Currently Browsing: Brain-Based Learning

Can Learning And Fun Go Together?

Master trainer Eric Jensen knows how to blend learning, solid research and fun for everyone. Here’s a quick visit to a recent training for Leander School District in Texas. Take a look at the engagement, the smiles and full participation that you get with every Jensen workshop.

By the way, topics like “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” don’t have to be serious or “heavy.” That’s the topic of this training. Every single teacher and administrator left this event with a clear plan for what to do next and they had their staff aligned with the goals.

If you’d like to attend one of our summer teacher workshops, time is running out. Dates are filling fast, so you’ll want to register today. Click here for a list of available teacher workshops

Ouch! Does Pain Change The Brain?

Find Out Why This Matters WAY More Than You Think It Might

For some of us, it’s a deep secret.

We ache, we suffer and spend part of our lives full of misery. We know that all of us, our students and ourselves, experience pain. Whether it’s a headache, or more serious back, leg or shoulder pain, we feel miserable when we hurt. While temporary pain is one thing to our body and brain, chronic pain is a whole different entity. I’d guess you know that the pain we feel is a result of the signaling processing in our brains as much as or more than the signaling from site of the injury in our body. Why is this relevant? Why should you care about chronic pain as an educator?

Actually, you’d care a LOT if you knew what happens to your brain when you experience chronic pain. In fact, you’ll be so shocked at how your brain responds to it that you’ll say to yourself, “Oh, that’s why such-and-such happens!” It will also help you understand WHY some kids at school perform and behave they way they do. It’ll help you understand why some staff at your school (who complain of chronic pain) behave the way they do.

Well, what is it? What happens to your brain when you experience chronic pain?

Here, we’ll explore three questions: 1) is there real evidence that chronic pain changes our brain? 2) is the change positive or negative to learning and behavior? 3) what does this suggest we actually do about it? (more…)

A Statement On Higher Education

A thought provoking video… a few years old, but we thought we’d share it with those that may not have seen it (almost 4 million views on YouTube).

It summarizes some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.

Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

When Clear Instruction And Visual Aids Are Not Enough

Why Gesturing is Far More Important Than You Ever Thought

Technology is moving quickly into every child’s education. The computers are filled with text and pictures, cartoons and drawings. Yet, in spite of all the amazing things that technology can do, some kids still don’t “get it.” What are some possible missing ingredients?

The more you know about learning the better. Here’s one item to consider: the nonverbals by the instructor are often missing from the menu in many kinds of technology. Gestures reveal unspoken messages and can reflect additional knowledge in both child and adult learners.

For example…

Years ago, UCLA pioneer Albert Mehrabian did landmark studies on nonverbal communication. He was the first to put numbers to the research, showing that the majority of ALL interpersonal communication is from nonverbal messages (1967). He described the tonality, facial expressions and a host of other nonverbal avenues that influence the message.

Just a subset of all possible nonverbals, gestures have been recently studied in the role of classroom learning. Gestures can also play a role in changing how the child or the adult REPRESENTS thoughts, either directly or indirectly.

Because gesturing reflects thoughts, it’s also an early marker of a change in thinking or emotional state. In this way, it can be used as a DIAGNOSTIC tool, since many problems will show us as improper, or missing, gestures. When students cannot gesture a thought, they may be having trouble conceptualizing it, too. In fact, gesturing (or its lack) may be the first sign of future developmental difficulty. And because gesturing can change thought, it may prove to be useful in the home, the classroom, and the clinic as a way to alter the pace, and perhaps the course, of learning and development.

Wow!

Children frequently gesture when they explain what they know, and their gestures sometimes convey different information than their speech does. This suggests that gesturing is indeed a vehicle through which children express their understanding. The knowledge children express uniquely in the form of gestures is accessible on other tasks, and in this sense, is not tied to the hands.

Gesturing might encourage children to extract meaning implicit in their hand movements. If so, children should be sensitive to the particular movements they produce and learn accordingly. Recently, investigators manipulated student gesturing during a math lesson. Children required to produce correct gestures LEARNED MORE than children required to produce only partially correct gestures, or NONE AT ALL. Hence, research findings suggest that a child’s body movements are involved not only in processing old ideas, but also in creating new ones.

Why do gestures work? One theory is that gesturing actually lightens cognitive load while a person is thinking of what to say. There is scientific support for this theory (see all of the references below). Another possible reason (my own theory) is that it makes the brain work harder to CHANGE THE REPRESENTATION from an abstract idea to a CONCRETE thought, hence, they learn better.

Telling children to gesture encourages them to convey previously unexpressed, implicit ideas; which, in turn, makes them receptive to instruction that leads to learning. Previous studies have shown that gesturing improves learning. In summary, researchers found that children told to move their hands in a fully correct rendition of a particular problem-solving strategy (grouping) during a math lesson solved dramatically more math problems correctly. More in “Applications” below.

Want better math scores? Lean in and let’s “flesh out” what we learned from the studies above.

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Are Intelligence and Achievement Contagious?

fairview blackboard

The Most Critical, Must-Have Attitude You Can Possibly Have Starting a New School Year Is…

Every year, hundreds (or is it 1,000s?) of new books flood the educational marketplace. There’s no way on earth that you or I can keep up with the flood. But if you were to narrow down the list of critical things that every educator should keep at or near the top of their list, what would you put on the list?

Here is a list of the usual: be rigorous (assign challenging content), assess often (formative assessment is big these days), use inclusion more (it’s more politically correct and it saves money), and be sure to differentiate (flash news bulletin: kids are unique), plus a dozen others.

Are ALL of those a good idea?

In some ways, yes. But if your list got narrowed further and further to just the top three or four items, what would you put on the list for the upcoming school year? I know what I would insist that everyone on your staff keep in the top 5. In fact, I would be relentless about it until it was heavily embedded in every class, every day.

What are these top 5 “must do” items?

We all accept the reality that colds and the flu are contagious. We think that since there are often airborne particles or hand and face transferred germs involved, we can “catch” something from others. But could your students “catch” achievement? It sounds far-fetched, but is it? (more…)

What's Good for the Brain is Also Good for the Body!

Brain Based learning And Diet

Wow, what an amazing first few weeks of summer. Thanks to everyone who has registered for our summer programs. We are sold out and our groups enjoyed the learning and the great city of San Antonio, Texas. The city is full of superb restaurants. We’re going to take a cognitive break and focus on eating.

And that reminds me of a true story…

On most of our visits to local restaurants, the waitress typically asks for the drink order, and second, brings bread or chips. I wish I could tell you that I always resist, but I don’t. But, maybe I should resist, and you should too. Why? Are either of these “restaurant staples” really a good idea?

Breads and alcohol are carbohydrates and some are better than others. This is hard for me to say (as a bread-lover), but less bread in your diet is better. Pass on the breads at the restaurant. Alcohol is, of course, not good for the brain. Some anti-aging effects may be in red wine – but that’s an exception, so keep your intake levels to low or moderate. Alcohol consumption prior to a meal sets off a neurochemical chain reaction in the brain that encourages us to eat more (Yeomans et al., 2003). People who drink more alcohol tend to consume more calories, especially from the foods that contain much higher percentages of fats (cholesterol and all forms of fatty acids) (Kesse et al., 2001). Sounds unfair, doesn’t it?

A study of nearly 73,000 middle-aged and highly educated women, whose drinking habits ranged from abstinence to heavy drinkers, found that cholesterol intake was 32 percent higher in heavy drinkers than nondrinkers; caloric intake was 29.5 percent higher among drinkers, and consumption of animal products, cheese, processed meats, vegetable oil, potatoes, breakfast cereals and coffee increased among alcohol drinkers.

Also, the intake of vegetables decreased among this group. Wine was the drink of choice among two thirds of the drinkers. Other research suggests that alcohol’s appetite-stimulating factors may contribute to the excess accumulation of abdominal fat found often in persons who drink regularly (Dorn et al., 2003).

Does any of this research apply to you? If you eat out at restaurants just three times a month and you modified your eating on two of the three visits (the other one is a “free pass” and you can eat the way you have before), miracles could occur. (more…)