Why Ninth Grade?
The Most Important Year in High School,”
By Michele Willens, The Atlantic November 1, 2013
Concerns Public School situation BUT…
“More and more of us are realizing that it’s the
make or break year for many 14- and 15-year-
olds. It’s a time when the cognitive, emotional,
and physical are all coming together. The schools
are likely new environments, and the students
have more autonomy and more homework.”
Initial impulse: certain students…
• The flashes of insight
– Yet…production problems grades do not reflect
– Lack of consolidation of insights (no memory)
– Leading confidence problems
– Something more than preferential seating and time
and a half?
– And what about these other kids?
• How can I be the teacher who reaches these
25th Learning and the Brain
2010: “USING BRAIN RESEARCH to RAISE IQ and ACHIEVEMENT”
• Crystalline Intelligence and Fluid Intelligence
Memory and Attention : Judy Willis
• Reaching Attention, Attitude/Behavior, Develop Memory
– Attending to attention, emotion and reward
• Stress, Attention and Induced Executive Function problems
– Mimics EF problems
– What is stressful? fear, boredom, frustration, (SLEEP!)
– AMYGDALA: FIGHT, FLIGHT, FREEZE, SEX
» Social Anxiety, OCD….
Emotional Basis of Learning
• Simple strategies for engagement, but
begin with EMPATHY
• John Medina (Brain Rules)
–Best Predictor of Effective Teacher
• It’s not just about “feeling good”
– It’s about real rigor
– Performance and Achievement
Increased Demands on
Everyone’s Executive Function
• Executive Function: George McCloskey
•Production Vs Intelligence
•Tests that are Executive Function traps
•Delayed Development (30%)
•What Works in terms of intervention
• EF and ADHD are not synonymous terms; rather
ADHD is a condition involving EF deficits in just 4!:
• Focus/Select, Sustain, Inhibit, Modulate
– Why each ADHD is different
• Time to wrap our minds around the idea of
• Each brain is unique, presenting unique
opportunities and challenges
• Verbal/Language Building
– Teaching them to name
• Leveraging Self–Realization (self awareness, self
analysis) to affect Self-regulation
• Cognitive Behavior Therapy
– It’s about the controlling your story and stories are
powerful tools for self-regulation
• Mindfulness-based practices
– Physical, meditation, awareness
• Modeling how we grapple with Executive Function
Attention, Emotion, Memory
• Attention, Emotion, Memory: Stress effects
– Stress awareness
– Effective Stress Regulation
• Teaching students awareness, reflection and
– Not just “Oh well, I am wired this way” but…
– “Because I am wired this way, I need to…(?)
• Simple but powerful idea
• Theory of talent or Intelligence…
– Entity (Fixed)
– Incremental (Growth)
• Your Model of intelligence has measurable
affect of your achievement
– Independent from intelligence!
– High Growth Mindset out learn
Struggled with this transition…
– Jk-12 environment
– Influx (5th), 7th and now 9th grades
– Transition from MS to US Expectations, Resources
– Playing a different game (students with high executive
function, or with lots of scaffolding so dysfunction or
weaknesses do not show up) have always succeeded before,
– The game was…how to get an “A”…. “how many points is
– Increased Cognitive and increased demands on EF circuitry.
– And increased stress, which leads to Executive Dysfunctions
that mimic learning Style diagnoses
Previously. . .
• Cross curricular efforts
• Follow through?
• Buy in…?
• What is making the difference here?
• Follow through
• Buy in….
• How did that happen?
Learning is making CONNECTIONS
As we learn….
• Neural Networks
• One neuron to another: “Long Term Potentiation”
• “Neurons that Fire together Wire together”
• Curiosity Challenge Practice/Repetition
• + REM SLEEP: consolidation of learning
• Slow Wave REM (late in the sleep cycle)
• High Fructose Diets
• Not just “facts,” not just “skills” as simply conceived
• Behaviors: “Executive Functions”
• Directive capacities of the mind: initiate, inhibit, sustain, shift,
• “Immature Brains”: ADHD, ADD, etc…
Current Biology 21, 2109–2114, December 20, 20112011 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.018
DISTRESS: Chronic and Acute Stress
• Inhibits Uptake of Information (focus/attention)
• Inhibits Recall of Information
• Inhibits Higher Order Thinking
• Primes Addiction Networks
Same LTP of Dopamine Pathway as Addictive Drugs
• Immune System Suppressed
• Not just a matter of “THROWING THEM IN THE
• Induces Symptoms of Learning Disorders…
And so, “BOOM”
• 9th Grade: increased DEMANDS on EF
• Increased INDEPENDENCE
• Connecting and Disconnecting
– Kaiser Family Foundation Study (2010)
• “Today’s youth pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content
into 7 and a half hours spent in front of screens”
• An increase of 2 1/4 hours between 2004 and 2009
“Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds”
• And SO…
– Independence, Expectation of US life, Resources…
STUDENT CLASSROOM WORK
Question: How do we make this
knowledge and these understandings
relevant to our students…right now?
English 9: Crossing Thresholds—
Maps of Transformation
• What are the “maps” or mental models
we’ve created, and where do they come
• How do these maps and models encourage
or inhibit growth?
• How do they affect our perceptions and
actions? How do they change?
• What is the role of storytelling in shaping
these models and our lives?
USE of EF to discuss literature
• Below is a list of some of the Executive Functions along with a brief description
and an example response using a detail from the novel. Your task is to find and
list (implied or explicit) examples of the following EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS in
action or in dysfunction from Lord of the Flies. Find one or two examples of
each. The Five Executive functions we will be looking at are PERCEIVE,
FOCUS/SELECT, SUSTAIN, INHIBIT and MODULATE.
• Perceive—The Perceive function cues the use your senses and imagination to
take information in from the external environment: it tells you what to notice
(e.g. “This door handle is hot.” “The fire alarm is going off.” She looks
unhappy.”) In other situations, PERCEIVE function cues your “inner
awareness” for mentally tuning into perceptions (e.g. “Oh wow, I am Hungry!”
Or, “I am tired!”), your emotions (“Oh wow, I am angry!” or “I am sooooo happy
right now!”), your thoughts, (e.g. “I have a great idea!”), or actions (e.g. you
notice that you are slouching) as these are represented “in the mind” or in the
• EXAMPLE: Jack is especially good at tracking pigs and noticing small signs that
indicate where they have gone. During the hunt on page 134 he is the first to
find the drop of blood that indicates where the old sow has passed. During the
hunt he has a strong ability to cue the PERCEIVE function.
MINDSET and Tragedy
• How does a person with a fixed mindset feel
about failure, and why?
• Find 3 examples of failure in the book and
explain how Okonkwo feels about them, citing
evidence from the text.
• What prevents Okonkwo from benefitting
from Uchendu’s lesson and learning from his
time in exile?
• Does Okonkwo have a fixed or growth mindset?
Find evidence to support your position.
of the Flies
• read with a pen/pencil in hand and mark the
text for patterns beyond the plot level,
including character and thematic
development, repeated patterns of imagery,
and connections with previous texts
• be able to correctly infer action and how
action relates to interior mental states of the
characters (theory of mind) from
All of this Habits of Mind stuff
• Applies to YOU, the teacher too
• Growth or Fixed (yourself?)
• ALL your students?
• How do people talk about kids in your school?
– How do YOU?
–Stress (and self-regulation)
• Administrators and the mental health of their faculty
–Knowing your EF strengths and challenges
• Owning and honoring your own “cerebro-diversity”
For more information, contact
On twitter @christopherdr
On twitter @micdslibrary
Buzzard, J&J. "Squared Circle Firework." Flickr. Flickr, 4 July 2009. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
Deeplifequotes. "Don't Practice Until You Get It Right." Flickr. Flickr, 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
Geekgirly. "You Are Here." Wikimedia Commons. MediaWiki, 15 Feb. 2008. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
Joyce, Mitchell. "Meditation." Flickr. Flickr, 28 Aug. 2009. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
Key, Derek. "Window and Clock, Musee d'Orsay." Wikimedia Commons. MediaWiki, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
Underminingme. "Distraction." Flickr. Flickr, 21 July 2008. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
Zenino, Christine. "Dog Sledding." Wikimedia Commons. MediaWiki, 30 Jan. 2013. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
Zinkova, Mila. "Reflection in a Soap Bubble." Wikimedia Commons. MediaWiki, 26 Mar. 2008. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.
**All images licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License**