Myth-Busters: “It’s not what you don’t know that concerns me. It’s what you know that is not true that concerns me.”

Let’s start off on the right foot and destroy a myth.

Myth: IQ Cannot Be Changed… Students are Fixed the Way They Are

Completely false! Brains can change! In fact, the worse students are academically, the greater the upside. There are no credible studies (yet) of raising IQ in kids with high IQ already. But many, many studies show that kids with an IQ in the 70-100 range can have it raised. In study after study, we find that every single component of intelligence can be raised.

In one study (Mackey, et al., 2011) children aged 7 to 9 from poverty participated in one of two cognitive training programs for 60 minutes/day and 2 days/week, for a total of 8 weeks. Children in the reasoning group improved substantially (an average increase of 10 points in Performance IQ.) By contrast, children in the speed group improved substantially in different areas. Counter to widespread mythology, these results indicate that both fluid reasoning and processing speed are modifiable by purposeful training.

What about kids from poverty; can you raise their IQ? Yes, you can. In fact, among the poor, the heritability of IQ is far less than among middle and upper income students. The heritability of IQ among kids from low-income families from their parents is less than 10%. It’s over 60% for middle and upper income families. In other words, don’t blame the parents for a poor child’s low school performance. Before age four, the caregivers ARE the dominant influence. But once in kindergarten, school is the dominant influence.

Kids will spend nearly 13,000 hours in school from K-12. This means the IQ of the parents of poor kids is less of a factor than the environment you create at school. That’s right; it means your staff has NO excuses for students to underperform. (more…)

CNN Asks Eric Jensen About The Challenges Of Teaching Kids In Poverty

CNN’s Education Overtime is a series focused on the conversations surrounding education issues that affect students, teachers, parents and the community. They dropped into our Poverty Workshop in North Carolina to ask about the classroom effects of poor nutrition.

“The lack of good nutrition is just one of the many issues children in poverty have to deal with,” said Eric Jensen, author of Teaching With Poverty in Mind. “These kids move around a lot, don’t have much adult supervision or routine in their lives, and sometimes suffer from mistreatment or abuse. So it’s no wonder studies have shown that low-income students tend to be low performers in school.”

If you’d like to learn more about overcoming the challenges of poverty in the classroom, download our free guide: Secrets of High-Achieving Schools with High-Poverty Students here.

Eric Jensen Shares His Thoughts On Motivation and Education

Eric Jensen was asked how to for his perspective on motivation in the classroom… his answer is found in the video below.

Life-Saving News on Alzheimer’s Disease

My father turned 92 this year, so I thought I’d turn to a different topic.

If there’s anything that puts fear into those over 40, it’s cancer. For those over 60, it’s the mental breakdowns, symbolized most by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While many find treatments for cancer, few have been successful with Alzheimer’s disease.

The reason that cancer has been so slippery to treat is that there are so many potential causes (inherited susceptibility, environmental toxins, immuno-suppresion deficiencies, etc.) and so many expressions (malignant, nonmalignant), with so many types (liver, brain, and skin) of the disease. It’s very, very complex.

But Alzheimer’s is a different illness altogether. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most serious form of dementia occurring in the elderly. And it’s the one illness I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But, under the radar, there are some promising treatments that keep making it into the peer-reviewed journals that are worth considering for both prevention and interventions. What I have learned is below. For the surprising news, keep reading… (more…)

Music Tickles the Reward Centers in the Brain

Now That the Holidays Are Gone

Your Music List Upgraded

Music is a big part of our lives. But if you teach, there’s a chance, it’s an even bigger part of your student’s life. In this post, we’ll see if we can sharpen up your use of music.

You’re likely to have a bit of time this summer to work on your music, since the school year gets pretty hectic. Next month, we’ll show you the newest Alzheimer’s disease interventions.

Recent Discovery

We know that music tickles the reward centers in the brain just like other pleasurable, but evolutionarily significant, experiences. It also appears that music rewards the listener to the degree that the music is found to be pleasant.

There are many studies which suggest that the right music can influence the brain’s reward neurotransmitter, dopamine. The beauty of this is that classroom learning can get associated with positive feelings.

Why is this important? Two reasons come to mind: 1) emotional learning supports long-term memory, and 2) when positive emotions are associated with school, kids attend classes more and are more likely to develop a love of learning.

Unlike a concrete reward, music can arouse feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Scientists used PET scans and found endogenous dopamine release at peak emotional arousal during music listening (Salimpoor, et al. 2011). The time course of dopamine release was also curious; dopamine was more involved during anticipation of the music, and then again at the experience of peak emotional responses.

Put in teacher terms, even the anticipation of an abstract reward (listening to the music for pleasure) can result in dopamine release, distinct from that associated with the peak pleasure itself. By the way, dopamine release is highly beneficial for several things. One, it fosters a love of learning; second, it supports working memory. Both of those are very good in a classroom!

On the other hand, unpleasant music seems to involve a different region of the brain. In another study, scientists played music that contained dissonant chords varying in their degree of unpleasantness. They used brain imaging technology to observe and measure changes in brain activity as participants listened to the music. They found that the more dissonant the music, the less pleasant the participants reported the experience. Additionally, patterns of brain activity emerged that were consistent across subjects. Most active during the more dissonant sections of the music was a site in the brain that is physically situated between the cortex and the limbic system. Known as the paralimbic cortical area, this region mediates between cognition and emotion.

The choice of music you use DOES matter; not all music is good!

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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

Stress, Budgets and Job Cuts



Stressed? Learn From the Zebra!

Learn How You Can Cope in a World Packed with Unpredictability

In every city and state I visit lately, there’s the smell of something burning in the air. No, it’s not the usual summer brush fires. It’s the slashing and burning of city, county, state and federal budgets. It is common to hear of 5-15% of staff being given the dreaded equivalent of the “You’re fired, here’s your pink slip”. The stress levels are off the charts and there’s anger, denial and resentment. If this applies to you or your colleagues, lean in and read closely. If it does not apply to you today, it may apply in the near future.

Usually this newsletter is for teaching tips. For the next couple of months, let’s take the opportunity to look after you. There are some very brain-smart coping strategies to help you and your colleagues deal with these issues. One of them comes from a zebra.

The others are…

Understanding Stress

Most teachers define stress as, “I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know when it happens and what it feels like.” Stress researchers define it as a mind and body reaction to adverse stimuli resulting from a perception of a loss of control (Kim and Diamond 2002). This suggests that stress embodies both the stimulus and the resulting reaction in our body.

In short, the stress in our life is not “out there.” There are no stressful jobs, no stressful people, nor any stressful situations. There is a very real response in you. But if you tell yourself a job is stressful or a person is stressful, your life will always be miserable. You have more “say-so” over your life than you think.

There are typically three ways we feel stress: the good stress (e.g. excitement, challenge, novelty), the intense stress known as acute (which is draining or even traumatic) and the ongoing and unforgiving stress known as chronic. The last two categories of stress are evil for the brain.

Why is that? (more…)