Sunday, July 31, 2011

Brain-Based Learning: Guideline Three

Cherish your own emotions and never undervalue them. 
-Robert Henri

The third guideline concerning brain based learning is: emotions affect all aspects of learning, retention, and recall.

Who can forget first heartbreak, or fight with a best friend? What about your marriage proposal, or walk down the aisle? (I just had my wedding anniversary, can you tell?) I remember car wrecks, the day my children were born, and they day I moved into my house. All of these memories have incredibly strong emotions tied to them, good and bad. I remember them so clearly.

I can also remember vividly reading The Great Gatsby, loving every bit of it, and crying when the title character died. Why do I remember it so well? I was angry at times, cried at other times, and laughed during most of the reading. I remember it because I have emotions tied to it. Some of those emotions were already on my personal surface, and the story just intensified them.

You get the point.

Understanding this guideline, we can help our children learn better if we tie information in with an emotion. That is why teachers have students journal - so they can connect what they study to their lives and make it personal.

It is also probably why I disliked math class so much. Math to me meant that I would be in trouble later, and my parents would frown at how slow I was learning the material.

This brain based learning guideline needn't be negative though. We only need to be aware that it can be, and then avoid that. Think about our children and what they hold emotions to: pets, parents, friends, toys, books, cartoon characters, their house. Connect the emotions your child feels with those positive concepts to their learning.

This message is so simple and powerful, it needs little explanation or example from me. Parents do this already. Have you ever said to your child, "this is like... remember when you..."? You were connecting new material to an emotion.

I guarantee you have done this with your child. In what way? When did you use emotion to help with learning, retention, and recall?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Brain Based Learning: Guideline Two

I think I did this more at certain times in my life than others. Does that mean I was trying to figure life out more?

The second guideline concerning brain based learning states: the human brain seeks patterns in its search for meaning.

I saw this proven true in the classroom most often when I taught parts of sentence. A sentence normally follows this pattern:

subject + verb + direct object

This sentence follows that pattern:

Sally bought ice-cream.

Who is the sentence about? Sally - subject
What is Sally doing? buying - verb
What did Sally buy? ice-cream - direct object

So when I would add a dependent clause or phrase to a sentence, my students wouldn't like it. The sentence had other parts, other components that threw off their pattern. See?

Hungry for sweets, Sally bought ice-cream at the store because she was smart. 

Students like habits, familiarity, or patterns. Students (all humans) like knowing expectations, what's coming next, as in the cliche "creatures of habit" proves.

I see my preschool child seek patterns. He does when he assembles puzzles. He likes to sort pieces that are straight and build an edge and then fill in the middle pieces. One time he received an odd-shaped puzzle, shaped like an ocean wave, that really had no straight pieces. He didn't like doing it initially, because he was looking for a pattern.

If our brain seeks pattenrs, how can we put that knowledge to use in our everyday lives?

Preschool: When getting ready for the school day, connect this routine to prior knowledge, like getting ready to eat dinner. They both follow a pattern:

  • Wash up (for the day or for dinner)
  • Get material ready (for school or setting the dinner table)
  • Eat (breakfast or dinner)
  • Clean up (ready for the day or get ready for bed)

Elementary: Reading includes tons of patterns.

  • Sentence "shapes" or syntax
  • Repetitive words
  • Rhyming 

Middle School: As students advance in reading, find patterns in short stories.

  • Elements of suspense
  • Familiar plot diagrams
  • Presentations of protagonists/antagonists

High School: Students should have developed process that works for them that apply to other situations in life, like the writing process. Take getting ready for an extracurricular activity and apply to writing a paper.

Prewriting (deciding what to wear, eat)
Drafting (laying everything out together)
Revising (packing and settling it into a bag)
Editing (double checking supplies)
Publishing (taking the bag to school for after school practice)

What stage interests you? What other situations apply to the human brain seeking out patterns? 

Photo Credit One
Photo Credit Two

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Repeating Myself: What Does It Matter?

I repeat myself simply an uncountable amount of times each day. What do I repeat? Probably the same things moms have been repeating since the start of moms and babies.
  • Say "please."
  • Don't push.
  • Pick up your mess.
  • Use your spoon, not your fingers.
  • Don't wipe your mouth on your shirt.
Don't put excess of 100 stickers on your arm. They will end up on the carpet.

And I am massively aware that repeating negative comments is less productive than repeating positive ones. I repeat those too.
  • Thanks for throwing the trash away.
  • I like it when you share with your sister.
  • You picked up all your toys!
  • I am proud how you behaved in the restaurant.
  • It is nice to play a game with you!

These life instructions are more than corrections or reinforcements, they are an example of how to treat other people. When I teach outside the home (I do still teach, just way less now) and I hear a student say to another, "Why did you do that? That is dumb," (or worse, way worse) I can't help but wonder if that is the example they overwhelmingly grew up hearing. I want to believe they grew up hearing it even though that is incredibly sad. The alternative is even sadder: they just speak like that, even though that was not their life example. As a parent, I cannot imagine that last scenario. It is too scary.

I know research is on my side. "Be a role model" and "set a positive example" are mantras repeated in college education courses.

So I keep plugging ahead, speaking positively, nicely trying to set a good example, even though I fear it is for naught.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SAHM Life: Ways My Kids Hurt Me

In no particular order, here are ways my children physically harm me. Believe me, this is list is probably not exhaustive! Feel free to add more in the comments.

  1. Stand on my feet while wearing shoes.
  2. Sit on my lap, dig their bare little feet into my skin, and twist.
  3. Poke my eyes, nose, and gums with their bony fingers.
  4. "Fix" my hair.
  5. Sneak into my bed at night, sleep on my arm while I am sleeping so it falls asleep and I don't notice it. I then awake to an arm without circulation, past the "needles and pins" stage of being "asleep."
  6. Throw arms out and backhand my face.
  7. Hit their heads into my nose while sitting on my lap.
  8. Jump on my back, wrap their arms around my neck, and squeeze.
  9. Bang a utensil on the table, where my hand happens to be resting.
  10. "Look" at my earrings.

And I love every part of them, every minute down deep, because I know the days of them fitting on my lap are limited.

Photo Credit

Monday, July 18, 2011

Brain Based Learning: Guideline One

Is this why I struggled in math?

Almost two years ago I introduced a series on brain based-learning. Brain-based learning is an educational theory. This theory puts forward that learning can be enhanced when teachers/parents understand the brain's functioning, and apply such knowledge when teaching.

The presentations in textbooks and websites differ concerning guidelines. In my previous exploration (I struggle to believe that was two years ago!) I wrote about principles. This series will focus on general guidelines presented by Dr. David A. Sousa.

The first guideline states: Learning engages the entire person (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains).

Before I continue, let me explain this teacher-talk. It isn't hard at all:

Cognitive: Relates to the ways a person learns, based on his experiences.

Affective: Relates to the ways people express feelings.

Psychomotor: Relates to a response dealing with physical and psychological parts.

The cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains are activated at science fairs.

You probably apply this guideline when working with your children everyday. Math lessons are often thought not to consider the entire person, as are grammar lessons.

Here are some examples of ways to apply this guideline for different ages.

Preschool: Apples
  • Talk about different colors.
  • Taste the apple. Decide if you like it or not.
  • Feel the apple and describe its texture.
  • Cut it and look at the seeds.
Elementary: Planets
  • Read about the planets.
  • Look at a poster or pictures of the planets.
  • Make a model of the system. Let your child arrange them and hang them.
  • Examine different sizes and colors. 

Middle School: Magnets
  • Work with magnets (play with them).
  • Read about their positive and negative fields.
  • Look at their properties and definitions.
  • Examine ways magnets are used in life - like on construction sites.

High School: Reviewing a novel
  • Read portions aloud. Have students reread with you or listen.
  • Have students read reread portions alone.
  • Have students take notes on characters, symbols, or themes. (Give them something specific to map. Maybe use a graphic organizer).
  • Plot the story as you review. 
  • Write a paragraph relating the connection of the story to your child's life.
Like I always believe, parents typically engage their children in these types of activities. They are entertaining and students like them. New research shows us why students enjoy learning this way - they actually learn more and better!

Photo Credit One Photo Credit Two

Friday, July 15, 2011

Education Blogs

I have come across amazing, passionate blog writers since I've been creating Switching Classrooms.  I've decided to make a list of blogs that are great for educators and parents focused on education. This list is not exhaustive, but is only a handful. I also received no compensation for this. It is my honest opinion, as always. :)

Room to Grow: Making Early Childhood Count focuses on exposing children to literature.

Me and Marie Learning features preschool ideas. She also has printables!

Me and Marie Learning 

Itsy Bitsy Learners focuses on young learners. It has awesome free printables and even more very fairly priced ones.

Teach Mama empowers parents by giving them simple tools and resources. I have worked with the lady behind Teach Mama for years now, and she is passionate about all things educational.

A Mommy Talks is about learning with children, written by a SAHM. I have also been a fan of this page for quite a bit, for obvious reasons. She is a teacher switching to life as a SAHM. Yep, when she writes something and I sure understand what she means!

 A Mommy Talks

Giving Up On A Clean House not only has a cool name and one in which I can relate, but it also has great activities to do with young kids. 

This Reading Mama blogs about literacy, specifically what to do after you child knows his ABCs.

Naturally Educational covers activities and books, but also issues in education.

The Activity Mom gives practicable and realistic scenarios for parents to use with their children. Again, I have followed this blog for years as well.

Literacy Toolbox gives solid advice about literacy. Not only do you get help, you get suggestions about books. (I never know about childhood books-I just buy from the store or borrow from the library. This helps somebody like me).

So there you have it. Other teachers and parents in blog-land that provide wonderful resources for those in education-land. I will try to do another list like this soon, as this does not list all the wonderful blogs I have found these past few years.