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

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The Importance of Self-Esteem

October 10, 2007 at 6:43 pm (all, blogging, Blogroll, children, classroom management, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESE, ESOL, High School, kids, love, Middle School, Parents, Pedagogy, personal, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized)

The Power of Self-Esteem:
Build It and They Will Flourish

Jim Paterson

The term “self-esteem,” long the centerpiece of most discussions concerning the emotional well being of young adolescents, has taken a beating lately.

Some people who question this emphasis on adolescent self-esteem suggest that it takes time and attention away from more important aspects of education. Others contend that many of the most difficult adolescents suffer from too much self-esteem and our insistence on building higher levels is detrimental to the student and to society.

But many experts and middle school educators stand firm in their conviction that since self-worth is rigorously tested during the middle school years, attention to it can only help students become successful. Perhaps, they say, self-esteem simply has not been defined properly or the strategies used to build it have done more harm than good.

For example, “Praising kids for a lack of effort is useless,” says Jane Bluestein, a former classroom teacher, school administrator, speaker, and the author of several books and articles on adolescence and self-esteem. “Calling a bad job on a paper a ‘great first draft’ doesn’t do anyone any good. I think we’ve learned that. If I’m feeling stupid and worthless and you tell me I’m smart, that makes you stupid in my eyes,” she says. “It doesn’t make me any better.”

But Bluestein and others say that simply because the corrective methods are misguided doesn’t mean middle school educators should not pay close attention to their students’ self-esteem.

Jan Burgess, a former principal at Lake Oswego Junior High School in Oregon, explains, “We’ve all seen kids whose parents believe self-esteem is absolutely the highest priority. But heaping praise without warrant is empty praise. Self-esteem is important, and it comes from aiming high and reaching the goal. That is much more meaningful.”

On the other hand, James Bierma, a school counselor at Washington Technical Magnet in St. Paul, Minnesota, says he is wary of those who want to reduce praise for students. “I don’t see heaping praise on kids as a big problem. I work in an urban area where we have more than 85% of students in poverty. I wish our students received more praise,” he says. “You can go overboard, but that rarely happens in my dealings with families. Students respond well to praise from parents and school staff.”

Robert Reasoner, a former school administrator and the developer of a model for measuring and building self-esteem that has been adopted by schools throughout the United States, says there has been a lot of confusion about the concept of self-esteem.

“Some have referred to self-esteem as merely ‘feeling good’ or having positive feelings about oneself,” says Reasoner, who is president of the National Association of Self Esteem. “Others have gone so far as to equate it with egotism, arrogance, conceit, narcissism, a sense of superiority, and traits that lead to violence. Those things actually suggest that self-esteem is lacking.”

He notes that self-value is difficult to study and address because it is both a psychological and sociological issue and affects students in many different ways.

“Self-esteem is a fluid rather than static condition,” says Sylvia Starkey, a school psychologist and counselor for 16 years in the Lake Oswego School District. She notes that the way adolescents view themselves can depend on how they feel about their competence in a particular activity. It also is influenced by the child’s general temperament and even family birth order, all of which might make it harder to identify the causes of low self-esteem—or raise it.

Reasoner says self-esteem can be defined as “the experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness.” He notes that the worthiness is the psychological aspect of self-esteem, while the competence, or meeting challenges, is the sociological aspect.

He notes that when we heap praise on a student, a sense of personal worth may elevate, but competence may not—which can make someone egotistical. Self-esteem, he says, comes from accomplishing meaningful things, overcoming adversity, bouncing back from failure, assuming self-responsibility, and maintaining integrity.

Self-Esteem at the Middle Level

Middle school students are particularly vulnerable to blows to their self-esteem because they are moving to a more complex, more challenging school environment; they are adjusting to huge physical and emotional changes; and their feelings of self-worth are beginning to come from peers rather than adults, just at a time when peer support can be uncertain, Reasoner says.

“Early on, it’s parents who affirm the young person’s worth, then it’s the teacher. In middle school, peer esteem is a powerful source of one’s sense of self,” according to Mary Pat McCartney, a counselor at Bristow Run Elementary School in Bristow, Virginia, and former elementary-level vice president of the American School Counselors Association. No matter how much students have been swamped with praise by well-meaning parents, she says, what their friends think of them is most important.

Beth Graney, guidance director at Bull Run Middle School in Gainesville, Virginia, says adults gain their self-esteem through accomplishments and by setting themselves apart from others, while adolescents gain it from their group. “Peer relationships are so critical to kids feeling good about themselves,” she says.

Opportunities to Succeed

The solution, rather than praising without merit, seems to be providing students with an opportunity to succeed.

“Self-esteem that comes from aiming high and reaching goals helps build resilience for students as well,” says Burgess. She says teachers can help kids target their learning and fashion goals that are obtainable, while giving them constructive feedback along the way. “Self-esteem rises and students feel in charge—and this can help parents understand how to heap praise when it is earned.”

Bluestein says students often want an opportunity to feel valued and successful. As a group, they can perhaps make a simple decision in class (which of two topics they study first, for example) and individuals might gain from helping others, either collaboratively or as a mentor or tutor. She suggests having students work with others in a lower grade level. As a result, the self-esteem of the students being helped also improves.

“Peer helpers, lunch buddies, peer mentors often help kids feel that someone is in their corner and can help them fit in with a larger group,” Graney says. She says parents should encourage their children to find an activity that they like where they can have some success and feel accepted.

Bluestein recalls a program she began in which her “worst kids” who seemed to have lower levels of self-worth were asked to work with younger students. Their sense of themselves improved, she says, and eventually they were skipping recess or lunch periods to work with the younger students.

Mary Elleen Eisensee, a middle school counselor for more than 30 years at Lake Oswego Junior High School, says if kids can be “guided to accept and support one another, the resulting atmosphere will be conducive for building self-confidence and esteem for everyone.”

Special Care for Special Students

Michelle Borba, nationally known author and consultant on self-esteem and achievement in children, says there are five things middle school educators can do easily to improve the self-esteem of their students:

  • Mentor a child. Find one student who looks as though he or she needs a connection and just take a little more time (even one minute a day) to find a positive moment.
  • Connect with your team about a student. Pass on concerns to at least one other staff member so you’re both on the same page. You can then reinforce the same positive traits about a student together and optimize the effort.
  • Reframe children’s images of themselves. Find one positive trait that is earned and deserved—artistic, great smile, kind heart—and let the student be aware of it. Reframing an image generally takes 21 days, so reinforce the same trait 10 seconds a day for 21 days.
  • Turn students on to a great book, Web site, hobby, or a club that might capitalize on their natural interests or strengths.
  • Make yourself available. Give students your e-mail address and let them know special times you can be reached.

Adult Affirmation Is Important

Adults play a role, too, by helping students find areas where they can have success and making note of it when they do. They can also just notice students.

“Legitimate affirmation makes a huge difference. But plain recognition is just as meaningful. Greeting a student by name even pays big dividends,” says Starkey. She says adult volunteer tutors and mentors help students with social and academic skills and encourage them. An assessment of factors that promote self-esteem in her school district showed such adult attention is very valuable.

At Bierma’s school, counselors call parents on Fridays when students’ scores on achievement, attendance, academic, and behavior goals are announced. “It has helped students turn negative behaviors into positive ones.”

McCartney says simply treating students respectfully and listening carefully affirms a student’s self-worth. She says teachers can also bolster self-esteem if they allow the students to accidentally “overhear key adults bragging about one of their accomplishments.”

Reasoner points out that despite thinking to the contrary, strong self-esteem is critical in the middle school years. Students without it withdraw or develop unhealthy ways of gaining social acceptance, often by responding to peer pressure to engage in sex, drinking, drug abuse, or other harmful behaviors.

“Many of these problems can simply be avoided if a child has healthy self-esteem,” Reasoner says.

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Understanding Learning Disabilities

October 4, 2007 at 7:31 pm (all, Autism, blogging, Blogroll, children, classroom management, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESE, ESOL, Gifted, High School, kids, Middle School, Parents, Pedagogy, personal, principals, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized)

Learning Disabilities: Signs, Symptoms and Strategies

   

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language. The disability may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations.

Every individual with a learning disability is unique and shows a different combination and degree of difficulties. A common characteristic among people with learning disabilities is uneven areas of ability, “a weakness within a sea of strengths.” For instance, a child with dyslexia who struggles with reading, writing and spelling may be very capable in math and science.

Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages.

Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities:” the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.

A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.

In Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term is “specific learning disability,” one of 13 categories of disability under that law.

“Learning Disabilities” is an “umbrella” term describing a number of other, more specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. Find the signs and symptoms of each, plus strategies to help:

Dyslexia
A language and reading disability

Dyscalculia
Problems with arithmetic and math concepts

Dysgraphia
A writing disorder resulting in illegibility

Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder)
Problems with motor coordination

Central Auditory Processing Disorder
Difficulty processing and remembering language-related tasks

Non-Verbal Learning Disorders
Trouble with nonverbal cues, e.g., body language; poor coordination, clumsy

Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
Reverses letters; cannot copy accurately; eyes hurt and itch; loses place; struggles with cutting

Language Disorders (Aphasia/Dysphasia)
Trouble understanding spoken language; poor reading comprehension

Symptoms of Learning Disabilities

   

The symptoms of learning disabilities are a diverse set of characteristics which affect development and achievement. Some of these symptoms can be found in all children at some time during their development. However, a person with learning disabilities has a cluster of these symptoms which do not disappear as s/he grows older.

Most frequently displayed symptoms:

  • Short attention span
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Inability to discriminate between/among letters, numerals, or sounds
  • Poor reading and/or writing ability
  • Eye-hand coordination problems; poorly coordinated
  • Difficulties with sequencing
  • Disorganization and other sensory difficulties

Other characteristics that may be present:

  • Performs differently from day to day
  • Responds inappropriately in many instances
  • Distractible, restless, impulsive
  • Says one thing, means another
  • Difficult to discipline
  • Doesn’t adjust well to change
  • Difficulty listening and remembering
  • Difficulty telling time and knowing right from left
  • Difficulty sounding out words
  • Reverses letters
  • Places letters in incorrect sequence
  • Difficulty understanding words or concepts
  • Delayed speech development; immature speech

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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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