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

Posted by on in Studentcentricity

teacher and studentFor three decades, I’ve been recommending that teachers present movement challenges to kids with the words, “Show me you can…” It’s a simple technique but amazingly effective in keeping kids on task because they want to show you – one of the important adults in their lives – that they can. Furthermore, when a teacher phrases a challenge in such a way, it implies that she or he knows the child can handle the challenge. I’ve witnessed it myself: kids thrive when we believe in their capabilities. 

The work of Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal proved that to be true. In 1964, at a San Francisco elementary school, Rosenthal gave children a test that their teachers had been told would predict which students were about to dramatically improve their IQ. Following the test he randomly chose students whom the test had “proven” were on the verge of vast intellectual growth.

The result? After two years of studying the children, Rosenthal found that “if teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more in IQ.”

Does the same thing happen in reverse? If we expect less of students – for example, disruptive behavior from boys or less success in math and science from girls – do we get what we expect? How could we not?

Following my Studentcentricity discussion with Lori Desautels, Deborah Stipek, and Jennifer Carey on the subject of teacher beliefs, Lori wrote,

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity


happy classroom As I stated in my discussion with Lori Desautels, Kay Albrecht, and Peter DeWitt, just as we can’t start building a house with the second story we can’t get to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (self-actualization) by skipping over the bottom levels.

Here’s some of Lori’s rationale as to why the bottom of the pyramid matters:

Our brains are wired for attachment and survival. When we feel "felt" by another, we are able to create a brain state of equanimity and therefore move through the tasks of the day! This is true for all of us, not just students. Teacher well-being is at the root of student well-being and when we model in transparent ways the needs we have and how we meet them, superior teaching takes hold!

She advises:    

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

I stood at the front of the class of second graders and I felt it. That shift when I knew that the interest was slipping away. We had been working on hearing a particular vowel sound in words. We were spelling words that included the sound. While I didn't see any particular behavior issues, I could feel the room changing.

"What do they need?" I wondered to myself.

We stood and stretched. We moved to to give our brains a break. We sat and began our work again. Still, I could feel it.

"Stand, grab your paper and pencil," I announced. They stood, wondering. "Move to a desk or table. Anywhere." They quickly shifted around the room. I called out a word and they experimented with writing it. "Stand and move somewhere else." They did. We wrote another word. We did this for about 5 words. Then they moved back to their desks. The day went on with whatever was next.

I'm often struck with the differing expectations from students at different levels. When I work with kindergartners, I do not expect us to sit for very long. I don't expect us to do a lot of things as a group. I allow them to move and follow their interests or at least bounce and interrupt and wiggle. With second graders, just a couple of years older, expectations are often radically different.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity



Whether it’s a dinner buffet or career opportunities, most people would prefer not to have the selection dictated to them. 

It’s no different for students -- because they're people, too. Whether it's choosing which book to read or which project to tackle, having a range of options can make both the decision-making process and the reading/project downright delicious. Variety, as they say, is indeed the spice of life!

 Says Joshua Block, “Choice is an integral part of education that inspires.”

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

What If those gadgets that students bring to class, the phones and tablets, were considered as encyclopedias, paper, and pens? Crazy, you say? May be or maybe not! This idea came to me in the middle of the night and woke me up. The next morning, this idea would not go away. I realized that I had spent a few years focusing more on controlling use and access rather than learning how to use these tools appropriately.

I have tried several ways to “manage” phone use in my class over the years. My strategies went from no use to modified use with permission, all with the same results. Students resisted restricted access to these devices and would go to any length, including expulsion to hold onto them. I even wanted to block signals altogether until I realized that, besides the legal issues, there might be unintended consequences that I could not predict.

I reflected on a book I read about leadership that described how it may be necessary to reframe ideas and assumptions about an organization in order to understand what was happening and to know what changes might work. So I slowly began to refocus and to reframe my assumptions about controlling and managing these devices. To my surprise, I found several benefits that enhanced learning in ways I could not have done a few years ago. In reality, these devices are 21st century versions of a dictionary, encyclopedia, pen, and pencil. I do not care if students doodle and I do not look at what they are writing on their papers. So, why should I be so focused on what is on the phone? The good news is that using phones and tablets in the classroom has many benefits.

1. Research- Classroom research, was the most important one for me. I stumbled on this when as a homework assignment, I asked that everyone be prepared for a discussion. Only two hands went up to confirm that they were prepared for the discussion. I quickly reframed the assignment from discussing the topic to researching and finding information to present the findings so that students could have a discussion at a later date.

2. Enhanced Student-Teacher Interaction and Instruction-As each group worked using their phones, I went around and listened to the conversations and answered their questions. I heard students asking good questions, dividing up work, deciding what was relevant to narrow their focus. Some found case studies or other examples of their topic. I was amazed that they pulled this off in the time allotted.

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