Reflection

October 23, 2007 at 6:44 pm (all, blogging, Blogroll, children, classroom management, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESE, ESOL, friends, Gifted, High School, history, kids, life, love, Middle School, movies, Parents, Pedagogy, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized, writing)

Reflection

Reflection is a process for looking back and integrating new knowledge. Reflections need to occur throughout the building blocks of constructivism and include teacher-led student-driven and teacher reflections. We need to encourage students to stop throughout the learning process and think about their learning. Teachers need to model the reflective process to encourage students to think openly, critically and creatively.

 

Teacher-Led Student Reflections – Teachers review the learning to revisit concepts and processes that students will take away with them. This is an opportunity to restate and correct misinformation that has been noted. Teachers reframe new information to lead the students in a more appropriate path. Teachers link student learning to help the group make meaningful connections.

Student Reflections – Students reflect on what they thought about during learning process and how they reacted to other exhibits shared by peers. Reflections include what they were thinking, feeling, imagining and processing through the dialogue or learning exchange. Students reflect on what they will always remember. Reflections can be written but it is important to allow students to have purposeful dialogue.

Techniques for Reflections

Closing CircleA quick way to circle around a classroom and ask each student to share one thing they now know about a topic or a connection that they made that will help them to remember or how this new knowledge can be applied in real life.

Exit CardsAn easy 5 minute activity to check student knowledge before, during and after a lesson or complete unit of study. Students respond to 3 questions posed by the teacher. Teachers can quickly read the responses and plan necessary instruction.

Learning LogsShort, ungraded and unedited, reflective writing in learning logs is a venue to promote genuine consideration of learning activities.

Reflective JournalsJournals can be used to allow students to reflect on their own learning. They can be open-ended or the teacher can provide guiding, reflective questions for the students to respond to. These provide insight on how the students are synthesizing their learning but it also helps the students to make connections and better understand how they learn.

RubricsStudents take time to self-evaluate and peer-evaluate using the rubric that was given or created at the beginning of the learning process. By doing this, students will understand what areas they were very strong in and what areas to improve for next time.

Write a LetterThe students write a letter to themselves or to the subject they are studying. This makes the students think of connections in a very personal way. Students enjoy sharing these letters and learn from listening to other ideas.

Source:

http://www.saskschools.ca/curr_content/constructivism/how/reflection.html

Permalink 2 Comments

Classroom Management and Procedures

September 17, 2007 at 6:39 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, Uncategorized)

Weekly Tip The 3 P’s of Classroom Management – 3 Part Series

Part II: Procedures

The first building block of good classroom management is positive environment, as we discussed last week. This week we’re going to take a look at the 2nd building block of good classroom management – procedures. For those of you who have been subscribing to this newsletter for a long time, you’ve heard my soap-box about procedures. I simply cannot say enough about this topic. In my mind having set procedures for your classroom means the difference between having an okay year and a great year. It definitely can mean the difference between having a bad year and a good year!

Human beings are typically creatures of habit. Even those of us who pride ourselves on being spontaneous have habits. We drink our coffee the same way every morning. Some of us brush our teeth first thing while others wait until after eating breakfast. There are people who live their lives by a watch and others who don’t. Think through your day for just a moment. What activities and/or tasks do you do similarly every single day? Do you walk the dog? Feed the fish? Get dressed? These activities become habits. We tend to complete them the same way (or very close to the same way) every day. You could say that these are procedures for your life.

A procedure, simply put, is :

1.      An act or a manner of proceeding in any action or process; conduct.

2.      A particular course or mode of action.

3.      The sequence of actions or instructions to be followed in solving a problem or accomplishing a task.

(Source – http://www.dictionary.com)

When we create classroom procedures we are developing a course of action and/or a sequence of actions to accomplish a task. For example, an “opening class” procedure may consist of students checking their “mailbox” for returned papers, getting out their journal, sharpening their pencil, and beginning the focus assignment before the bell rings. A “closing” procedure may consist of students putting their journal back in their “mailbox”, turning in the class assignment, cleaning up the area around their desk, and sitting quietly until dismissed.

Classroom procedures should be developed for the different activities accomplished daily in your classroom. How do you expect students to turn in homework and classroom assignments? How do you expect students to work together in groups? What are your expectations for students to label their papers for assignments? What do you expect students to do when participating in writing or reading activities, labs, or learning centers? How will students request to go to the restroom, see the nurse, or get materials for class? What about lining up and walking down hallways to Art or recess?

All of these actions and activities require procedures. Some procedures should be written down so that students can easily see and refer to what is expected of them. Other procedures will be communicated verbally by the teacher. However, it is vital that you take the time at the beginning of the school year to think about how you want your class to operate. It is this proactive reflection and determination that will make your life easier. Clear communication only happens when you are certain about what you expect. If you only have vague ideas of what you think you want, chaos can easily happen. Don’t forget that your students are human beings also. They are likely to develop their own ways of acting and their own “procedures” to follow if none are specifically given to them. The more prepared you are in the beginning, the less likely your students will come up with their own more creative habits.

Take, for example, students entering and leaving your classroom. With clearly marked procedures in place, students know to enter the classroom, get necessary materials, and begin working before the bell rings. This does not mean that you will not have to redirect and remind students to get this done, but it does mean that each one already knows what they should do. When the bell rings most of your students will be sitting at their desk either working or preparing to work. Without a set procedure you’ll end up with students entering class at their leisure, chatting with friends, hanging out about the room doing “whatever” until the bell rings. Then you have to take the time to herd them all back to their seats in order to get class started. This, as some of you know, can take a chunk out of class time.

Once you have developed your procedures, be sure to train students in following these procedures. Go over them at the beginning of the year and practice. Stick to these procedures daily so that students can get into the routine and develop the habit. Before the bell rings, remind students of what they should be doing. If you see students not following your procedures/expectations, stop and practice it again until they do it properly. Taking time at the beginning of the year to practice and get into the habit of following these procedures will save time at the end of the school year when everyone is feeling that spring fever. Do not think that you are wasting class time by practicing and revisiting these procedures. Instead, you are wisely using time to reinforce positive habits that will continue throughout the school year.

As we discussed last week, a positive environment is only the beginning to good classroom management. The next step is developing classroom procedures. These will then reinforce that positive environment when everyone knows what to do and what is expected. There are no hidden surprises and everyone is on the same page. This results in a teacher who feels less stressed and less likely to show frustration in the classroom. Students respond to this positive atmosphere and tend to behave in a more positive manner. Next week we will discuss the last of the 3 P’s – Productive Students – and how this element increases the likely-hood of having a well-disciplined class.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Your Student’s Mindset

September 9, 2007 at 6:13 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, history, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, Uncategorized)

Today’s students have a different (not better or worse, just different) mindset from those born 10, 20, 30+ years ago.  To reach your students, you have to understand how they think.  In order to help the faculty at Beloit College, one of the professors compiles an annual mindset list for the incoming freshmen.  You might find this information interesting – and useful.    

A note about the Beloit College Mindset List

To save readers the time and effort of writing to us about the Beloit College Mindset List, we offer four brief explanations.

The Mindset List is not a chronological listing of things that happened in the year that the entering first-year students were born.

Our effort is to identify a worldview of 18 year-olds in the fall of 2007. We take a risk in some cases of making generalizations, particularly given that our students at Beloit College for instance come from every state and scores of nations.

The “Class of 2011” refers to students entering college this year. They are generally 18 which suggests they were born in 1989.

The list identifies the experiences and event horizons of students as they commence higher education and is not meant to reflect on their preparatory education.

BELOIT COLLEGE’S MINDSET LIST®
FOR THE CLASS OF 2011

Most of the students entering College this fall, members of the Class of 2011, were born in 1989. For them, Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead. 

  1. What Berlin wall?
  2. Humvees, minus the artillery, have always been available to the public.
  3. Rush Limbaugh and the “Dittoheads” have always been lambasting liberals.
  4. They never “rolled down” a car window.
  5. Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.
  6. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
  7. They have grown up with bottled water.
  8. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  9. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
  10. Pete Rose has never played baseball.
  11. Rap music has always been mainstream.
  12. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
  13. “Off the hook” has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  14. Music has always been “unplugged.”
  15. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
  16. Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
  17. They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day.
  18. The NBA season has always gone on and on and on and on.
  19. Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
  20. Half of them may have been members of the Baby-sitters Club.
  21. Eastern Airlines has never “earned their wings” in their lifetime.
  22. No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
  23. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  24. Being “lame” has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
  25. Wolf Blitzer has always been serving up the news on CNN.
  26. Katie Couric has always had screen cred.
  27. Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
  28. They never found a prize in a Coca-Cola “MagiCan.”
  29. They were too young to understand Judas Priest’s subliminal messages.
  30. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
  31. Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
  32. They grew up in Wayne’s World.
  33. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  34. They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as “The Joker.”
  35. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  36. American rock groups have always appeared in Moscow.
  37. Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
  38. On Parents’ Day on campus, their folks could be mixing it up with Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz with daughter Zöe, or Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford with son Cody.
  39. Fox has always been a major network.
  40. They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-Head laugh.
  41. The “Blue Man Group” has always been everywhere.
  42. Women’s studies majors have always been offered on campus.
  43. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
  44. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
  45. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
  46. Most phone calls have never been private.
  47. High definition television has always been available.
  48. Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
  49. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
  50. Smoking has never been allowed in public spaces in France.
  51. China has always been more interested in making money than in reeducation.
  52. Time has always worked with Warner.
  53. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre. 
  54. The purchase of ivory has always been banned.
  55. MTV has never featured music videos.
  56. The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters. 
  57. Jerry Springer has always been lowering the level of discourse on TV.
  58. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  59. They’re always texting 1 n other.
  60. They will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom.
  61. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  62. They have no idea who Rusty Jones was or why he said “goodbye to rusty cars.”
  63. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
  64. Chavez has nothing to do with iceberg lettuce and everything to do with oil.
  65. Illinois has been trying to ban smoking since the year they were born.
  66. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
  67. Chronic fatigue syndrome has always been debilitating and controversial.
  68. Burma has always been Myanmar.
  69. Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
  70. Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.

Here is this year’s list, for the Class of 2010:

1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
5. They have grown up getting lost in “big boxes”.
6. There has always been only one Germany.
7. They have never heard anyone actually “ring it up” on a cash register.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
10. Thanks to pervasive head phones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.
11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
13. Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.
14. The Moral Majority has never needed an organization.
15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
16. DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.
17. They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.
18. They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
19. “Google” has always been a verb.
20. Text messaging is their e-mail.
21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.
22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America.
23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
24. Madden has always been a game, not a Super Bowl-winning coach.
25. Phantom of the Opera has always been on Broadway.
26. “Boogers” candy has always been a favorite for grossing out parents.
27. There has never been a “skyhook” in the NBA.
28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents’ attics.
29. Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby.
30. Non-denominational mega-churches have always been the fastest growing. religious organizations in the U.S.
31. They grew up in minivans.
32. Reality shows have always been on television.
33. They have no idea why we needed to ask “…can we all get along?”
34. They have always known that “In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups.”
35. Young women’s fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
37. Brides have always worn white for a first, second, or third wedding.
38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.
39. “So” as in “Sooooo New York,” has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else.
40. Affluent troubled teens in Southern California have always been the subjects of television series.
41. They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
42. Ken Burns has always been producing very long documentaries on PBS.
43. They are not aware that “flock of seagulls hair” has nothing to do with birds flying into it.
44. Retin-A has always made America look less wrinkled.
45. Green tea has always been marketed for health purposes.
46. Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.
47. Small white holiday lights have always been in style.
48. Most of them have never had the chance to eat bad airline food.
49. They have always been searching for “Waldo”.
50. The really rich have regularly expressed exuberance with outlandish birthday parties.
51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.
52. They never played the game of state license plates in the car.
53. They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.
54. There have always been live organ donors.
55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.
56. They have never put their money in a “Savings & Loan.”
57. Sara Lee has always made underwear.
58. Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.
59. Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.
60. They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.
61. Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport.
62. Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.
63. Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
64. LoJack transmitters have always been finding lost cars.
65. Diane Sawyer has always been live in Prime Time.
66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.
67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.
68. “Outing” has always been a threat.
69. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss has always been the perfect graduation gift.
70. They have always “dissed” what they don’t like.
71. The U.S. has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.
72. Richard M. Daley has always been the mayor of Chicago.
73. They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water, and play games with, lest they die.
74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.
75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

Lists for previous years can be found at http://www.beloit.edu/~pubaff/mindset/.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Motivating Students

September 6, 2007 at 6:53 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, friends, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

The Groundwork for Motivating Students

It’s the beginning of another school year, and students are excited to find out who is in their classes, what their teachers are like, and what they will learn. Many teachers find themselves overwhelmed with the heavy curriculum requirements and a sea of new faces. You may already be wondering how you can effectively motivate your students and engage them in the learning process all year long.

One of the first things we can do to motivate learners is to make sure that they become and remain comfortable in their learning environments. One way to establish comfort is by providing opportunities for classmates and teachers to get to know one another. Learners tend to work harder and take more risks when they feel they have a strong, positive relationship with their teacher and their classmates. Because there are so many learners in a classroom, it is essential that good relationships be established early. Fostering positive relationships promotes high levels of motivation between:

  • Each and every learner.
  • Each learner and the teacher.
  • Each learner and the content.

Remember that motivated learners are comfortable in their learning environments. You will be getting to know your students and they will be getting to know you and one another all year long. Establishing a comfort level is an important foundation for the process.

Read on for tips to establish and maintain a motivating learning environment.

“If you put a plant in a jar, it will take the shape of the jar. But if you allow the plant to grow freely, twenty jars might not be able to hold it”
— Duke University Coach Mike Krzyzewski


DID YOU KNOW?
Research shows that teachers who successfully engage students incorporate activities that address students’ basic psychological and intellectual needs (Brewster & Fager, 2000).

In conducting an extensive review of research on students’ need for belonging, Osterman (2000) concluded that students’ experiences of acceptance shaped many aspects of their behavior, but that schools tend to neglect and often thwart students’ attempts to establish social interconnections.

Students’ social relationships appear to influence their academic engagement and success at school (Patrick, Anderman, & Ryan, 2002). An important part of that social environment is the degree of teacher support.

An investigation of teachers considered to be exemplary in helping students develop independence and attain high levels of academic achievement stresses the development of strong positive classroom relationships (Ayres, Sawyer, & Dinham, 2001).


 TIPS: Establish and Maintain a Motivating Learning Environment

Now that the new school year is underway, it’s a perfect time to create a motivational learning environment. The first step is making sure everyone is comfortable in the classroom. Since most classrooms and budgets are limited in terms of what furniture and surroundings we can provide, comfort for our students comes in the form of something much more important: positive relationships between all learners, learners and the teacher, and learners and the content.

Give your learners an opportunity to get to know one another. Make it creative. Skip the dull introductions where each person gives his or her name and a hobby. Instead, use one of the activities below to create connections that are memorable.

  • Ask the Teacher (elementary grades and up):
    Have students form groups of 3 or 4, and then have them write one question per group on index cards. In order to establish connections and comfort between you and your students, each group will ask you its question. Questions may include: If you could change the world, what would you change? If you had a million dollars, what would you do? You can modify the same activity and have students ask one another the same questions, or do a combination where you answer some and the students answer others. Doing so builds teacher/student as well as student/student connections and comfort levels.
  • What Do You Like? (middle school and up):
    Have students share one thing they like and one thing they don’t like. This activity makes quick connections and provides an opportunity for everyone to share. You may learn some important information about your students. Be sure that you participate as well. Remember that the connections students make with you as well as one another are part of a comfortable and motivating environment.
  • Telephone (junior high and up):
    This activity can improve listening skills. Share a story stem, such as “I read a story about a scientist named Ivan Ivanovich Vetakovski, who created a drug that makes people immortal.” Whisper the stem to one student, and have that student whisper the story to another. Each student whispers to the next student until everyone has had a chance to whisper and hear. The final student shares the story aloud. Share the original story stem, then ask different students what they heard when the stem was whispered to them. You can find out what different students think is important by what they heard from those who went before them. You can even make the sentence stem content specific, so students start making comfortable and fun connections to what they will learn.
  • Coat of Arms (high school):
    Have learners create a wordless symbol of something that is significant to them and explain the significance. To promote comfort levels and team building, small groups can even design their own coats of arms to share with the class. This activity can also be modified so students create coats of arms that relate to course content.

These introductory getting-to-know-you activities are fun and provide initial connections and comfort levels. If you stop promoting connection and comfort, motivation will wane. It’s important to keep providing opportunities for students to get to know each other. Once the beginning-of-the-year administrative chores are taken care of, continue building connections between students and the content. Here are some examples and suggestions.

  • Language Arts (elementary)
    Have students print or write their names on a piece of construction paper and then think of one trait they have that begins with each letter. For instance, a student named Ben might write “baseball lover,” “milkshake fan,” and “night owl” for each of the letters in his first name. Have students share in small groups, or post their creations for everyone to see. Be sure you do one too! Another idea is to have students create acrostics of weekly vocabulary words, where each letter contains information related to the definition. For example, the vocabulary word “mammal” might have “mothers nursing their young” and “animal like a cat” for the first two letters (“m” and “a”). Working together, students will get to know one another and contribute to the group effort.
  • Language Arts (middle)
    In groups of 3 or 4, have students write poems about themselves. Each stanza must be about a different member of the group. All stanzas must make sense follow a certain rhyme scheme (ABAB, for instance). The final stanza may have to be something related to the group as a whole. You can modify this activity so it is content specific, where each group writes a poem about a topic you assign: constellations, space travel, NASA, and so on.
  • Language Arts (junior high)
    When students read a work of fiction, ask them to share aloud how they are similar to and different from characters in the work. They can share how they personally would handle different situations and why, whether they agree with reactions of certain characters, and with which character(s) they most (or least) identify. Remember that connecting to and feeling comfortable with the content make students feel more motivated to learn.
  • Language Arts (high school)
    After each unit of study, have students share (individually or in groups) which activities they enjoyed most and which they enjoyed least. Their comments may give you some direction for improving the assignments related to consecutive units and gives them a chance to share who they are as learners.
  • Math (elementary)
    Students can complete this assignment in class or at home. Have them look around for or think of 5 to 10 of their favorite things and list them. They may choose to find blue things (favorite color), books, food, videos, etc. Then they share their number one favorite thing with the class or in small groups, why it is their favorite, and rank the others. Students enjoy discovering what they have in common with and how they differ from their classmates.
  • Math (middle)
    Have individual students add up the number of letters in their first names, middle names, and last names. Put students in a group of four and give them a worksheet asking them to add up the total sum of two people’s numbers, and subtract the total sum of another two people’s numbers. Have them multiply those two results, then divide the product by the number of people in their group. You can think of many combinations to put on the worksheet. Add an element of competition by giving a prize to the team with the highest, lowest, closest to a prime, or otherwise-designated number(s). Students will have fun practicing their math skills through this activity, which has roots in each person’s identity.
  • Math (junior high)
    Ask groups of students to come up with quiz questions. For instance, if you are studying a unit on integer addition, one group could come up with 5 questions such as (-7) + 2, (-10) + (-8), and so on. They would also create an answer key. After 5 minutes, groups pass their quizzes to another group, and each group takes the quiz. The group who created the quiz scores it, and prizes are awarded for the team with the most correct answers in the shortest time. Rather than being just a product-oriented activity (taking the quiz), this allows process-oriented students (those who enjoyed creating the quiz) to play a strong role as well.
  • Math (high school)
    Put students in groups to play hangman. Instead of using letters, use numbers that students have to convert to letters (where A=1, B=2, and so on). Give them calculus problems to solve where the result is a number/letter for hangman. For instance, if y equals the square root of (x-3), and students determine that y=2, then 2 corresponds to the letter B. Then students have to decide if B is a letter in the hangman puzzle. Groups can create their own puzzles or you can provide handouts.

Permalink Leave a Comment

How To Appreciate Your Student’s Diversity

August 30, 2007 at 6:57 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, friends, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, personal, poetry, politics, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized, writing)

This is a powerful reminder of the challenges – and joys that we face – in dealing with our diverse student population.

Welcome to Holland
By Emily Perl KingsleyI am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability-to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip-to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas of Venice. You learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?” you say. “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I have dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would have never met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you might never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Building Habits

August 24, 2007 at 5:53 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, food, friends, High School, history, humor, kids, life, love, Middle School, movies, music, news, Parents, personal, photography, poetry, politics, principals, reading, religion, school, school administration, sports, teachers, technology, Thornebrooke, thoughts, travel, Uncategorized, video, women, writing)

It takes 27 days to form a habit. Remember when your mother used to ask you to make your bed every day? Then, after a while, you simply started making it on your own —without having to be reminded to do it. Making your bed every day had become a habit.

In my column, Laying the Groundwork, I discussed the importance of brainstorming expectations and procedures as part of laying the groundwork for building good habits. This time, I want to discuss in a little more detail the kinds of habits we want to build in our students — and how we can build them.

When thinking about the kinds of good habits you want students to develop, go back to that list of expectations and procedures you created. For me, for example, it’s important that students enter my classroom, check their mailboxes, and start working on their focus assignment before the first bell rings. It’s important that when I use the quiet signal, my students get quiet and focus on me. I expect my students to stay in a quiet straight line when I walk with them down the hall. It’s also important to me for students to be silent, with a clean area, before I dismiss them. Those types of habits, as well as others, also might be important to you. If you’re not really sure what you expect of your students, then take some time right now to brainstorm those actions and behaviors that you want to become habits for your students.

Okay, you have your list. You might be asking yourself, “Why is it important that I help build these habits?” The reason is to save yourself stress later on in the school year. Spring semester might seem like a long way away, but it will come around a lot faster than you think. Students who are not following good habits in the fall have a tendency to let spring fever get out of hand. Behavior can become more erratic then, and without good habits in place, students are more likely to get out of control. By setting the standards at the beginning of the year and turning good behaviors into good habits, you save yourself a lot of time and stress later.

But how can you build in students the good habits you expect? First, clearly explain your expectations to students. Next, make sure students practice the correct actions and behaviors daily. (It’s especially important to practice behaviors over and over again during the first couple of weeks of school.) Third, be consistent about requiring specific behaviors. If you see students not meeting your expectations, don’t be afraid to stop and take the time to practice the correct action or behavior right then and there.

For example, if I notice that many students are entering the classroom and “hanging out” without starting their work before the bell rings, I stop everything and practice my expectations. I have students file out of the classroom and re-enter correctly. If students are not following my quiet signal, we stop immediately and practice until they get it right. By doing that consistently, students begin to see that I will hold them accountable for their actions. After 27 days or more of doing the same actions over and over again, the behaviors become a habit for students. What you want to achieve is a classroom in which students know what to do and when to do it. That is a well-disciplined classroom.
You might find, of course, that as the year progresses, you need to stop and practice your expectations again. That is perfectly normal and can be thought of as “maintenance.”

Before you know it, however, your students will be entering the classroom and doing exactly what you expect of them — whether you are there to remind them or not. Good behavior has become — just like making your bed each day — a habit. In the end, that’s precisely what we strive to accomplish.
As you work toward that goal, remember the maxim “Good habits are hard to break” — and practice, practice, practice.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Adult Behaviors That Decrease Student Misbehavior

May 28, 2007 at 10:11 am (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, writing)

Adult Behaviors That Decrease Student MisbehaviorAdults who work with confrontational students must have the capacity for patience, self-control, and self-coaching. Responding to this type of student requires forethought and planning.

De-escalating a confrontation can be accomplished in several ways. Each of the following suggestions requires tremendous desire on the part of the teacher for maintaining his or her own control and understanding that the student needs to save face.

  • Speak calmly throughout the interaction.
  • Keep the focus on the desired behavior of learning or work completion. For example, you could say, “Sounds like we have an issue to discuss. Let’s do so right after class. For now, can you get back to the report?”
  • Use self-directed humor or self-admonishment: “Why didn’t I think of that? You’d think after ten years of teaching, I would’ve thought about this coming up!”
  • Listen actively and acknowledge the student’s concerns: “Seems as though you are really angry. Let me think about it for today, and we’ll talk about it at another time.”
  • Try the broken record approach—communication through a nonconfrontational voice and body language: “Please return to your chair and get back to work.”

Teachers will be able to use these strategies only if they rehearse them, at least mentally. Practice time through role-play can be given during faculty meetings.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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!

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

——————————————————————————–

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

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »