Memory

April 30, 2007 at 6:01 pm (all, books, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, life, Middle School, music, news, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, technology, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized, writing)

Memory improvement and research related to the science of memory

Fahey, John AAlthough the art of mem

Memory improvement and research related to the science of memory

Fahey, John A

Although the art of memory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The purpose of this article is to propose proven methods to enhance memory, thus learning, for both students and teachers. Some of these methods to improve learning were discovered as far back as 400 B.C., while others are in the process of being developed.

In a time of high-stakes testing and accountability, educators must use research-based skills, tools and techniques to assist students learn content and remember the information. Learning the content is a function of numerous educational practices that assist memory. This article focuses on memory. Without the ability to remember the content we have not learned it, according to the standards-based tests. We need to learn how we best remember and how we can improve this skill.

Memory: A Definition

What is Memory? Memory is a glorious and admirable gift of nature by which we recall past things, we embrace present things, and we contemplate future things through their similarity to past things. Boncompagno, 1891 (Yates, 1966. p. 58)

Introduction and Purpose

Although the art of memory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The new millennium should produce exciting, innovative ways to access and expand memory. Scientists have located multiple loci in the brain for memory storage and neurochemical research has provided invaluable information on the chemistry of neuron activity. Recent use of music and exercise are demonstrating exciting and effective ways to increase memory. All of these discoveries and the potential instructional strategies are important for educators to incorporate into their pedagogical repertoire.

This article is about memory improvement, and some of the recent research implications related to the science of memory.A proposal to use music, movement and objects or articles as metaphors to assist students to remember will be offered in order to add practical application to understanding.

Historical Perspective of Memory

From the concept of natural memory to ancient views of artificial memory, people have examined this art and devised numerous mechanisms to assist their efforts. Certain techniques and patterns were established early in the studies of memory. In the late thirteenth century, Lull distinguished between types of memory (Yates, 1966). Lull presented two types of artificial memory; the first employs medicines and plasters, and the second relates to frequent repetition of information “like an ox chewing the cud.” (Yates, 1966, p. 192). The importance of repetition has been understood since 400 B.C. (Noll & Turkington, 1994). The concept that “the brain strengthens learning through repetition,” so long as it is not boring, supports efforts to improve memory (Jensen, 2000, p.78), however, there are numerous significant research findings that take memory strategies to levels beyond the “cud” metaphor.

The Multiple “R”s of Memory-Record, Rehearse, Retain, Reconstruct, Retrieval

For a person to remember he, or she, needs to proceed through a pattern of actions that enable a word, idea, concept or skill to become embedded into long-term storage. Long-term memory storage is enhanced by association, repetition, reconstruction or through vivid feelings.

Preparation for standardized tests at key gateways in educational evaluation requires the ability to memorize information and to recognize it at the appropriate times. Content knowledge is required before the learner can move to the more complex levels of educational taxonomy. In this pattern the multiple “R”s of memory might be helpful.

The use of “R” words employs a mnemonic device (all begin with an “R”) to assist recognition. They are examined as follows: (see chart on following page).

Avenues of Understanding

Recent investigations of brain-based research on memory suggest types of memory lanes (Sprenger, 1999), the importance of attention and receptor modification (Jensen, 1998) and the action of messenger proteins in the recall processes (Milner, 1999). Each discovery illuminates an important feature in the science of memory.

Sprenger’s (1999) memory lanes analogy provides the avenues associated with learning information within a variety of contexts. From the semantic, episodic, procedural, automatic and emotional lanes, individuals have a variety of neural pathways to search for information. Information is stored in context and this context provides a cue in the recognition process. Sprenger aptly states, “Locating memories may be impossible if we aren’t looking in the right place.” (p. 45). These avenues, supported by Caine and Caine’s locale memory (1994) relate to storage of information in a context. Embedding knowledge in context assists in memory and recall. For example, this phenomenon can be natural or assisted through the use of mnemonic devices such as the multiple “R”s of memory discussed earlier. The mnemonic device of using loci in a room for memorizing information dates back to 500 BC (Yates, 1966).

Food for Thought

New discoveries related to the brain have enhanced our perspectives and provided better science for examining memory. From research on neurochemistry to positron emission tomography (PET) scans, we have a better understanding of the brain and how it works. Important findings related to the fluidity of information storage (neural plasticity), the importance of protein in long-term memory, the need for calcium, choline and acetycholine in aiding the chemical processes of memory, (Jensen, 1998) and the importance of water in the entire memory learning process (Fahey, 2000) have provided food for thought. This research, applied with complementary studies on memory mechanisms, provides optimal learning tools for educators and their students.

In the area of activity-induced changes at the synaptic level in the brain, Milner (1999) provides a conceptual framework for the complex processes of neurological changes we call learning. Milner’s research provides insight into neurochemical activities of the synthesized proteins necessary for storing (learning) and changing receptor sites to configure the ability to recall information (retrieving). Initial storage of information requires changes in the receptor proteins and the messenger proteins in the brain. These receptor sites synapses “retain a chemical tag that allows the new protein to find them,” (p. 83). Through repeated activation this process strengthens the synapses and recall is facilitated. This seems to encourage protein in the diet for optimal brain function.

There is much research to support the importance of protein in the diet (Wurtman, 1998, Conners, 1989, Jensen, 1998). In correspondence with Steven Rose, author and brain scientist for almost thirty years, Rose cautions scientists and educators to be judicious about many of the recent findings. In the 1960s, scientists researched the neurochemical functions of the brain to find the “memory molecule.” Protein and RNA were claimed to be the magic chemistry of memory (Gurowitz, 1969). In 2000 Rose writes

because all foodstuffs are broken down into their component molecules during digestion there is no special need for protein per se what is required are the essential amino acids which are components of protein, and are then used as the building blocks to synthesize the proteins that the brain – and other tissues – need. Ditto for sugars. Vitamins are important because they are molecules that the body can’t synthesize from simpler components and therefore become essential parts of the diet. (Personal communication with Rose, May 25, 2000).

Review of literature on the brain and learning consistently supports the biological need for the amino acids that come from proteins, calcium that can be found in dairy products or other sources and vitamins that come through nourishment. Our brain, like the rest of our body, needs specific chemicals to function.

Imagery in the Learning Process

Exhaustive examination of imagery and related mnemonic processes (McDaniel & Pressley, 1987) provides a sense of memory efficiency that contributes to the ancient concept of artificial memory. Review of literature addresses the issues of student-generated images vs. teacher-generated images, as well as the use of bizarre images vs. the use of vivid images. In this body of research it was determined that bizarre was no better than plausible. Most findings concluded that vivid images were important in association and recall (McDaniel & Pressley). Much research on teacher vs. student-generated images demonstrated that in early years teacher-derived images are more helpful and as students become more experienced, student generated images are helpful (McDaniel & Pressley). From this perspective, we are proposing a means of mnemonic memory metaphors.

From Mnemonics to Metaphors

Mnemonic devices such as the loci, link, peg, and phonetic key word systems have been used successfully for years in assisting students to form associations in the process of learning. These devices provide imagery, rhymes and organizational patterns that are used in a variety of learning contexts.

A real object or a model of the object provides the learner with a plausible visual and at times, kinetic hook in the association process. Years of teaching with toys and real objects to demonstrate scientific laws and principles, one of the authors has found that these articles provide students with visual images, metaphors for memory and kinetic experiences that are encoded in a context that is registered and retrieved more readily. This aspect of multi-sensory stimuli assists students in creating vivid images for association and recall. The use of objects as metaphors for processes, concepts and knowledge assists students as they make connections to their world, forms images that will be recalled, and provides another sensory input for the intended learning. Examples of this practice are numerous and teachers do this every day.

The method of using objects as learning metaphors also supports the research on emotion and memory. Milner (1999) discussed the effect of emotion on remembering an event. Intensity of emotion may assist recall for years at a time or forgetting in minutes (Milner, 1999, p. 124). As good teachers know, the varied use of emotion in explaining and teaching assists students in creating hooks for memory and recall. Students may remember the location, specific words and concepts as presented in class if they are emotionally engaged in the process.

Music and Exercise to Enhance Memory

De Los Santos (2000) has proven that certain classical music compositions accompanied by physical exercises to stimulate the whole brain enhance memory, and thus learning. He conducted a study in Texas with a “pilot school” of 402 elementary school students using pre- and post-tests, and teachers’ observations. This empirical study used a “control school” with similar demographics as the “pilot school.”

In one semester the “pilot school” first and second grade students improved student performance in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills by 11 to 23 percent more than the “Control School” students. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the “pilot school” improved their Texas Assessment of Academic Skills scores in reading, writing, and arithmetic by 9 to 16 percent more than the “control school” students using the music and exercise program only one semester. These are some of the exciting memory enhancement innovations of the new millennium.

Conditions to Remember

With more than 25,000 scientists rediscovering the brain everyday, we may be able to make better connections between the research and the application of the brain-based findings in classrooms. Educators must examine these conditions and ensure they build schools and communities that meet more optimal conditions for learning. Conditions that may assist memory include:

* Repetition in learning – not boring, exciting

* Emotional attachment during learning

* Proper neurochemistry through diet and vitamins

* Mnemonic devices for better association and recall

* High challenge-low threat (Caine & Caine, 1994)

* Hands-on, active, visual, kinetic, metaphoric instruction

* Context and connection to ensure embedding knowledge

* Frequent assessment with non-threatening feedback to ensure mastery

* Certain classical music compositions

* Exercises that stimulate the brain

There is so much more to memory than this. Brain-based research may be a key to understanding the making of memories and the application in education. As educators, we need to add our experiences to this body of research. We need to be critical consumers of the research and create conditions for success. We play the games of memory everyday in our classes. We teach with mnemonics. We played “Jeopardy” in schools for years. We now play “Who wants to be a millionaire?” in school. We know the melodies, the lyrics, and respond to the music. We know that movement assists connections. We know what conditions work. We know how we learn. We remember!

ory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The purpose of this article is to propose proven methods to enhance memory, thus learning, for both students and teachers. Some of these methods to improve learning were discovered as far back as 400 B.C., while others are in the process of being developed.

In a time of high-stakes testing and accountability, educators must use research-based skills, tools and techniques to assist students learn content and remember the information. Learning the content is a function of numerous educational practices that assist memory. This article focuses on memory. Without the ability to remember the content we have not learned it, according to the standards-based tests. We need to learn how we best remember and how we can improve this skill.

Memory: A Definition

What is Memory? Memory is a glorious and admirable gift of nature by which we recall past things, we embrace present things, and we contemplate future things through their similarity to past things. Boncompagno, 1891 (Yates, 1966. p. 58)

Introduction and Purpose

Although the art of memory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The new millennium should produce exciting, innovative ways to access and expand memory. Scientists have located multiple loci in the brain for memory storage and neurochemical research has provided invaluable information on the chemistry of neuron activity. Recent use of music and exercise are demonstrating exciting and effective ways to increase memory. All of these discoveries and the potential instructional strategies are important for educators to incorporate into their pedagogical repertoire.

This article is about memory improvement, and some of the recent research implications related to the science of memory.A proposal to use music, movement and objects or articles as metaphors to assist students to remember will be offered in order to add practical application to understanding.

Historical Perspective of Memory

From the concept of natural memory to ancient views of artificial memory, people have examined this art and devised numerous mechanisms to assist their efforts. Certain techniques and patterns were established early in the studies of memory. In the late thirteenth century, Lull distinguished between types of memory (Yates, 1966). Lull presented two types of artificial memory; the first employs medicines and plasters, and the second relates to frequent repetition of information “like an ox chewing the cud.” (Yates, 1966, p. 192). The importance of repetition has been understood since 400 B.C. (Noll & Turkington, 1994). The concept that “the brain strengthens learning through repetition,” so long as it is not boring, supports efforts to improve memory (Jensen, 2000, p.78), however, there are numerous significant research findings that take memory strategies to levels beyond the “cud” metaphor.

The Multiple “R”s of Memory-Record, Rehearse, Retain, Reconstruct, Retrieval

For a person to remember he, or she, needs to proceed through a pattern of actions that enable a word, idea, concept or skill to become embedded into long-term storage. Long-term memory storage is enhanced by association, repetition, reconstruction or through vivid feelings.

Preparation for standardized tests at key gateways in educational evaluation requires the ability to memorize information and to recognize it at the appropriate times. Content knowledge is required before the learner can move to the more complex levels of educational taxonomy. In this pattern the multiple “R”s of memory might be helpful.

The use of “R” words employs a mnemonic device (all begin with an “R”) to assist recognition. They are examined as follows: (see chart on following page).

Avenues of Understanding

Recent investigations of brain-based research on memory suggest types of memory lanes (Sprenger, 1999), the importance of attention and receptor modification (Jensen, 1998) and the action of messenger proteins in the recall processes (Milner, 1999). Each discovery illuminates an important feature in the science of memory.

Sprenger’s (1999) memory lanes analogy provides the avenues associated with learning information within a variety of contexts. From the semantic, episodic, procedural, automatic and emotional lanes, individuals have a variety of neural pathways to search for information. Information is stored in context and this context provides a cue in the recognition process. Sprenger aptly states, “Locating memories may be impossible if we aren’t looking in the right place.” (p. 45). These avenues, supported by Caine and Caine’s locale memory (1994) relate to storage of information in a context. Embedding knowledge in context assists in memory and recall. For example, this phenomenon can be natural or assisted through the use of mnemonic devices such as the multiple “R”s of memory discussed earlier. The mnemonic device of using loci in a room for memorizing information dates back to 500 BC (Yates, 1966).

Food for Thought

New discoveries related to the brain have enhanced our perspectives and provided better science for examining memory. From research on neurochemistry to positron emission tomography (PET) scans, we have a better understanding of the brain and how it works. Important findings related to the fluidity of information storage (neural plasticity), the importance of protein in long-term memory, the need for calcium, choline and acetycholine in aiding the chemical processes of memory, (Jensen, 1998) and the importance of water in the entire memory learning process (Fahey, 2000) have provided food for thought. This research, applied with complementary studies on memory mechanisms, provides optimal learning tools for educators and their students.

In the area of activity-induced changes at the synaptic level in the brain, Milner (1999) provides a conceptual framework for the complex processes of neurological changes we call learning. Milner’s research provides insight into neurochemical activities of the synthesized proteins necessary for storing (learning) and changing receptor sites to configure the ability to recall information (retrieving). Initial storage of information requires changes in the receptor proteins and the messenger proteins in the brain. These receptor sites synapses “retain a chemical tag that allows the new protein to find them,” (p. 83). Through repeated activation this process strengthens the synapses and recall is facilitated. This seems to encourage protein in the diet for optimal brain function.

There is much research to support the importance of protein in the diet (Wurtman, 1998, Conners, 1989, Jensen, 1998). In correspondence with Steven Rose, author and brain scientist for almost thirty years, Rose cautions scientists and educators to be judicious about many of the recent findings. In the 1960s, scientists researched the neurochemical functions of the brain to find the “memory molecule.” Protein and RNA were claimed to be the magic chemistry of memory (Gurowitz, 1969). In 2000 Rose writes

because all foodstuffs are broken down into their component molecules during digestion there is no special need for protein per se what is required are the essential amino acids which are components of protein, and are then used as the building blocks to synthesize the proteins that the brain – and other tissues – need. Ditto for sugars. Vitamins are important because they are molecules that the body can’t synthesize from simpler components and therefore become essential parts of the diet. (Personal communication with Rose, May 25, 2000).

Review of literature on the brain and learning consistently supports the biological need for the amino acids that come from proteins, calcium that can be found in dairy products or other sources and vitamins that come through nourishment. Our brain, like the rest of our body, needs specific chemicals to function.

Imagery in the Learning Process

Exhaustive examination of imagery and related mnemonic processes (McDaniel & Pressley, 1987) provides a sense of memory efficiency that contributes to the ancient concept of artificial memory. Review of literature addresses the issues of student-generated images vs. teacher-generated images, as well as the use of bizarre images vs. the use of vivid images. In this body of research it was determined that bizarre was no better than plausible. Most findings concluded that vivid images were important in association and recall (McDaniel & Pressley). Much research on teacher vs. student-generated images demonstrated that in early years teacher-derived images are more helpful and as students become more experienced, student generated images are helpful (McDaniel & Pressley). From this perspective, we are proposing a means of mnemonic memory metaphors.

From Mnemonics to Metaphors

Mnemonic devices such as the loci, link, peg, and phonetic key word systems have been used successfully for years in assisting students to form associations in the process of learning. These devices provide imagery, rhymes and organizational patterns that are used in a variety of learning contexts.

A real object or a model of the object provides the learner with a plausible visual and at times, kinetic hook in the association process. Years of teaching with toys and real objects to demonstrate scientific laws and principles, one of the authors has found that these articles provide students with visual images, metaphors for memory and kinetic experiences that are encoded in a context that is registered and retrieved more readily. This aspect of multi-sensory stimuli assists students in creating vivid images for association and recall. The use of objects as metaphors for processes, concepts and knowledge assists students as they make connections to their world, forms images that will be recalled, and provides another sensory input for the intended learning. Examples of this practice are numerous and teachers do this every day.

The method of using objects as learning metaphors also supports the research on emotion and memory. Milner (1999) discussed the effect of emotion on remembering an event. Intensity of emotion may assist recall for years at a time or forgetting in minutes (Milner, 1999, p. 124). As good teachers know, the varied use of emotion in explaining and teaching assists students in creating hooks for memory and recall. Students may remember the location, specific words and concepts as presented in class if they are emotionally engaged in the process.

Music and Exercise to Enhance Memory

De Los Santos (2000) has proven that certain classical music compositions accompanied by physical exercises to stimulate the whole brain enhance memory, and thus learning. He conducted a study in Texas with a “pilot school” of 402 elementary school students using pre- and post-tests, and teachers’ observations. This empirical study used a “control school” with similar demographics as the “pilot school.”

In one semester the “pilot school” first and second grade students improved student performance in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills by 11 to 23 percent more than the “Control School” students. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the “pilot school” improved their Texas Assessment of Academic Skills scores in reading, writing, and arithmetic by 9 to 16 percent more than the “control school” students using the music and exercise program only one semester. These are some of the exciting memory enhancement innovations of the new millennium.

Conditions to Remember

With more than 25,000 scientists rediscovering the brain everyday, we may be able to make better connections between the research and the application of the brain-based findings in classrooms. Educators must examine these conditions and ensure they build schools and communities that meet more optimal conditions for learning. Conditions that may assist memory include:

* Repetition in learning – not boring, exciting

* Emotional attachment during learning

* Proper neurochemistry through diet and vitamins

* Mnemonic devices for better association and recall

* High challenge-low threat (Caine & Caine, 1994)

* Hands-on, active, visual, kinetic, metaphoric instruction

* Context and connection to ensure embedding knowledge

* Frequent assessment with non-threatening feedback to ensure mastery

* Certain classical music compositions

* Exercises that stimulate the brain

There is so much more to memory than this. Brain-based research may be a key to understanding the making of memories and the application in education. As educators, we need to add our experiences to this body of research. We need to be critical consumers of the research and create conditions for success. We play the games of memory everyday in our classes. We teach with mnemonics. We played “Jeopardy” in schools for years. We now play “Who wants to be a millionaire?” in school. We know the melodies, the lyrics, and respond to the music. We know that movement assists connections. We know what conditions work. We know how we learn. We remember!

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Brain Research and Adolescents

April 24, 2007 at 6:45 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts)

September 2002 • Volume 34 • Number 1 • Pages 57-61

What Research Says
Lucinda M. Wilson & Hadley Wilson Horch

Implications of Brain Research for Teaching Young Adolescents
Research in the field of neuroscience has exploded in the past decade. During that time, educators have become fascinated with the implications of connecting knowledge of how the brain works with teaching and learning in the classroom. Conclusions as to how the brain works are based either on basic research conducted on rodents or the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on patients who have some anomaly. While these methods are very different from educational research, educators can benefit by what neuroscience is discovering about the functioning of the brain. Two areas of current interest for middle level educators are brain maturation during the adolescent years and possible gender differences in how adolescents learn.

How the brain works
The central nervous system is made up of two major classes of cells, neurons and glia. Though glial cells outnumber neurons and have roles critical to proper brain function, neurons have been the major focus of most neuroscience research. Neuronal cells have special properties that allow them to receive and send information, encoded as patterns of electrical and chemical activity, within the brain. Special projections of neurons, called dendrites, receive signals from many other cells, integrate these signals over time and pass this information on to a specialized output process, the axon. Properties of the axonal membrane allow this information to be encoded in an electrical signal called an action potential that propagates down the length of the axon. Axons in turn make contact with the dendrites of many other neurons, thus beginning this process over in a new cell.

The point of contact between dendrites and axons is highly specialized and is known as a synapse. Synapses are of great interest to neurobiologists since it is at this point that information can be modulated before it is passed on to the dendrites of the next cell. Synaptic modulation is thought to be the basis for several complex properties of the brain such as learning and memory. Once an action potential reaches a synapse, it results in the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. These transmitters cross the small space between axon and dendrite, bind to special receptors on the dendritic side of the synapse, and create electrical potentials in the dendrites.

Because synapses are central to the process of communication in the brain, neuroscientists have naturally investigated many of their characteristics including how they form in young, developing brains. In fact, the number of synapses is taken as a measure of the complexity of neuronal circuitry. Research in monkeys has shown that the synapse number increases as they mature. Surprisingly, this work has also shown a subsequent and dramatic decline in synapse number during puberty (Bourgeois, & Rakic, 1993). Complementary research has found that young animals raised in “enriched” environments develop abnormally complex neurons with a higher than normal density of synapses (Jones, Klintsova, Kilman, Sireyaag, & Greenough, 1997; Volkmar & Greenough, 1972). Though neuroscientists do not have a full understanding of why this occurs, the general conclusion is that adolescent brains go through a period of circuit refinement, pruning unused connections and strengthening more heavily used synapses. For example, if an animal were to grow up in a visually rich, but silent environment, neuroscientists would expect to find a high level of complexity in the circuits of visual areas of the brain while the auditory areas of the brain would have simple or even abnormally reduced circuit complexity.

This growth spurt just before puberty and then the pruning of unused connections in human adolescence is most predominant in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain critical to information synthesis. Two other areas, the hippocampus and the amygdala, also increase in volume as children develop. Interestingly, hippocampal volume increases with age for females while amygdala volume increases with age for males (Giedd, et. al., 1996, p. 243). In contrast, many other areas of the brain, such as the temporal lobe, appear relatively stable in volume throughout late childhood and adolescence. Thus, the prefrontal cortex appears to be the last region of the brain to mature (Casey, Giedd, & Thomas, 2000), undergoing major changes throughout puberty—a finding with significant implications for classroom practice.

The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain controlling planning, working memory, organization, and mood modulation. This area of the brain is not mature until about 18 years of age (Spinks, 2002). This finding may come as no surprise to middle level educators, but apparently it did to neuroscientists. The scientific hypothesis is that this growth and then pruning is an important stage of brain development that can influence learners for the rest of their lives (Casey et al, 2000; De Bellis, et al, 2001). The saying “use it or lose it” applies to brain growth during early adolescence. Giedd warned that “if a teen is doing music, sports or academics, those are the connections that will be hard wired. If they’re lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going to survive” (Spinks, 2002, p. 2). Both parents and educators have an obligation to enrich adolescents’ environment and to strengthen those connections that will be in teens’ best interests later in life.

Many educators have tackled this new research and have posited strategies and methods they believe enhance learning and memory. Wolfe (2001) who has written extensively on brain research and methodology cautioned educators that “rarely does neuroscience prove that a particular classroom strategy works, but the information coming from the neurosciences certainly can provide a more informed basis for the decisions we make in our schools” (p. 11). Educators who write about brain-based instruction (Beamon, 1997; Brandt, 1998; Caine & Caine, 1994; Jensen, 1998; Sousa, 2001; Tileston, 2000; Wolfe, 2001) have provided educators with a wealth of information on how the brain works, how certain strategies can get and hold attention during instruction, and methods for improving memory storage.

Implications for the classroom
If the activity in the prefrontal cortex is where memory, attention, and inhibition are altered as a result of synaptic pruning, certain strategies and methods seem feasible to apply to classroom instruction. Inhibition here means that the brain actually uses inhibition to eliminate distracters when it does want to pay attention. Paying attention by screening outside distractions then leads to better memory storage. Neuropsychologists agree that the way to hold attention in young adolescents is through sensorimotor experience (Davis, 2001; Kolb, 2000; Wilson, 2001). Teachers need to engage the senses and emotions to gain students’ attention for learning, not just for the moment, but also for interest throughout an entire unit of study. Music, smell, touch, and emotion can focus students on learning. Another approach combined with sensorimotor engagement is that of inquiry or problem-based learning (Kwon & Lawson, 2000; Montgomery & Whiting, 2000), which teachers can use by encouraging students to ask questions that interest them after initially engaging in the problem of the unit. Using essential questions to frame the unit, incorporating the senses and emotions to focus the learning, and then facilitating students in finding multiple ways to solve problems can focus adolescent learning while building complex neuron connections within the brain.

Classroom activities that are most compatible with attention and memory are

Designing project-based units of study where students ask critical questions and then develop their own projects to find the answers, such as interviewing people who have experienced the Great Depression or the Holocaust.

Using simulations to involve students in understanding various points of view or discussing complex ethical issues.

Playing music that links memory to specific learning tasks. Rhythmic patterns are effective memory tools for learning, and music is a great medium for facilitating young adolescents to make sensorimotor connections.

Having students write reflectively every day to reiterate and consolidate learning.

Posing visual and word problems or puzzles to challenge thinking so that students learn that there are many ways to solve a problem or puzzle. This type of thinking strengthens the neural connections and gives students more confidence in their abilities to tackle problems.

Using physical challenges to solve problems and build collaboration. Low ropes courses and other physical/mental problem solving involve the mind and body in learning and team building.

Involving students in real-life apprenticeships. Students shadow workers in various jobs or learn skills in a short internship that either connects to an area of study or helps them understand one of the problems they have posed themselves and are interested in finding answers.

Using peer collaboration or cooperative learning helps broaden students’ understanding of issues and promotes group problem solving.

Developing integrated curriculum that encourages students to raise issues and concerns and then weaves those thematically into all disciplines.
These recommended practices (Beamon, 1997; Brandt, 1998; Caine & Caine, 1994; Jensen, 1998; Sousa, 2001; Tileston; 2000; Wolfe, 2001) have been implemented in middle school classrooms for many years as ways to connect the curriculum with the personal experiences of young adolescents. Relevance has always made intuitive sense to teachers; an awareness that relevance also has a practical and logical connection to the process by which the brain makes meaning supports the use of such practices.

Gender, competition, and stress
Studies on the differential effects of stress on the brain for adolescent males and females (Nishio, Kasuga, Ushijima, & Harada, 2001; Shors, Chua & Falduto, 2001; Wood & Shors, 1998) may have important implications for middle level classroom instruction. Exposure to stress seems to have opposite effects on males and females. Testing on rodents has demonstrated that in females, stress inhibits learning, yet it actually facilitates learning in males (Wood & Shors, 1998). Many teachers set their classrooms up to use competition as an incentive for learning. For males, if this competition creates stress, the implication is that they would be more receptive to the learning. For females in puberty, that same stress may produce a negative response to the learning experience. Timed math games, for instance, may produce the desired effect on boys, but inhibit learning in girls. In addition, prolonged stress apparently can produce long-term negative responses (Shors, Chua & Falduto, 2001) and lead to structural changes in neurons in the hippocampus that may facilitate learning in males but inhibit it in females

Simply knowing the different responses to stress should cause educators to rethink the way they structure the classroom environment. For all students a physically and emotionally safe environment is essential (Brandt, 1998; Jensen, 1998; Wolfe, 2001). Free from belittling and humiliation, students should find it acceptable to make mistakes or take risks in the classroom. Teachers should not judge students by their mistakes, but by their successes.

Stress can be used with those who seem to thrive on it—and this may not always be males vs. females—by choosing them to participate in any competitive events the teacher may structure. Certainly competitive games can be fun in the classroom and knowing that they also facilitate learning justifies their use. But the teacher should also be careful that she does not overuse these strategies so that the females in the class become discouraged or freeze up when the competition is threatening their ability to learn.

Conclusion

Adolescence is an important time to provide students with rich and complex experiences. It is imperative for middle level educators to continue to learn about brain research and the implications this emerging body of information may have for classroom instruction. What educators have learned from neuroscience is that the adolescent brain is still developing, sensorimotor stimulation creates stronger synaptic connections, and stress during learning may aid males and inhibit females. Educators can use these findings to create powerful, varied instruction in a safe, stimulating, and exciting classroom.

——————————————————————————–

References
Beamon, G. W. (1997). Sparking the thinking of students, ages 10-14: Strategies for teachers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Bourgeois, J., & Rakic, P. (1993). Changes of synaptic density in the primary visual cortex of the macaque monkey from fetal to adult stage. Journal of Neuroscience, 13(7), 2801-2820.

Brandt, R. (1998). Powerful learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Caine, R. N., & Caine, G. (1994). Making connections: Teaching and the human brain. Menlo Park, CA: Innovative Learning Publications.

Casey, B. J., Giedd, J. N., & Thomas, K. M. (2000). Structural and functional brain development and its relation to cognitive development. Biological Psychology, 54, 241-257.

Davis, G. (2001). There is no four-object limit on attention. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(1), 120.

De Bellis, M. D., Keshavan, M. S., Beers, S. R., Hall, J., Frustaci, K., Masalehdan, A. Noll, J., & Boring, A. M. (2001). Sex differences in brain maturation during childhood and adolescence. Cerebral Cortex, 11(6), 552-557.

Giedd, J. N., Vaituzis, A. C., Hamburger, S. D., Lange, N. Rajapakse, J. C., Kayssen, D. Vauss, Y. C., & Rapoport, J. L. (1996). Quantitative MRI of the temporal lobe, amygdala and hippocampus in normal human development: ages 4-18 years. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 366(2), 223-230.

Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jones, T. A., Klintsova, A. Y., Kilman, V. L. Sireyaag, A. M., & Greenough, W. T. (1997). Induction of multiple synapses by experience in the visual cortex of adult rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 68(1), 13-20.

Kolb, B. (2000). Experience and the developing brain. Education Canada, 39(4) 24-26.

Kwon, Y., & Lawson, A. E. (2000). Linking brain growth with the development of scientific reasoning ability and conceptual change during adolescence. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 37(1), 44-62.

Montgomery, L., & Whiting, D. (2000). Teachers under construction—incorporating principles of engaged and brain based learning into a constructivist “technology in education” program. Society for Information Technology & Technology Education International Conference: Proceedings of SITE 2000 (11th, San Diego, CA, February 8-12), 1-3.

Nishio H., Kasuga S., Ushijima M., & Harada Y. (2001). Prenatal stress and postnatal development of neonatal rats sex-dependent effects on emotional behavior and learning ability of neonatal rats. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 19(1), 37-45.

Shors T. J., Chua C., & Falduto J., (2001). Sex differences and opposite effects of stress on dendritic spine density in the male versus female hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience, 21(16), 6292-6297.

Sousa, D. (2001). How the brain learns: A classroom teacher’s guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Spinks, S. (2002). Adolescent brains are works in progress: Here’s why. Retrieved June 4, 2002, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline
/shows/teenbrain/work/adolescsent.html

Tileston, D. W. (2000). 10 best teaching practices: How brain research, learning styles, and standards define teaching competencies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Volkmar, F. R., & Greenough, W. T. (1972). Rearing complexity affects branching of dendrites in the visual cortex of the rat. Science, 176, 1445-1447.

Wilson, M. (2001). The case for sensorimotor coding in working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8(1), 57.

Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain matters: Translating research into classroom practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wood, G. E., & Shors, T. J. (1998). Stress facilitates classical conditioning in males, but impairs classical conditioning in females through activational effects of ovarian hormones. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95(7), 4066.

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Lucinda M. Wilson is an assistant professor of education, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana. E-mail: imwilson@butler.edu

Hadley Wilson Horch is an assistant professor of biology and neuroscience, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. E-mail: hhorch@bowdoin.edu

Judith L. Irvin is a professor of education at Florida State University, Tallahassee. E-mail: irvin@coe.fsu.edu

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Teaching Adolescents

April 24, 2007 at 6:28 am (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, writing)

Teaching adolescents
What and why?

Teachers’ views on the teaching of adolescents vary enormously. Some love it, and would not choose to teach any other age range. Probably almost as many, however, find it difficult, often more difficult the older the adolescent students become. The first important point to make, however, is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to generalize about ‘adolescence’. There is enormous variation in the nature of the adolescent period from individual to individual, and from culture to culture. In some cultures, children seem to remain ‘children’ longer; in others they appear to grow up very quickly. Some adolescents find the movement from being ‘a child’ to being ‘an adult’ a very troublesome one, whilst others do not experience any particular problems. What is clear is that during the period of adolescence, an individual’s sense of who they are may often go through many transformations. Bodily changes as well as rapid changes in opinions, tastes, habits and relations between the sexes may combine to give the impression that it is not one person that we are dealing with, but several!

Parents and teachers of adolescents often report that the period can place great strain on their relationships. Adolescents may be seeking independence and this may conflict with the views of the parents/teachers. As the time may be a period of great change for the adolescent, they may often seem restless – unsure if they are doing what they want to do or should be doing. They may also be anxious about the future: ‘What is to become of me?’, ‘What next?’, ‘Will I cope?’, ‘What will happen if …?’ All of these things may require great patience from everyone concerned.

Practical ideas

Given that the period of adolescence is so changeable, it is difficult to offer clear advice about how to best handle the teaching of adolescents. There are, however, some general points which teachers have shared with us and which we have found useful.

Be patient. Things may take longer to achieve in the classroom than you anticipate. The students may seem tired or unwilling. Very often this is because of factors completely outside the classroom.

Be flexible. Conflicts can be avoided if the teacher is prepared to be flexible about when and how things are done. This may be a matter of tolerating classroom behavior that you don’t approve of, for example. However, you have to also make clear the limits of what you are prepared to accept.

Be sensitive. Teachers often report that adolescent students are frequently moody – they can be happy and bright one day and deflated the next day. As a teacher, it is important for you to keep note of these changes and, where necessary, talk to the student to see if they are having problems.

Allow choice and student decisions. It may also be useful if you can be flexible about what the students do. If you can provide them with choice and allow room for their personal interests, you are likely to find it much easier working with them. You can also involve them in decisions about what you will do in the lessons and ask them to plan activities, choose texts, music and so on.

Show respect. The students must have a clear sense of respect for you as the teacher, but equally you must have a sense of respect for them – recognizing, for example, that their opinions, tastes in clothes, music, etc. are equally valid. That said, your role is as an educator, so it should remain your responsibility to encourage students to question what they are saying or doing, and to ensure that limits are set and maintained for the benefit of everyone.

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Brain Research

April 24, 2007 at 6:26 am (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

“Three principles from brain research: emotional safety, appropriate challenges, and self constructed meaning suggest that a one-size-fits-all approach to classroom instruction teaching is ineffective for most students and harmful to some.”

Teach Me Teach My Brain – A Call For Differentiated Classrooms – Carol Ann Tomlinson

” No two children are alike. An enriched environment for one is not necessarily enriched for another. ”

No two children learn in the identical way.
In the classroom we should teach children to think for themselves.
One way is to group children so they are talking to each other, they are asking questions of each other, they are learning to be teachers. One of the most important concepts for a 5 year old to know is that he or she can teach because you have to understand something to teach it.”
Marian Diamonds:
Professor of Neuroanatomy at Berkeley

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“So our environment, including the classroom environment, is not a neutral place. We educators are either growing dendrites or letting them wither and die. The trick is to determine what constitutes an enriched environment. A few facts about the brain’s natural proclivities will assist us in making these determinations:
The brain has not evolved to its present condition by taking in meaningless data; an enriched environment gives students an opportunity to make sense out of what they are learning, what some call the opportunity to “make meaning”
.
The Brain develops in an integrated fashion over time. Babies do not talk one week, tie their shoes the next, and then work on their emotional development. An enriched environment addresses multiple aspects of development simultaneously.

The brain is essentially curious and it must be to survive. It constantly seeks connections between the new and the known. Learning is a process of active Construction by the learner and enrichment gives students the opportunity to relate what they are learning to what they already know. As noted educator Phil Schlechty says, “Students must do the work of learning.”

The brain is innately social and collaborative. Although the processing takes place in our students independent brains, their learning is enhanced when the environment provides them with the opportunity to discuss their thinking out loud to bounce their ideas off their peers and to produce collaborative work.
What Do We Know from Brain Research?
by Pat Wolfe and Ron Brandt
Nov. 1998 Educational Leadership – How the Brain Works
Go to Educational Leadership Index and Look up Nov 1998

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Enriching the Learning Environment:
Marian Diamonds and her team of researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have been studying the impact of enriched environments on the brains of rats. Diamonds believes that enriched environments unmistakably influence the brain’s growth and learning. An enriched environment for children Diamonds says:

Includes a steady source of positive support;

Provides a nutritious diet with enough protein, vitamins, minerals and calories;

Stimulates all the senses (not necessarily at once)

Has an atmosphere free of undue pressure and stress but suffused with a degree of pleasurable intensity;

Presents a series of novel challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the child at his or her stage of development;

Allows social interaction for a significant percentage of activities;

Promotes the development of a broad range of skills and interests: mental, physical, aesthetical, social and emotional;

Gives the child an opportunity to choose many of his or her efforts and to modify them;

Provides an enjoyable atmosphere that promotes exploration and the fun of learning;

Allows the child to be an active participant rather than a passive observer.
Diamond M. & Hopson. J. (1989)
Magic trees of the mind
Dutton, New York

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In Summary:

Extrapolating from the above quotations we may conclude the following:

Not all students need to be doing the same thing at the same time. Some group work would therefore be appropriate.

Students are not all at the same level of ability and they don’t learn in the same way. It follows that different groups within the same class should be working at a variety of different levels of complexity and/or difficulty simultaneously, but at different rates.

Students need to be actively involved in making decisions and modifications to their learning efforts.

Students need appropriate challenges, a secure environment, an opportunity to explore ideas and have fun learning.

Students need to learn to ask questions, think and interact verbally.

Students need to be able to construct meaning by interacting with peers, problems, issues and with materials.

Learning is more effective if concepts are learned in context and related to existing knowledge. Content needs to be relevant, integrating multiple aspects simultaneously.

Peer teaching may be as valuable for the child who is “teaching” as for the “learner”.

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Instant Messaging and Adolescent Writing

April 18, 2007 at 3:43 pm (all, blogging, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, Middle School, Parents, poetry, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, writing)

Introduction
With the commercial advent of the Internet and cell phones in the late 1990’s, technologies such as instant messaging (IM) and text messaging (TM) have achieved increasing prevalence in our society. These types of messaging technologies are widely used among adolescents today. To cite just one personal example of this widespread usage, my friend’s daughter, who is now 11 and lives in Ireland, got a cell phone last year, and, according to my friend, “was the last person in her class to get one.” This is quite an amazing change, given that ten years ago, instant messaging and text messaging were in their infancy, and cell phones were only readily available as tools for roadside assistance.

Given the newness of these types of technologies, it is only in the last few years that educators have started to notice them and explore their effects on student behavior and performance. While there is supporting evidence to suggest that these technologies have a large influence on the social development of adolescents, an even more pertinent issue for classroom teachers is what effects these technologies have on the academic development of young people. In this article, I examine how students’ use of text messaging technology, specifically IM, affects their writing skills. How does IM use affect students’ interest in traditional writing (as learned in school)? In what ways does IM usage affect students’ writing ability? How does “IM-speak” change students’ views of what is considered “proper” language? How can classroom teachers build on student use of this increasingly popular technology? In this paper I provide a discussion of the current issues and current teacher practices surrounding instant messaging as it relates to student writing.

What is Instant Messaging?
Instant messaging is a form of computer “chat” that allows one to have a real time, typed “conversation” with one or more “buddies” while connected to the Internet (Figure 1). It is an extremely fast-growing communications medium, especially among adolescents. According to a Pew report from 2001, “74% of online teens use instant messaging” (Lenhart, Rainie, & Lewis, 2001, p.3), and “69% of teen instant message users use IM at least several times a week” (p.3). Given this high rate of use, which has only been increasing since the Pew report was published, IM is clearly an extremely influential element in many young people’s lives.

Figure 1

Academic Effects of Instant Messaging
While everyone recognizes that IM is widely used by adolescents and teens in the United States, there seem to be two distinct opinions of its effect on student academics. There are those who see the use of so-called “Internet English” as a breakdown of the English language – according to a recent newspaper article, “Some teachers see the creeping abbreviations as part of a continuing assault of technology on formal written English” (Lee, 2002). Conversely, there are those who regard this same “Internet English” not only as an example of how language is constantly developing and changing, but also as a type of literacy in and of itself, which can be capitalized on to engage students in more traditional learning. As professor Barbara Bell believes, “anytime (students) are reading or writing, it’s going to help” (Associated Press, 2003, p.1).

One concern about IM has to do with the “bastardization” of language. Several articles indicate that students who use messaging on a frequent basis often use bad grammar, poor punctuation, and improper abbreviations in academic writing. According to Lee (2002), “teachers say that papers are being written with shortened words, improper capitalization and punctuation, and characters like &, $ and @. ” However, something that is not always considered is that these mistakes are often unintentional – when students use IM frequently, they reach a saturation point where they no longer notice the IM lingo because they are so used to seeing it. Montana Hodgen, a 16-year old high school student in Montclair, New Jersey, “was so accustomed to instant-messaging abbreviations that she often read right past them” (Lee, 2002). As she puts it, “I was so used to reading what my friends wrote to me on Instant Messenger that I didn’t even realize that there was something wrong,” she said. She said her ability to separate formal and informal English declined the more she used instant messages” (Lee, 2002).

This was also a problem for Carl Sharp, whose 15-year old son’s summer job application read “i want 2 b a counselor because i love 2 work with kids” (Friess, 2003), and English instructor Cindy Glover, who – while teaching undergraduate freshman composition in 2002 – “spent a lot of time unteaching Internet-speak. ‘My students were trying to communicate fairly academic, scholarly thoughts, but some of them didn’t seem to know it’s “y-o-u,” not “u”‘” (Freiss, 2003.) These examples give credence to Montana Hodgen’s point, that heavy IM use actually changes the way students read words on a page.

Other educators take IM usage as a more positive trend, and revel in how comfortable today’s kids are with writing, and how much easier it is for them to get words on a page (or, more often, screen.) Barbara Bass, director of the Maryland Writing Project, points out “For a while, people were not writing anything. Now, people are actually seeing words on paper. And that’s good” (Helderman, 2003.) In fact, according to another recent newspaper article, “Instant messaging and e-mail are creating a new generation of teenage writers, accustomed to translating their every thought and feeling into words. They write more than any generation has since the days when telephone calls were rare and the mailman rounded more than once a day” (Helderman, 2003).

Gloria Jacobs, in her research, has found that not only are students writing more than they have in years, but they are also revising and editing as well. As the aforementioned article cites her, “Jacobs said too many adults dismiss online writing because they assume kids jot off anything that pops into their heads. While that is sometimes true, she said, she also saw teenagers read over messages before sending them, editing to clear up mistakes or imprecision . . . Liz [Charlton, a 13-year old seventh grader] and her classmates said they will sometimes sit in front of a computer screen for up to 10 minutes, planning a sensitive message – wording and rewording” (Helderman, 2003.)

Some educators even see the pervasiveness of the frequently-changing IM terminology as an opportunity to teach students about language evolution. Erika Karres, a teacher educator, “shows students how English has evolved since Shakespeare’s time” (Lee, 2002,) using IM lingo as an example of today’s speech.

It is clear from the points raised in this section that both ‘sides’ have valid concerns in this ongoing debate. To further address these issues, I will now turn to a more in-depth discussion of IM and its relationship to academic writing, including strategies implemented by actual classroom teachers.

Instant Messaging and Writing
One of the most interesting things about IM and other popular technologies (text messaging, video games, etc.) is that they are potentially learning tools. They can be harnessed by educators to help students learn school-related content, as is illustrated by teachers who “encourage students to use messaging shorthand to spark their thinking processes” (Lee, 2002.) Trisha Fogarty, a sixth grade teacher, states “When my children are writing first drafts, I don’t care how they spell anything, as long as they are writing . . . If this lingo gets their thoughts and ideas onto paper quicker, the more power to them” (Lee, 2002). However, the same teacher indicates that “during editing and revising, she expects her students to switch to standard English” (Lee, 2002).

Other teachers have also started to capitalize on student interest in writing as “recreation” rather than “work.” Robyn Jackson, a high school English teacher, has “organized an online chat room where some Gaithersburg High students meet once a week to discuss literature and writing. The students are allowed to use Internet-speak in the chat room that would never be allowed in formal writing, but the online conversations are vigorous and intelligent” (Helderman, 2003.) However, the teacher’s job doesn’t end there– Jackson believes that part of her job as an educator is to help students to “switch off their informal habits when they leave the chat room” and that “this gives us a wonderful opportunity to speak to students about what language to use where” (Helderman, 2003.)

Jackson’s point is the crux of the concern that educators have with IM and IM lingo. Students have trouble seeing the distinction between formal and informal writing, and consequently use informal IM abbreviations and lingo in more formal writing situations (Brown-Owens, Eason, & Lader, 2003, p.6.) However, this problem is not insurmountable. Students can be taught both to understand what constitutes correct language, and also to know when different types of language are appropriate to use. Educators sometimes believe that this level of judgment is something adolescents already have, but as Jackson points out, “I think we expect kids to get it instinctively, and they don’t. It’s something that has to be explicitly conveyed to children” (Helderman, 2003.)

Joylyn Hannahs, a ninth grade English teacher, told her students that “if they turned in papers written like instant messages, their grades would suffer” (Helderman, 2003.) Her threat worked. Students no longer make those same mistakes, indicating that students can learn the appropriateness of language in different situations. Robert Schrag, a communications professor, points out that “We have always implicitly taught our children different language structures and how they function in different arenas . . . We use (a different) language structure watching a basketball game than in our place of worship. Most children will understand the difference” (Friess, 2003.)

Some educators believe that this type of language misuse is the fault of the students. Obviously there are cases where this is true, as well as cases where it is not. However, regardless of the situation, teachers can work to ensure that students develop a sense of audience when writing. As Leila Christenberry, former president of the National Council of Teachers of English and a university English professor, asserts, “It’s not that there’s never a place for this sort of thing, but it’s the difference between how you would dress to go out on Saturday night versus how you dress when you do yard work” (Friess, 2003.)

I believe that Brown-Owens, Eason, and Lader (2003) sum up the general debate on this issue very succinctly: “The dilemma, then, is how to help educators adapt literacy education to the reality that instant messaging is the dominant mode of written communication in the lives of many American teenagers” (p. 8.)

Conclusion
At this point in time, it is not possible to determine specifically the effects of instant messaging on formal writing. However, one clear conclusion is that IM is becoming an important literacy in kids’ lives, and consequently one that needs to be recognized by teachers.

So how does this ‘new literacy’ impact classroom teaching? Probably the most important thing that teachers can do is to emphasize to students the concept of audience. Students need to understand the importance of using the appropriate language in the appropriate setting, and that who one is writing for affects the way in which one writes. For example, IM-speak is perfectly acceptable when instant messaging with someone; on the flip side it is completely unacceptable when writing a formal letter. The same thing is true of formal writing – it is appropriate in an official document, such as a school paper, but would be inappropriate in– for example– an online chat room.

In addition to teaching about audience, teachers can also use IM to speak to their students. As cited in the previous section, teachers have done this with some impressive results. If students understand where and when it is appropriate to use certain types of language, then allowing them to use IM-speak can be beneficial in building student-teacher relationships, in enhancing students’ comfort level in school settings, and in improving academic performance.

IM lingo is evidence of the evolution of language, and as Brown-Owens, Eason, and Lader (2003) point out, teachers need to realize that – for better or for worse – IM is widely used among many adolescents and is consequently a strong influence on student academic performance. For who knows? Given its roots in other languages, sometime soon we may even be teaching IM-speak as a legitimate form of language.

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How to Pump Up Your Lesson Plans!!!

April 16, 2007 at 7:09 pm (all, blogging, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, Middle School, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts)

How to Pump Up Your Lesson Plans by Coleen Armstrong

Keeping things from growing too boring or banal requires large amounts of creativity, but you’ll be surprised at how rapidly those juices begin flowing. A fresh approach to two or three lessons soon multiplies into 20 or 30––and before you know it, the word “inspired” applies to all presentations.

• Remember, the whole world is your classroom. Every book you read, every play or party you attend, every PBS special you watch, every person you meet should offer an opportunity. Get into the habit of asking yourself, “How can I use this in class?” Perhaps that college professor you met at Starbucks would be willing to address your fifth graders about global warming. That World War II vet living next door could talk about his eight months on a submarine.

• Don’t hide your passion. If anything connected with the Tudor dynasty makes your blood rush, then go with it. Speak often and fondly of “My boy Henry.” Find ways to interject his name or something he did into virtually any discussion. Ignore the groans; no enthusiasm is ever wasted. Your acceptance of your own little fanaticisms will allow the kids to grow more comfortable with their own.

• Intertwine your subject matter. Political topics should always contain references to history; otherwise, what’s the point? Literature is filled with psychological implications; why else would those characters behave as they do? What does animal behavior teach us about humans; are we all natural predators? You get the idea.

• Dramatize. Costumes and props are essential, even with high school students. Let your students participate too. Your recreation of a Lincoln-Douglas debate can include a pair of stovepipe hats. (Use construction paper.)

• Tell stories. In 1918 the Bolsheviks ordered a ragtag firing squad to assassinate the last Tsar of Russia–-along with his wife and family, which included five children. What led up to this incident, including the Tsarina’s pathological fixation on Rasputin the mad monk, along with the brutal clubs and dull bayonets used to finish the job, makes a more riveting tale than anything you’ll see in today’s news. History, science, and government are all filled with enough raw material to keep your audiences rapt and wide awake every Friday afternoon.

• End each class period with a teaser. Begin with “Wait till you hear…” Then when your class begs for the spoiler, smile and shrug, saying, “You’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out.” Once this becomes your trademark, you can have a bit of fun with it: “Wait till you hear my proposal for ending school detentions!”

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Characteristics of Adolescents

April 16, 2007 at 7:04 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized)

Sometimes it is difficult for us to remember what being an adolescent was like.  Today’s tip is a reminder of the characteristics of adolescents.  The more you understand them, the greater the likelihood of dealing with them in a sane, positive manner!  If you keep these characteristics in mind while designing your instruction, you can provide an atmosphere conducive to learning for all of your students.

Characteristics of Young AdolescentsYouth between the ages of 10 to 15 are characterized by their diversity as they move through the puberty growth cycle at varying times and rates. Yet as a group they reflect important developmental characteristics that have major implications for those agencies that seek to serve them.

In the area of Intellectual Development, young adolescents:

bullet Display a wide range of individual intellectual development
bullet Are in a transition period from concrete thinking to abstract thinking
bullet Are intensely curious and have a wide range of intellectual pursuits, few of which are sustained
bullet Prefer active over passive learning experiences
bullet Prefer interaction with peers during learning activities
bullet Respond positively to opportunities to participate in real life situations
bullet Are often preoccupied with self
bullet Have a strong need for approval and may be easily discouraged
bullet Develop an increasingly better understanding of personal abilities
bullet Are inquisitive about adults, often challenging their authority, and always observing them
bullet May show disinterest in conventional academic subjects but are intellectually curious about the world and themselves
bullet Are developing a capacity to understand higher levels of humor

In the area of Moral Development, young adolescents:

bullet Are generally idealistic, desiring to make the world a better place and to become socially useful
bullet Are in transition from moral reasoning which focuses on “what’s in it for me” to that which considers the feelings and rights of others
bullet Often show compassion for those who are downtrodden or suffering and have special concern for animals and the environmental problems that our world faces
bullet Are moving from acceptance of adult moral judgments to development of their own personal values; nevertheless, they tend to embrace values consonant with those of their parents
bullet Rely on parents and significant adults for advice when facing major decisions
bullet Increasingly assess moral matters in shades of grey as opposed to viewing them in black and white terms characteristic of younger children
bullet At times are quick to see flaws in others but slow to acknowledge their own faults
bullet Owing to their lack of experience are often impatient with the pace of change, underestimating the difficulties in making desired social changes
bullet Are capable of and value direct experience in participatory democracy
bullet Greatly need and are influenced by adult role models who will listen to them and affirm their moral consciousness and actions as being trustworthy role models
bullet Are increasingly aware of and concerned about inconsistencies between values exhibited by adults and the conditions they see in society

In the area of Physical Development, young adolescents:

bullet Experience rapid, irregular physical growth
bullet Undergo bodily changes that may cause awkward, uncoordinated movements
bullet Have varying maturity rates, with girls tending to mature one and one-half to two years earlier than boys
bullet May be at a disadvantage because of varied rates of maturity that may require the understanding of caring adults
bullet Experience restlessness and fatigue due to hormonal changes
bullet Need daily physical activity because of increased energy
bullet Develop sexual awareness that increases as secondary sex characteristics begin to appear
bullet Are concerned with bodily changes that accompany sexual maturation and changes resulting in an increase in nose size, protruding ears, long arms, and awkward posture
bullet Have preference for junk foods but need good nutrition
bullet Often lack physical fitness, with poor levels of endurance, strength, and flexibility
bullet Are physically vulnerable because they may adopt poor health habits or engage in risky experimentation with drugs and sex

In the area of Emotional/Psychological Development, young adolescents:

bullet Experience mood swings often with peaks of intensity and unpredictability
bullet Need to release energy, often resulting in sudden, apparently meaningless outbursts of activity
bullet Seek to become increasingly independent, searching for adult identity and acceptance
bullet Are increasingly concerned about peer acceptance
bullet Tend to be self-conscious, lacking in self-esteem, and highly sensitive to personal criticism
bullet Exhibit intense concern about physical growth and maturity as profound physical changes occur
bullet Increasingly behave in ways associated with their sex as sex role identification strengthens
bullet Are concerned with many major societal issues as personal value systems develop
bullet Believe that personal problems, feelings, and experiences are unique to themselves
bullet Are psychologically vulnerable, because at no other stage in development are they more likely to encounter so many differences between themselves and others.

In the area of Social Development, young adolescents:

bullet Have a strong need to belong to a group, with peer approval becoming more important as adult approval decreases in importance
bullet In their search for self, model behavior after older, esteemed students or non-parent adults
bullet May exhibit immature behavior because their social skills frequently lag behind their mental and physical maturity
bullet Experiment with new slang and behaviors as they search for a social position within their group, often discarding these “new identities” at a later date
bullet Must adjust to the social acceptance of early maturing girls and the athletic successes of early maturing boys, especially if they themselves are maturing at a slower rate
bullet Are dependent on parental beliefs and values but seek to make their own decisions
bullet Are often intimidated and frightened by their first middle level school experience because of the large numbers of students and teachers and the size of the building
bullet Desire recognition for their efforts and achievements
bullet Like fads, especially those shunned by adults
bullet Often overreact to ridicule, embarrassment, and rejection
bullet Are socially vulnerable because, as they develop their beliefs, attitudes, and values, the influence of media and negative experiences with adults and peers may compromise their ideals and values

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The Power of Choice

April 13, 2007 at 6:38 pm (all, blogging, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, Middle School, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, Uncategorized)

There are varied reasons for providing choices to students. Making choices is a brain-compatible way to learn and it is also a highly successful way to motivate students. In this issue of Performance Learning PLUS, we focus on how you can use the power of choice to help your students increase their personal responsibility. Through making choices students learn to exercise control and participate in self-management.

Begin by offering your students varying degrees of choice. As they gain experience in making choices, expand the possibilities. Your students will gradually become more self-directed and responsible. Read on for more tips about how to use the power of choice in your classroom.

“Your classroom is an ongoing lab in learning how to make choices. It can be a lab where children learn obedience or one where they are issued continuous invitations to accept responsibility. The choice is yours”
— Chick Moorman, educator and author

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DID YOU KNOW?
Research shows that self-regulation arises from students’ awareness that they can make choices in responding to their world and that they will be accountable for their choices (Rozendaal, Minnaert, & Boekaerts, 2005).

Research shows that at-risk students perceive themselves as more involved and more competent when they feel they have greater control over decisions and choices (DiCintio & Gee, 1999).

Research shows that providing students with choices in learning activities increases students’ achievement, engagement, perceived competence, and levels of aspiration (Cordova & Lepper, 1996; Westberg & Archambault, 2004).

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TIPS: Using the Power of Choice

1. Provide decision-making opportunities.
When you provide choices for your students, you give them opportunities to make decisions. Each decision they make builds their sense of personal power and responsibility.

Examples of choices you may offer to your students:

For language arts, place three pictures on the chalkboard and have students choose one to write about.
Give students four different ways to study their spelling words or vocabulary terms.
Make a math assignment that gives students the choice to complete the odd-numbered or even-numbered problems.
Detail what needs to be included in a history report, and allow students to choose the topics.
Assign a science project that allows students to choose one of three different areas.
Give students two choices for how to make up work missed while absent.
Let students make their picture out of red or green paper.
Let students do a demonstration speech on a subject of their choice.
Let students pick which essay question to answer on a test.
Give students the choice to mind map or outline a chapter.
Ask students to read one of three articles and write a report.
Ask students to interview a person of their own choice.
Allow cooperative groups to choose to do a skit, write a commercial, or create an advertisement to demonstrate their learning.
Let each lab group decide which of three different experiments to perform.
Ask students to choose which ten new vocabulary words to include in their papers.
2. Help students personalize choices.
Teach students about the power of choice by helping them see their choices in a personal way. When and where do students make choices in their lives? How do they feel about them? What meaning does making decisions have for them?

Create tasks (written or oral) that help students explore their personal reactions to decision making. These tasks might include any of the following:

List five things that you were able to decide this week. Put them in order of their importance to you.
Make a list of five things that other people decided for you that you would have liked to decide for yourself. Put them in order of their importance to you.
What are some things you may decide about now that you did not get to decide about when you were five years old? Pick one to tell about.
Are there some things you wish you did not have to decide? List them. Pick one and write your reasons for not wanting to make such a decision.
What decisions do you get to make at home? List five. What other decisions would you like to make at home? List five. Why do you think you should be allowed to make these decisions? Write out your reasons.
Write a letter of thanks to someone who gave you an opportunity to make choices.
3. Use “Freedom Phrases” to let students make decisions.

Many times throughout the day, students ask questions that place you in the role of decision maker. They ask things such as:
“May I sharpen my pencil now?”
“Will this book qualify for extra credit?”
“Is it okay if I ask Beth to help me?”

With a simple yes or no, you can answer these common questions quickly and efficiently, or you can use them as opportunities to empower students. If you use a Freedom Phrase such as “you decide,” you can effectively place decision-making responsibilities on students. “You decide” frees you from an authoritarian role by encouraging shared control of the classroom and by getting students in touch with their personal power.

Other Freedom Phrases that work well:
“It is up to you.”
“It is your choice.”
“You choose.”
“You can pick.”
“You get to decide.”
“You make that decision.”
“I am comfortable with whatever you decide.”

Regardless of the phrase you choose, the message to students is one of respect. You are telling them, “I trust your judgment. You are capable of making many of your own decisions. You know what is best for you and for our class.”

Use a Freedom Phrase only when your answer to a student’s question would be “yes.” If it is not okay for the student to ask Beth for help, or if it is not a time when you want students sharpening pencils, simply say no. If you feel strongly about the issue, this is not a time to let students decide. On the other hand, if your inclination is to say yes, then this is an appropriate time to use language that leaves the decision to the student. “You decide” creates an opportunity for students to practice making decisions. It gives them the freedom to make choices. It provides an opportunity for them to experience their own power and to exercise independence.

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Using Primary Sources

April 12, 2007 at 9:21 am (all, books, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, history, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, Uncategorized)

http://www.stenhouse.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=9057&r=sb070411

This is a great resource for language arts and social studies teachers. You can read the entire book on-line. While you can’t print it, you can save it for future reference.

Eyewitness to the Past
Strategies for Teaching American History in Grades 5–12
Joan Brodsky Schur
March 2007
216 (est.) pp/paper
ISBN: 978-157110-497-7
Foreword by James A. Percoco

Throughout history, people have often expressed controversial and conflicting interpretations of current events. In this unique resource, Joan Brodsky Schur reveals how compelling and engaging the study of history becomes when students use documents to imagine living through events in American history.

Eyewitness to the Past examines six types of primary sources: diaries, travelogues, letters, news articles, speeches, and scrapbooks. Teachers will find interactive strategies to help students analyze the unique properties of each, and apply to them their own written work and oral argument. Students learn to express opposing viewpoints in documents, classroom interactions, and simulations such as staging congressional hearings, elections, or protests. They build crucial analytical thinking and presentation skills. Used together, the six strategies offer a varied and cohesive structure for studying the American past that reinforces material in the textbook, encourages creativity, activates different learning styles, and strengthens cognitive skills.

Each chapter provides detailed instructions for implementing an eyewitness strategy set in a specific era of American history, and includes extensions for adapting the strategy to other time periods. In addition to the primary sources included in the book, examples of student work are presented throughout to aid teachers in evaluating the work of their own students. Rubrics and a list of resources are offered for each eyewitness strategy.

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Contents
Foreword
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1: History from the Eyewitness Viewpoint
Chapter 2: Diaries: Writing from Opposing Viewpoints
Chapter 3: Travelogues: Eyewitness Perspectives on a Growing Nation
Chapter 4: Letters: Arguing the Past in Written Corrspondence
Chapter 5: Newspapers: Conflicting Accounts of the Same Events
Chapter 6: Election Speeches: Advocating for Your Candidate
Chapter 7: Scrapbooks: Documenting the Past Across Time
Epilogue
Appendixes
References

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Integrated Technology in the Middle School

April 12, 2007 at 8:58 am (children, Education, Educational Leadership, High School, Middle School, principals, school, school administration, teachers, technology)

EFFECTIVE TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION IN MIDDLE SCHOOL

It’s becoming more and more apparent that teaching in the 21st Century will require teachers who can effectively integrate digital technologies into their daily classroom instruction. And, more importantly perhaps, include a focus on 21st Century *skills* in their curriculum planning. What do integrated lesson and unit plans look like in practice? The Northwest Educational Technology Consortium offers four examples at their website Classrooms@Work, including an eighth grade unit called “It’s a Wild Ride,” developed by a three-member teacher team. This link leads to a well-documented discussion of the unit, which integrates science, math and language arts. You’ll also find background about the team and their classrooms, the school where they teach, and their community (Twin Falls, Idaho). Don’t miss this — very impressive! If you’d like to see other units (there’s one for a 4/5 blend and one for ninth grade) go to: http://www.netc.org/classrooms@work/.

To see the “It’s a Wild Ride” unit, go to:

http://www.netc.org/classrooms@work/classrooms/mtcontent.html

For information on the classes and school involved, go to: http://snipurl.com/MStech_integrate

It’s a Wild Ride takes a high interest topic, roller coasters, and builds content-specific knowledge before moving to an open-ended group design task.

Planning, scheduling, and monitoring work in three classrooms requires coordinated teamwork among teachers and students.

Flexibility in technology access and an extended period schedule supports this multifaceted project that integrates several different technologies.

A range of assessment strategies from embedded performance assessment to traditional paper tests, inform students and teachers about learning progress.

A committed teaching team and a strong instructional leader are only two of the several factors that support successful classrooms at work.

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