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Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The next time someone asks you what you do, just smile and say, "I'm a brain engineer!"  Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?  But you really are a brain engineer because every day you wire up children’s brains and help them learn, think, create, and feel.

We know that children’s brains are twice as active as adult brains, and that’s why teachers have to be so quick on their feet!  The more I study about the brain, the more I realize what teachers have always done naturally (and well) is still the key to stimulating children’s brains.  Here are a few tips for you “engineers”:

1.    The brain likes rich experiences, novelty, and challenges.  When children are interested, then their brains will be more engaged.

2.    Sensory stimulation is important.  The more senses you activate, the more likely the message will get to the brain.
3.  The brain remembers images.  50% to 80% of the brain's natural processing power is devoted to sight.

4.    A safe, secure environment is essential to a healthy brain (and body).  When you follow a daily schedule and routine, children feel confident and can focus on learning.

5.    The only way to the head is through the heart.  Take care of those emotional factors and relationships.

6.    The brain needs good nutrition, water, and plenty of rest.

7.    Brain breaks and neurobic exercises need to be integrated into the day.  Neuroscience suggests that our attention span is 10 minutes and instruction needs to be varied accordingly.

8.  Brain growth time (quiet time for thinking and reflection) is also important for students to process information.

9.    Death is silent and learning is noisy!  Children need to talk and be encouraged to ask questions.

10.    Music and movement are magic!  Children can learn anything with a song and dance.
11. Repetition, repetition, repetition!  However, feedback during practice is important to make sure the correct information is stored in the brain.

Every child is unique and every child’s brain is unique!  But, good “brain engineers” like YOU know when you are making those connections through the children’s twinkling eyes, smiles, and enthusiasm!  Although I know it's frustrating because there is such a dissonance between brain research and classroom practice, the more you know the more power you have to advocate for active learning and a happy, noisy classroom!!!

Here are some of my favorite resources to stimulate your brains this summer:

Hannaford, C.  (2005).  Smart moves:  why learning is not all in your head.
            Salt Lake City, UT:  Great River Books.
Jensen, E.  (2008).  Brain-based learning.  Del Mar, CA:  Turning Point.
Medina, J.  (2010),  Brain rules.  Seattle, WA:  Pear Press.
Ratey, J.  2008).  Spark.  The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain.  New York:  Little Brown and Company.
Schiller, P.  (1999).  Start smart.  Beltsville, MD:  Gryphon House.
Wolfe, P.  (2001).  Brain matters:  translating research into classroom practice.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

*Check out Chris Wiffle's site called for some excellent FREE videos.