Bobby McFerrin is a singer and conductor known best for his 1988 hit song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. If you haven’t heard the song, go to YouTube or iTunes and listen to it. Pessimists dismiss the song as being “Pollyana” yet those more optimistic typically love the song. But let’s narrow this conversation down to your school and even the classroom. Which side is correct and which is actually better for student learning? You might be surprised at the answer…
Two game changing studies to report on. Each will answer the question about the “Be happy” effect. But the kind of happiness you’re feeling is what matters, because each type of happiness has a VERY different effect on your physical well-being and your genes.
To your brain, you feel happiness two different ways, producing two types of “happy.” The first is instant gratification from everything from eating great food, shopping, smelling awesome flowers, sex, entertainment and all other forms of “quick fun.” This is known as a “hedonic” experience, where a person seeks pleasure as the outcome.
The second type is different. With this type, pleasure is the by-product. It’s more of a joyful satisfaction, almost a deep smugness of pleasure. This type is called eudaimonic (pronounced “you – day – monic”). This kind of happiness comes NOT from consuming but from producing something. It comes from a sustained effort at working toward something bigger than you, seeking purposeful and meaningful goals. (more…)
Here is how to decide what music to play in your classroom to help with brain-based learning. While you could use an endless number of criteria, these are a good start. I recommend using an iPod with a Bose Sound Dock player. You get the best of all worlds.
1) State. What emotional state are you trying to elicit? Pay attention to what happens to your own body and mind as you listen to a song. Pay attention to the beats per minute (BPM). Songs in the 35- 50 BPM range will be more calming, while those in the middle 55-70 BPM will be more moderate for seatwork. For activities, the pace might be 70-100 and for energizers, maybe 100-160 BPM will REALLY rev it up.
The state is also the feelings you want to have within your students. When students complete an assignment, project or even a simple task, I want upbeat celebration music. When we are doing a class stretching or reflective writing, I want slower, uncluttered, calming music. When we are about to start out on a big task, I want inspirational, upbeat, even marching music. In short, use music as a second teacher in the classroom to support the mood.
2) Age of Listener. What generation am I working with? Stay within your generation! The way to decide is ask this simple question: If they’re adults, what music did they listen to in high school and college? If they’re age 14 or less, what are the current soundtracks to movies that are hot?
3) Type of Music. Do I use music with words or instrumentals only? In general, use words only if it’s for transitions, games that require them or special occasions. Most of the time, instrumentals are better. If you use only one kind of music you’re missing out on some great alternatives. (more…)
One teacher told me about her class. At the start of every school year she asks her young elementary level kids, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
One year a kid responded, “I wanna be like my daddy and be on welfare.” Some teachers would have rolled their eyes and thought, “How am I supposed to teach kids in poverty that have a home life like his?”
But this teacher refused to lower her goals or her standards for her kids. She does what high performing teachers often do.
Her strategy? What did she do?
The answer is, “Broaden the kid’s horizons and help him think bigger!” (more…)
That’s how one of my favorite TV commercials starts out. There’s a guy in a suit sitting on a low chair, with preschoolers seated around him. He asks questions like, “Which is better, faster or slower?” This month’s question is, “Which is better, more fun or less fun?”
The answer may surprise you!
You could have guessed that your students would say, “More fun!” Many teachers would answer, “Less fun, but better learning!”
So, which one is right?
Actually, you can get the best of both worlds. How? It’s time for the research. (more…)
When students attend an Eric Jensen event, the content is made compelling, memorable and engaging. Here’s a follow-up video on a recent training sent by Vickie Kaufman.
With countless teens struggling in school, the stakes are higher than every before.
Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain offers teachers research-based and classroom-tested strategies that prove every student (no matter what their past experience) can learn and succeed, if you know how to do it. This new book shows you how to do.
Education experts Eric Jensen and Carole Snider reveal one powerful tool after another to help teachers, parents and support staff be the real difference-makers in their student’s lives. Drawing on cutting-edge science, this breakthrough book outlines the core mindsets and actionable strategies that are needed to increase student effort, build attitudes, and improve behaviors.
Step by step, teachers can learn how to tap into a student’s internal motivation to help them become determined learners. The authors also offer guidelines on how and when to use “workarounds” or lasting interventions that rely on the “rules” of how the brain changes. In addition, the authors include vital information on the role of nutrition, exercise, and life balance on academic achievement.
From the very first chapter, to the final page, you’ll find solutions to many of your toughest challenges so they can become become excited, lifelong learners.
Praise for Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain
“I highly recommend this book for all secondary educators. Jensen and Snider have written a teacher-friendly book filled with proactive strategies to reclaim struggling students.” —Dr. Sheryl Feinstein, Department Chair, Education, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD; author, Secrets of the Teenage Brain
Eric Jensen, CEO of Jensen Learning, is a former teacher and cofounder of SuperCamp, the nation’s most innovative and largest academic enrichment program. He is the author of numerous popular books about teaching and brain-based education, including Teaching With Poverty in Mind (ASCD) and Enriching the Brain (Jossey-Bass).
Carole Snider is a former teacher and school counselor. She serves on the state governing board for Ohio school counselors, is an adjunct professor, and recently authored the graduate course, Succeeding with Students of Poverty.
This book clearly shows you how to succeed with teens. Research, background and classroom-tested strategies you can use immediately.
This is the book that gives you immediate tools, right away.
164 pages of inspiring ideas, inspiring stories and focused strategies.
You can purchase the book at Amazon by clicking here. Kindle version available now.
Our featured “Extreme School” is one of the nation’s largest Title 1 elementary schools in the country. At one time, it had 2,000 students. Today, the district helped reduce the student load to “only” 1,000 students. Many of the students come from a community of poor and immigrant families. Almost none speak English when they arrive.
How does this school perform?
THE CHALLENGES TO SUCCESS:
The two biggest challenges for academic success are: 1) poverty and 2) non- English speaking students. This school has BOTH issues. Most of the school’s nearly 1,000 students come from immigrant Central American and Korean families. The data shows over 90 percent of the students were living below the poverty level, and ALL were from immigrant families, with a language other than English as a first language. You think your school has ELL issues? This school would rank right up near the top in ALL challenges.
If this were your school, how would you react? Would you find another school to work at, one less challenging? Or, could you honestly say you would do everything possible to make miracles happen at this school? After all, teaching is easy. Teaching well is hard.
HOW DID THEY MAKE MIRACLES HAPPEN?
The story is about one amazing Title 1 teacher who made a difference in the entire school. He changed the culture and changed the lives of thousands along the way.
Today, the school staff is not perfect, but pretty amazing. First, the staff knows there are no excuses for underperforming students. The staff KNOWS that every kid can achieve.
How do they know that? (more…)
For some, a new school year will start this month. If not, this message is just as important to you. I’ll address the importance of the “impossible” in your job, in students and in schools. This post is about impossibility, expectancy, student predictions, high goals and of course, the brain.
But first, I begin with a true story…
A few years ago, Diane and I hired a handyman to replace a cluster of smaller windows with a bigger window. We knew the bigger dining room window would help us enjoy the view more and we reconnected with a trusted guy (Martin) who had done work for us before. After he took out the old windows and prepped the area for the installation of the big new picture window, the main event was about to happen. Only one problem, though…the new window was going in on the second floor and it was too big to take through the house and up the stairs to the second floor. This meant the heavy 6’ x 6’ glass window had to be brought up on the outside. (more…)
Let’s focus on how to prevent or reduce the effects of cognitive decline. This issue may apply to a family member, or even yourself. After all, every 68 seconds another American is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it’s a cold, cruel way to die.
When our thinking and memory capacity becomes diminished (by a stroke, trauma, aging or Alzheimer’s) we begin to lose our sense of self and we frustrate those around us. The good news is that there are some well-researched approaches that can make dramatic differences in brain health. The first thing you can do is… (more…)
I am embarrassed to say that I am as guilty as a convicted felon.
As a former middle school teacher, I often used the phrase, “Pay attention!” Now you hear me telling you to never, ever say that.
Why? It seems innocent enough.
Well, first of all, it’s terrible teaching. It’s NOT at all “brain-based teaching.” In fact, it’s one more example of why many kids learn to dislike school more, every year they go. First graders are so pumped up, but by the time some kids make it to their last year in school, they’ve learned that school is not for them. If we do not count the high school certificates and equivalencies, only 70% of our nation’s kids graduate overall. The rates for Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americans are under 50% in most areas of the US.
If we do not count the high school certificates and equivalencies, only 70% of our nation’s kids graduate overall. The rates for Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americans are under 50% in most areas of the US.
If you think you know brain-based teaching, there’s a lot to learn! But, now that I’ve “taken away” from you one of the most commonly used attention-getters (“Pay attention!’), what should you do instead?
I’m glad you asked… I just happen to have the answer…
You’re driving over to a friend’s house. But it’s the first time and you’re looking for street signs. You slow down to a crawl, turn down the music, stop talking, and stare at every sign. Why is that? Neither the music nor talking affects your vision. Or, do they?
YES! They all demand resources.
When kids pay attention, they focus better, learn and remember more.
First, paying attention protects the quality of working memory (Jie Huang, J. and Sekuler, R. (2010) and Zanto, T. and Gazzaley, A. (2009) This is critical because working memory is the DRIVER of cognition. WHAT? Here’s an example: try to remember yourself solving a problem at the same time you are asked to meet new people. Working memory and attention are co-factors in the learning process. And, both are teachable.
Second, the ability to pay attention is regulated by many factors. For example, there are sex differences in sustained attention, and they are task specific (Dittmar et al. 1993). Your frontal lobes are highly susceptible to stress (Galinsky et al. 1993), emotions (Dolcos, F. and McCarthy, G.), training and caffeine (Smith, et al. 2003). But the key thing is that attentional skills are not random. We can “train” our own brain through mindfulness practice, playing musical instruments, martial arts, reading, meditation and writing.
Finally, when we “pay” attention voluntarily, our brain is more likely to encode and remember the information (Kilgard, M., & Merzenich, M., 1998). Our goals direct our brain to activate acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter for formation of memory) via pathways such as the nucleus basalis. So, why stop telling kids to pay attention? (more…)