Tuesday, March 12, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Creating a Brain-Friendly Classroom

Hi all!

There is an awesome series of books out there and you must get them! They are written by Marcia Tate and they are the Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites series. Each book discusses "20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain." Here is a video of Marcia explaining the series:

As with my walk through of the Jane E. Pollack's Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning, I will be commenting on a tip per post.

Today's Strategy: Brainstorming and Discussion

Think about how we learn. We learn from our families, friends, churches, and a variety of other outlets. Learning is a social activity. Very rarely are we left out on our own without any support or learning partner.

Now think about our classrooms. How often do we leave kids out on their own? Don't talk, don't share, don't use your phone...it really is unnatural learning. Granted, we are trying to create self-supporting learners, but we don't have to throw them into the deep end of the pool without their water-wings! Even when learning to ride a bike, we first start with training wheels, and then when we take them off, mom or dad holds onto the seat until we gain our balance. And if we start to lose it, they grab the seat again. They don't just push us down a hill and wave.

So we need to provide more natural learning in our classrooms and one method is that of discussion. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Not talking is unnatural. Communication is necessary in learning.
  • Speaking actually sends oxygen to the brain. This will "wake-up" the student and increase engagement.
  • Many of us find it necessary to "talk through" our problems in an effort to better understand the problem and find a solution. This is why brainstorming is such a good technique in the classroom.
  • Discussion and using Graphic Organizers ensure that ALL students are involved and engaged.
  • Kids 10 and younger benefit most from a teacher-led discussion. Students over the age of 10 benefit most from their own discussions in collaborative  groups. The secondary teacher needs to move from the "Sage on the Stage" to the "Guide on the Side."
  • When brainstorming, enforce the DOVE guidelines: Don't judge, One idea at a time, Variety of ideas, Energy on task.
  • Have students in collaborative groups as a rule. During your instruction, give them processing time periodically. Use the 10:2 rule: after 10 minutes of instruction, provide 2 minutes of processing.
  • Use Think-Pair-Share! Make it commonplace. This is a simple and POWERFUL tool to increase engagement.
  • Provide "wait time" before eliciting an answer. Give everyone a chance to wrap their brains around what you have asked of them.

When a brain is deprived of oxygen for more than six minutes, it is considered dead. If you want to increase engagement, get them talking!

Have a happy day!

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