You know I’m a sucker for anything about the brain. If the word “brain” is in the title of a book or magazine article, I’m all over it. Why? The brain is where learning takes place. The more we know about the brain, the more effective we can be as educators. (I’m smiling because the more I read about the brain the more I realize a lot of this is common sense.) However, brain research validates best practices that good teachers have always employed."Boosting Your Brainpower" was an article from Reader's Digest that I read several years ago. As the new school year begins it might be helpful to review strategies that can help improve your students' brains - and maybe yours as well!
The Importance of Short Term Memory
Initial research seems to indicate that memory training can actually boost IQ. Eric Kandel of Columbia University shared, “If you really work on memory by, for instance, memorizing poetry…” I shouldn’t take this out of context, but it makes sense that finger plays, songs, chants, and nursery rhymes are natural ways to develop short-term memory in young children.
Pay Attention, Get Smart
Attention is another brain element that you can train. Hocus, pocus, everybody focus! If you tell the brain it’s important and to listen it will do it!
Exercise for the body and exercise for the brain. You learn on your feet, not on your seat!
Researchers have found “that a midday nap may not merely restore brain power but also raise it.” Children need a quiet time every day. You don’t have to put out cots or mats, but 10-15 minutes with the lights off and peaceful music would be like a breath of fresh air for those little brains that are working so hard.
A Second Language
“The workout the prefrontal cortex gets in bilingualism carries over to other functions…” That is really good news for children who have different languages in their home. It’s also powerful support for teaching children a second language at school.
Write by Hand
Swiping across a screen will never replace picking up a pencil. When children write by hand it activates many areas of the brain and can improve writing fluency.
Feed the Brain
Fish, fruits, and dark leafy vegetables are particularly good choices. (Sorry, caffeine and fried foods are not on the list!)
Use Visual Concepts
Photos, charts, graphs and other visual information help people remember. Let children draw their own figures and charts and use colors to highlight main ideas.
Teach Someone Else
Having students review information, summarize, or teach a friend can help them remember a lot better.