like. How do they look? What clothes are they wearing? Where are they? What world changing thing are they doing right now? Are you inspired?
  2. Imagine that you are surrounded by plants and flowers. Stand up and walk toward them. Focus on them. If something has been on your mind today, forget about it. Forget about everything. Let your mind wonder. How do you feel now?
  3. Think about a big goal you have. Conjure up images associated with it; the more the better. Think of words that represent it; the more the better. Is there a phrase or two or a quote it brings to mind? If you have not made one before, but are compelled right now, step away and do it. Grab a big sheet of paper, put your goal down in the center, gather the images, write down the words and phrases and quotes, and connect them to the goal. If you've ever created a mind map such as this you know the feeling. It's important to look at it often.

It's also important to control your students' minds without them knowing it.

PrimingStudentsForCreativityInfographic.png

Alter the environment. Imagine it. Model it. Help students achieve the right mindset first so they will be more creative later. Abracadabra!

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Posted by on in Literacy

I had the opportunity to listen to a keynote by Stephen Sroka last week.  At one point, Dr. Sroka took out a little bottle of bubbles, took a deep breath, and blew bubbles into the audience.  He took three breaths and blew bubble three times to simulate relaxation breathing. I sat there thinking that I wanted to use this technique in my classroom. I know that physical activity helps to reduce stress and anxiety as well as stimulate the mind. Purposeful breathing paired with reflection helps open the mind to deep thinking. I wondered if there was a way to incorporate movement, breathing, and discussing, so I began brainstorming ideas to combine all three.  This led to an activity I call Bubble Discussions.

This activity involves all three with the idea that in order for students to participate in deep-thinking conversations, they need to feel respected, calm, and stimulated to engage effectively.

Step 1:  Students read a meaningful text.  The topic of this short text (no more than two pages) is high-interest with multiple interpretations possible.

Step 2:  The teacher chooses quotes from the text to display around the room.  In addition to these quotes, the teacher may choose to include visuals (pertaining to topic) and quotes from other power texts.  Between 8-12 pieces of paper are hung around the room.

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