Brain Friendly Learning

I was starting to get concerned about my gray matter after reading this article; so was very interested in Ginny Washburne’s Brain Friendly ideas.

In a nutshell, our brains absorb information better when we’re happy and active. Our brains are resilient and are all different, however there are many strategies included from Ginny’s DENSI2012 talk that you can use to use to activate those 50-200+ brains you work with daily.

My notes from July below:


positive = endorphins — negative = cortisol
emotional intelligence is equally important to IQ
strategies – goal setting; create a culture of learning, give hope, empathic listening, growth mindset, “you matter”, choice, at my school we Capturing Kids Hearts as a way to build positive relationships.
Angela Myers “You Matter” look up Ted Talk
use paper slide videos for goal setting

Establish “Buy in” with students

Start with Why – look for Ted Talk – Simon Sinek
to get learning into long term memory – meaning always trumps sense (we’ll memorize, but it has to mean something to remember)
Diana Laufenberg – world of 100 – blog activity
use framing (hook, story), enthusiasm, build mystery in a topic, “bigger kid” challenge, meaning (use authentic problems)

Movement & Brain BreaksBDNF – look into this
Eric Jensen – learning with the brain in mind – 12-15 min in middle school most time without movement loved! rock paper scissors math
kinesthetic lectures – let students move around and then reflect after the thoughts processed during movement

Play – using the right side of the brain

“What we describe in ‘A New Culture of ]Learning’ is learning driven by the relentless pace of change. It takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded yet provide complete freedom of action within those boundaries. This familiar dynamic, in fact, structures all our contemporary notions of play, games, and imagination. Play can be defined as the tension between the rules of the game and the freedom to act within those rules. But when play happens within a medium for learning—much like a culture in a petri dish—it creates a context in which information, ideas, and passions grow. Play, questioning, and imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning. They have a tremendous effect on, and resonance with, learning today. And where imaginations play, learning happens.”
—Douglas Thomas, co-author (with John Seely Brown), “A New Culture of Learning”; associate professor, University of Southern California in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
teach with tournaments – look up
use: gaming, virtual labs, experiments, stations, project based learning, digital storytelling (paper slide videos)

Feedback – during the learning process, is the single most powerful tool to enhance learning.
teacher, self, peer, community (****ask 3 then me – great idea)

Thank you Ginny!


Consider How We Teach

This time of year used to be an exciting time not just because the school year is coming to an end.  For many years, the last few weeks of school has been the window of opportunity in the school year when teachers can enjoy hands-on activities with creative thinking strategies and problem solving because the drill and kill time for testing is complete.  It is not to say that is the right way for things to happen but it does happen.  The students and teachers finally experience the pure joy of teaching and learning with little time left in the year.

Unfortunately, I am seeing even less of the joyous moments.  I’m afraid two things are happening.  One, the students find creative thinking and problem solving so foreign after so much two dimensional learning.  Or two, the teachers and students are so burned out they have forgotten that there should be joy in inquiry.

Watch Randy Wilhelm’s “Ignite the Hope of Learning” TEDx clip. (also embedded below)  I agree with his assessment that in many cases schools have stopped making learning real for children.  To “know” S’mores, you have to MAKE and EAT them.  Even in places where there has been innovative change, there is a real struggle not to teach to the test in flat, one or two dimensional terms.  I ache to see that change.