The newest underperformers at school are…

brain based ideas and tips

The newest underperformers at your school might be… are you ready to be surprised?

This post is about something quite controversial. In fact, it’s so controversial that many of you will be upset and send me emails, telling me I am wrong. But, the way I see it, I am the messenger of the truth. I don’t make up the facts.

Here is an inside story of the most ignored population at your school and 3 simple things you can do to improve the situation… (more…)

6 Quick Brain-Based Teaching Strategies

So many teachers want the quick strategies they can use the very next day. Unfortunately, many of those are just more of the same. Sometimes what makes a strategy work (or not work) is HOW the teacher “sets up” the activity. Other times it works because of the timing or the environmental factors.

In short, it not about just the strategy. But for a moment, let’s say, you’ve already taken one of my amazing multi-day brain-based courses. The following might be good for a quick reminder:

1. The saying “too much, too fast,” means we won’t integrate and recall the information if you teach is quickly. Instead, chunk down the learning into small chunks; allow processing and settling time with partners or as reflective journal time.

2. Because every brain is different—genes + experience, plus the interplay between the two, recall the importance of honoring uniqueness, respecting differences. That means use huge variety to maximize learning. Use visual, with illustrations, and podcasts and DVDs. Then use movement with drama, hands on and energizers. Also use plenty of call-response with partner dialogs.

3. Most subjects can be learned under moderate stress; think of it as “healthy concern.” To ramp that up, use constant accountability. After every learning chunk, have kids create a quiz question, stand up, quiz their neighbor or create a short quiz of 10 questions. Use teams, peer pressure and deadlines to add concern. Remember the material better with an emotion embedded with it. After the quiz, celebrate the progress.

4. Thinking about thinking builds learning skills as active processing time. Add the process of journaling, discussion and learning logs valuable for better learning. Give students starter sentences such as “What I was curious (or stressed over) about today was”… Or, “What I learned today was… and, the way I learned it best was when I.” Until patterns emerge, learning is often random and messy, following no clear path over time, the patterns become more obvious. Pattern making is more complex in second languages like math and music.

5. Remember the value in non-learning or “settling” time, to consolidate the content. Take breaks, recess, lunch, relax time, walks, for passive processing. Even a quick energizer that’s fun and playful can be a good break.

6. Our brain can memorize, but our best learning is the trial & error learning; it’s a key to complex learning–there’s value in games done well, so use games, computers, competition, building, initiatives, etc. Games like hopscotch, relays, or just let kids quiz each other. Brains rarely get it right the first time—learning complexity is built over time Using checklists, peer teaching, computers, asking Qs, are all examples of using trial and error.

Brain-Based Learning Resources

Brain-Based Teaching Resources

Creative Commons License photo credit: :Bron:

Also read Working memory

Seven Changes You Can Make to Save Your Life and Possibly Beat Cancer

Life Strategies to beat cancer

Annual Updated Health Issue:

Below you’ll find seven changes you can make to save your life or extend it! You may be concerned about the “big two” killers of cancer and Alzheimer’s. We’ll focus on cancer and the our next post will be (again) on Alzheimer’s.

By the way, every year these suggestions get so many rave reviews that they are re-sent, forwarded and “re-gifted.” Feel free to do so this year, as well.

The first change will reduce your risk of cancer. A recent study shows that… (more…)

Eric Jensen’s Extreme Schools: How Miracles Happen


This is an update on an “Extreme School” in Los Angeles County, California. Not long ago, this high K-5 poverty school had neighborhood drug dealers coming ON CAMPUS. The outside aesthetics of the school were deplorable, with deteriorating buildings. The district rates schools (academically) on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 as highest). This school was a “1” out of ten (the lowest possible ranking.

RESULTS? Today, it is the envy of the school district! What did they do and how did it turn out? Are you ready for another miracle? (more…)

Your Students’ Number One Life Skill

top skill students need

The Top Choice Every Effective Educator Already Uses — Do You?

Over the years, student behaviors which do or don’t contribute to success (habits, effort, attitude, etc.) have been called many things. Some refer to these attributes as their personality or even character. But what really drives success?

There’s one skill that’s absolutely critical for both students and, yes, staff, too. This research may surprise you because it deals with one of your brain’s “automated” systems. The number one school success survival skill is… (more…)

Rule of the Thirds – Professional Development Secrets

teacher workshops

You might be like many who organize professional development. You are experienced, thoughtful and very, very busy.

So what is the “Rule of Thirds?”It’s the biggest little secret in education. There are three BIG thirds in professional development (PD).

The first third of the three comes from the circumstances of the actual professional development day. I am shocked at how often someone asks me to fly 5,000 miles to his or her school and yet there’s a terrible microphone, poor seating and abominable lighting. Some “providers” ensure there are plenty of donuts, as if that would optimize staff learning. Others give me a screen 6′ x 6′ for 500 people. That’s like watching a movie in your living room on an iPod. Instead get a 10 x 10′ screen!

Over the years, I have been asked to speak in a movie theater, a bar, a library, a lunchroom and, even a racetrack. A cheap or free venue is NOT a bargain if the staff has a bad day. Now you should know that I am good at working miracles with whatever someone gives me, but why take risks if you don’t have to?

The first third of the three parts is: optimize learning conditions!

The second third of the value in professional development comes from having a relevant, high quality, and very engaging presenter. That’s right: 33% of the value from any professional development that comes from the caliber of presenter. By the way, those who hire me say that I consistently get “rave” reviews. I will always do my best to be the best you can get.

The third of three thirds comes from the follow up. Every teacher needs to have weekly or monthly “check-ins” that jump-start the changes. Teachers are busy and sometimes stressed. In fact, they are so busy, that you practically have to “get in their face” to get them to do something out of the ordinary. Without adequate follow up, you are getting only one third of the potential value.

Follow up should be 1) book study 2) professional learning communities 3) weekly emails 4) teachers blogging about the strategies they use 5) short weekly staff meetings with quick sharing and celebrations.

Without those three BIG qualities, you have little chance. But now that you know better, see what you can do to make it happen.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Wesley Fryer

Secrets to Ramping up Student Effort:

The 10 Step Checklist Every Teacher Should Memorize.

Brain based

Over the years, student effort has been called many things. Some call it “motivation” and others call it “work ethic.” But no matter what you call it, students will never rise to their full potential without a strong effort. Here is what research tells us and how you can get the most out of your students. First…

The Research

Here is what research tells us about student effort. Effort can be internally generated (habits of mind, content knowledge, muscle memory, skills and intrinsic motivation) or it can be extrinsic (peers, novelty, rewards, etc.) There are three primary sources of effort and the first two sources are internal. (more…)

From Lowest Performing to “Extreme School” Success

Blackburn School Florida

There are 1,862 elementary schools in the state of Florida. We are featuring another “Extreme School” and its name is Blackburn Elementary. Last year, it was one the lowest performing (5%) elementary schools in the state (one of the VERY, VERY lowest).

Now, when we see schools struggle like this, there are many possibilities. First, we can debunk the most commonly mentioned myths about low-performing schools…

First, we can debunk the most commonly mentioned myths about low-performing schools. Which of these 4 possibilities is actually correct?

Possibility #1: Most all of the kids share some common genetic defect, which prevents them from succeeding at school.

Possibility #2: There is something in the air, water, plants or food in this zip code which is hurting the cognitive ability of the students.

Possibility #3: The parents don’t care about education or their IQ is low, so therefore the kids can’t learn.

Possibility #4: The staff of the school can influence achievement by making some changes.

I am guessing you picked #4, which is correct. I have often shared success stories of schools, so you could see the end “product” worthy of high-fives. But, this month is different. I thought you might be interested in the process itself. In other words, how are the principal and the staff mapping out the changes to build a successful school?

BACKGROUND: This school was the winner of the “Extreme School” prize in early 2013. They were a struggling, very low-performing school. I presented to this staff in August 2013. This is a progress report after five months.


Before her school enjoyed the “Complimentary Staff Development Day”, Principal Kathy Redmond began sharing a clear and compelling vision of success with her staff. The bar was set sky high and she started by “seeding” the faculty with a new vision for the school.

By August 12, 2013 the following had happened:

1) A school team of eight attended the 2012 Poverty workshop.

2) The principal spent extra time observing her staff during the 2012/13 school year to help her make better decisions about staffing for the following year. Then she worked with school leadership to develop a tentative school improvement plan.

3) She got the state test score data and assembled it in a user-friendly format for her staff. She looked at student data carefully, and then they had a faculty meeting to review the data.

4) Her school was the random winner of the “Extreme School” contest.

5) Three months prior to my August presentation she held a telephone conference call with four of her staff and myself (Eric). Goals were set and staff were getting on board.

6) Summer arrived and the principal had decisions to make regarding whether to renew each teacher’s contract. Several staff (who had been quite hostile to change and thought “those kids” couldn’t learn) were not renewed for 2013-14.

7) Book study time: the staff read the book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind, so the groundwork was laid prior to my visit.

8) Then, after all of this preparation, I arrived in August. The staff members were excited and ready to launch their plan. All I had to do was to steer them in the right direction and provide the missing strategies.

RESULTS? What is going on at the moment, 4 months after the “official launch” of the new school identity? I will let the principal, Kathy, give the update in her own words…

“It has been fantastic!”

“During the week that you (Eric) were here, we continued to build momentum.  We did several significant things… one, while working on our staff core values, a conversation evolved and our “Gaudy Goals” were brought up.

One of our leadership team members, at her table, suggested that we build core values that would drive us to become world famous.  Her group shared her idea and it has completely stuck.  We have shared it with parents, students and I even went on our local news declaring that our school will be world famous.  Of course, the superintendent, who was present during the interview, just smiled… and other district leaders think I’m crazy… but you know what, Eric? I’m not crazy. We ARE going to be world famous for the huge turn around we are going to make at this school!

And two, our second significant move that first week was creating a list of our most significant learning’s from our work with you…. and the purpose of the list is to put it in front of us as we do all of our work (especially our problem solving work) as we improve our instruction.  We now have a “Working Memory Activities” blog on our staff website.  I have added several of our learnings to the Prof. Learning portion of our school’s “Walk-Through” feedback form.  I have also added working memory activities as part of our lesson plan checklist.  Our monthly faculty meetings are going to have a short (less than 10 min. segment) on working memory activities.

Progress?  While working on our school improvement plan, we listed barriers to some of our goals (which we turned into Gaudy Goals… I can’t wait to explain that to our Florida DOE Differentiated Accountability Team!).  We identified the barriers we have no control over… like “that our kids get no support at home”… and “our kids come to us so low” and we cut those statements off the chart and I made a big deal about shoving them through a shredder.  We really have left those excuses behind…” (Principal Kathy Redmond).

(Eric speaking here). You and I know that it’s only a start… but it’s a GREAT start. There is, of course, no data at the moment, but this is the kind of excitement and momentum it will take to turn the school around. We will keep you posted on the progress. Remember this school is starting out at the bottom 5% of academic scores (among 1,862 K-5 public schools in the state). Let’s give it a bit of time before we check back in again.


Now, you’ve read about another “Extreme School” success story, and we have a question for you. What can you learn from the true story mentioned above? The only good that happens in this world is when you move things from inside your brain to the outside world. What ideas, principles or strategies were affirmed, OR, what was new to you? Could this be a topic of discussion at your next staff meeting?

Miracles do happen every day. Are you ready to be one of them?

FINALLY: If your Title 1 school has an “Extreme School” story to tell (whether you are near the bottom or the top) please email me your story to: In the subject line, put “Extreme School” story. Thanks.

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen
CEO, Jensen Learning
Brain-Based Education

How To Live While You’re Alive

Relecting on the past

Most, but not all, have regrets as they age. People wish they would have done things differently as they look back at their life. Seniors often look at broken marriages and say, “If only…” Many look at bad decisions and wish they could get an “instant replay” or second chance.  I thought it might be productive to ask someone who has heard from hundreds of people (both young and old).

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, Bronnie Ware heard the same five common themes over and over and over. (Excerpted from the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware).

After you read them, ask yourself, “Is there anything (at all) in my life that I truly regret?” And secondly, “Is there anything that I can do now, in the next days, weeks or months, to make my life full, complete and satisfying.

After all, we don’t always die according to our own plan. Well, here they are, all five regrets. (more…)

Can the Holidays Lower Our IQ?

Brain Basd Learning

For some, the holidays are quite stressful.  I’ll introduce you to an important concept that has a dramatic affect on your life. In fact, this concept can literally make you smarter (or dumber) and even dictate job success.

You’ll learn why this occurs, and what you can do to reduce the problem. Plus, I’ll make connections for your kids in school. The concept is grounded scientifically and I’ll show you the evidence. In fact, people joke about this concept all the time. They just don’t know that it’s actually REAL. The mind-blowing concept that can change your life (and raise student achievement) is… (more…)