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? 

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