Brain Based Teaching and Learning By Diane Dahl
What is brain-based teaching? Applying the latest research about how the brain learns to the classroom with practical strategies.
Important Facts Studies have proven that IQ is not set in stone! The brain can be rewired for success. We are each born with 200 billion neurons. That gets pruned to 100 billion neurons. The neurons we each possess allow for limitless connections! Some children come to school with many essential connections already in place. Others need our help to create them.
Why is it important to teach to the way the brain learns best? Consider the following… Student retention probability after 24 hours: Lecture = 5% Reading = 10% Audio/Visual = 20% Demonstration = 30% Discussion = 50% Doing = 75% Teaching = 90% Only 15% of students are linear, auditory processors who look at the teacher. The other 85% learn differently. How do most teachers teach?
The Body Brain System The body-brain system is the first thing I'd like to consider. Our entire body is constantly sending messages to our brain. Consider this...
The Body Brain System Our skin sends as much as 10 million bits of tactile information per second to the sensory cortex. Our eyes send 100 million bits per second to our occipital lobe. Our ears send 30 thousand bits per second to our brain stem. From The Science of Learning and the Brain. Brainsmart, 2001. DVD
Why does it matter? Body Brain System Video by Marcus Conyers
Solution: The SMART Model 5 basic components State: Creating and sustaining healthy optimistic states for positive engagement and motivation. Meaning: Relationship, styles, deep understanding, and experience. Attention: Interactive process and attention tools. Retention: Memorable lessons and retention tools. Transfer: Metacognition, strong original learning, and practice. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 37)
12 Leading principles of the SMART Model: State 1. Positive engagement and motivation are key to increasing student learning. Effective teachers use strategies that promote positive learning experiences. Help students switch on positive, low stress/high challenge states. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 38,39.) Stress causes the brain to go into fight or flight mode. In this mode the brain is filtering out things not related to survival. Learning division will not be a priority!
State The right mental state is CRUCIAL! Optimism is very important and can be learned! Research suggests that academic achievement drops for pessimistic students when they experience failure.
In fact… Research has shown that when a pessimistic 4th grader is presented with a difficult task, their thinking level reverts to that of a 1st grader! When an optimistic 4th grader is presented with the same task, he/she will try to find ways to overcome the challenge. (Source: BrainSMART Instructional DVD)
Strategies for Optimism Model positive thinking and behavior. Smile! Mirror neurons will help your students ‘feel’ your smile and respond in kind. Express emotions. Model making mistakes and correcting them. Have high expectations.
State 2. Respectful relationships in a safe environment contribute to positive productive states and more on-task behavior. Effective teachers relate well to students and promote focused positive interaction among students. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 38,39.)
State 3. Good nutrition and regular exercise are critical in improving student achievement and reducing stress and discipline challenges. Effective teachers model and mediate healthy exercise and eating choices and encourage purposeful movement such as BrainObics™. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 38,39.)
Strategies for Physiology Teach and model healthy eating habits. Use physical exercise or brain-break activities at regular intervals. Bonus: this also helps focus! http://energizingbrainbreaks.com/
Leading principles of the SMART Model: Meaning 4. Each student makes meaning of lessons through instruction that assists them to gather and process new information in different ways. Effective teachers help students to create personal meaning from the lesson.
Meaning 5. Meaning is made in the mind of the learner by making connections to what is already known. Learners make meaning through multiple pathways. Effective teachers make learning meaningful by facilitating experiences that bring learning to life, and life to learning.
Meaning 6. Students create deep meaning when taught concepts, rather than only facts. Effective teachers teach concepts (bigger ideas) rather than emphasizing disconnected facts. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 39.)
Meaning Meaningful content is much more likely to make it into long-term memory. Make learning meaningful by connecting it to their lives. (Know your students!) The brain is always looking for patterns. Show students how what they are learning fits in with what they already know.
Meaning The brain is structured for survival. Let students know WHY they are learning what they are learning. Why should your content matter to them? (Consider this…If an administrator walked in your class and asked a student, “Why are you learning what you are learning?” How would your students respond?)
Creating Meaning Having trouble deciding why your students should care about the Pythagorean theorem? Challenge them! Say, “I’ll bet you can’t guess why this is important to your life!” Since boy brains are geared for challenge (Gurian & Stevens)…you’ll likely have several take you up on your challenge. Or, just ask. “Why is this important?” They will usually come up with something you hadn’t thought of. These strategies will also get their frontal lobes humming with higher-level thinking and prepped for learning!
Meaning Project based learning utilizing CHOICE is a fantastic way to create meaning. Gear to your students interests when possible. Choice, choice, choice. Oh, and did I mention choice?
Random Important Facts Emotions drive learning. This impacts attention, retention, AND transfer! Information has more emotional impact when it ties into things we already know. On we go…
Leading principles of the SMART Model:Attention 7. Emotion, thought, variety, and interaction are primary engines of attention. Effective teachers are enthusiastic, create curiosity, and use a variety of instructional methodologies to engage attention. 8. Working at a level of appropriate challenge with regular feedback on interesting work sustains internal motivation and attention. Effective teachers design lessons that engage intrinsic motivation and give regular feedback and downtime to process what is being studied. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 39.)
Attention Fact: Students are incapable of learning if they are not paying attention. It is impossible! Each person has about 4,000 thoughts pass through their mind a day! The brain filters out sensory data it considers unimportant. Are you getting filtered?
Attention Strategies Enthusiasm goes a long way to capturing attention. But it is not enough. Give regular brain-breaks. Consider the attention span to be about a minute per year of age up to about 20. So an eight year old will need a short brain break about every eight minutes to maintain optimal attention for learning.
Attention Strategies Additional brain-break strategies: Energizing Brain Breaks Think/pair/share Musical chairs Brain-Obics Humor! Your ideas? I also allow a “track time” before beginning math and language arts instruction.
Leading principles of the SMART Model: Retention 9. Metaphorically speaking, the brain is designed to SAVE what is engaging and useful and to delete what is not. Effective teachers make lessons as useful and memorable as possible by using memory strategies and having their students use what they learn. 10. If the body doesn’t move, the brain doesn’t learn. Effective teachers equip students with specific kinesthetic and interactive strategies for retaining and recalling important information. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 41.)
Retention Strategies Multi sensory learning. Take control of the vast number of incoming connections to the brain & use it to your advantage! The more connections to a given piece of information in the brain, the easier it is to access it. Know your students’ learning/thinking styles and intelligences.
Retention Strategy Use the power of a heads-up! Let students know ahead of time what information to be listening to or looking for. Studies show brain activity increases when students are told what to look for. Tell students they will share what they learned. Brain scans show the highest activity when students know they will have to share or retell what they learned.
12 Leading principles of the SMART Model: Transfer 11. Metacognition is the key to transfer: the ability to assess a situation, choose the right cognitive strategy, execute it, and monitor the effectiveness of the strategy. Effective teachers teach metacognition and facilitate many examples of transfer. 12. Strong original conceptual learning and regular review increase the probability that learning can be recalled and applied successfully. Effective teachers create strong learning experiences and then review through regular mind mapping and student processing, including discussions of many student-generated examples over a range of contexts. (Source: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, Wilson & Conyers, 2011, p. 41.)
Keys to Transfer Content should be REAL: Relevant to the learners Engaged in active learning Associated with prior knowledge Learning styles of students considered Metacognition is key! Teach students thinking skills so they can… Assess a situation Choose the right cognitive strategy Execute the strategy well
More Transfer Strategies Students can remember things based on the Principle of Location For example attach ideas to places or things 10 peg memory system Storyscape
Transfer Metacognitive strategies for reading using the 10-peg memory system. Watch my 2nd graders introduce and demonstrate their favorite thinking skills.
Excellent Resources BrainSMART 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning by Marcus Conyers and Donna Wilson (2011) Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom by Judy Willis (May 15, 2007) Energizing Brain Breaks - Spiral-bound (Dec. 28, 2009) by David Sladkey Teaching the Brain to Read: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension by Judy Willis (Aug 4, 2008) The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens