Themes Stress and learning Learning and physical health Novelty Relevance/emotion The adolescent brain Short-term memory and assessment Intelligence testing Creativity
Stress and learning Stressed brains don’t learn effectively. Doing a five-minute relaxation activity before a test increases students’ ability to show what they know. Students have to have time to process if you want them to learn.
Learning and physical health Movement stimulates memory. Exercise increases blood-flow to the brain. Exercise decreases stress.
Activities that promote brain health Use both sides of the body (try putting the mouse for your computer on the other side, writing with your non- dominant hand) every day. Keep making new friends. Learn a new language. Travel. Dance. Read. Write. Play a musical instrument. Solve problems. Play. Pray. Meditate. Use relaxation procedures. Say no sometimes. Eat well. Sleep.
Novelty New brain cells are made in the hippocampus when we are exposed to novel situations and to challenges. There is evidence that this process stimulates the immune system and actually prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s. To be enriched, your brain needs novelty and complexity. It also needs to be relaxed. To keep students engaged, each class needs to be a surprise. If you want kids to be motivated, they need to be interested in the learning process, not just in how well they’re doing.
Relevance and emotion Teenage brains need novelty and emotion to make the lesson meaningful. Making learning an emotional experience helps students remember better, but critical thinking collapses.
Adolescent brain Teenagers are not good at abstract thought, so they over think it. Empathy resides in the pre-frontal cortex, which is not developed in teenagers. Portions of the brain where good judgment reside are also undeveloped in adolescence. Girls have a harder time de-stressing than boys.
Adjustments Topic sentence—green Evidence—purple Analysis—blue Evidence—purple Analysis—blue Repeat this pattern as needed Argument (which is the conclusion you have drawn from your analysis)— orange
Short-term memory and assessment Relaxing before an assessment (or homework) increases students’ ability to show what they know. Memory stabilizes after 14 days, so spread what you want them to know out over two weeks. Cramming will not allow information into long-term memory. Rereading is not an effective way to improve memory, but elaborating by writing about it will help. Many tests actually test short-term memory, not acquired knowledge.
Intelligence testing There is no theory that there is a difference between verbal and non-verbal learning. It was originally a description of the kind of test, not the kind of learning. Wechsler depends on native English. Poverty affects test scores—don’t believe verbal IQ scores. Intelligence test has to be based on a theory of what intelligence is. Knowledge hugely affects processing speed. Multiple choice is incredibly hard for people with ADD—does not show what child knows.
Creativity You need time for innovation. It has to be OK to fail. Creativity is a collaborative process. In the creative classroom, the core is collaborative conversation, the classroom flow is improvisational, and the teacher and students build knowledge together. Creativity emerges over time, there are always multiple dead ends, usually collaborative. In innovational organizations, professionals continually learn, work collaboratively, engage in mutual tinkering, and change teams roles frequently.
Other interesting tidbits We need to stop spending time and money on what kids can’t do, and reinvest it in discovering what kids can do. No research suggests that matching teaching and learning styles leads to any success. Mothers constantly underestimate how stressed kids are.
More interesting tidbits There is a 30-day memory loss after binge drinking. ADD kids have to move and breathe to learn. They will not learn well if you ask them to sit still. Only 3% of the population can multitask two things at once.
And more tidbits... Testing emphasis leads teachers to focus more on themselves than on the students. There is a misunderstanding about rigor—massive amounts of work doesn’t make better education. Markers that focus on achievement rather than learning: honor rolls, grades, posting test scores, college acceptances and AP scores, and merit scholarships.
My favorite One presenter said that a healthy person asks, “What is it in me that needs to be expressed?” and “What is my reason for living?” every day.
People Paul Nussbaum, “Brain Health and the Interface with Education” Deborah Waber, “Rethinking Learning Disabilities” Donna Coch, “Building Mind, Brain, and Education Connections: The View From the Upper Valley” David Sousa, “How the Brain Learns: Translating Research into Classroom Practice” Sheryl Feinstein, “Teaching and Reaching the Teenage Brain”
More people Jeb Schenck, “Teen Brains: Memory and Testing” Erich Engelhardt, “The Psychology of Change: The Challenge of Adolescence” Keith Sawyer, “Educating for Innovation” Alfie Kohn, “Performance vs. Learning: The Cost of Overemphasizing Achievement” Jack Naglieri, “Truth about Intelligence and Achievement Tests, What they Measure and What They Should Measure”