Monday, October 31, 2011

Brain-Based Learning: Guideline Nine

This is it! The final guideline under Dr. Sousa's "daily planning, general guidelines." When I started this series, I wondered if each guideline differed enough to warrant nine separate posts. I think they do.

The final guideline:

Each brain is unique.

Ahh, clearly the obvious. Obviously the simple truth all teachers and parents know. Each child and his/her brain is unique.

Everyone brings unique perspectives and different experiences to each lesson, making each response unique. The other day I posted on Facebook a cartoon about fairy tales. Everyone chimed in, but it turns out that the way everyone interpreted the cartoon largely depended on each experience of growing up with these cartoons - old Halloween costumes, their parents' reactions, etc. (Even adults forget this fact that tons of experiences form an outlook). It is overwhelming to think that students and children have so many different experiences.

Each brain is unique, and every building will be unique as well.

That is the "nurture" part that contributes to each brain being unique. I feel like science is now impressing facts in education, that leads to the idea - what about the physical part of each brain? How is each brain unique, physically - perhaps "nature"?

It could begin in-utero, when brains begin to form. The research is strong on what happens to early brains. Zero to Three covers everything from abuse to general experiences form the physical aspects of the brain. What food the parents feed the child contributes to brain development as well.

How do we separate the nurture and nature aspects of the brain? I think this is what brain-based learning is telling parents and teachers - they cannot be separated. Everything influences children's brains.

Which leads us to a challenging, scary, and important fact: if each brain is unique, each learning pattern is unique. As a parent, as a teacher, that makes my eyebrows go up. Rarely do I teach a lesson and feel I reached every student. I keep trying, being patient, explaining different ways - am I alone here?

I fear that I leave this brain-based learning series with more questions than answers. Each brain is unique, which is wonderful and what makes each student special. It also makes teaching and reaching each student that much more important. That is a tough order.

So, does brain-based learning impress you, or does it overwhelm you? What do you think now that we have covered it all?

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Brain-Based Learning: Guideline Eight

This week's educational theory is the sixth brain-based learning guideline according to Dr. Sousa: 

Practice does not make perfect.
That might sound odd, especially since the previous week's post was rehearsal is essential for retention. Before I started applying this guideline to my children and students, I wanted to read more because it sounds misleading.
On page 99 in How the Brain Learns, Dr. Sousa states that practice does make permanent, not perfect. Students should practice learning correctly from the beginning, and not have to relearn, which is difficult. With this, Sousa suggests that educators give guided practice, and then independent practice. 

This immediately jump to shoe-tying and buttoning skills that my four-year old works on. I wonder what happens when you cannot give the guided practice first. For example, he has seen me tie shoes thousands of times. He tries to cram the shoe lace together and wave his hands; I know he thinks this is what I do. It is probably what it looks like to him. 

Now that I am trying to teach him, I wonder if I am teaching someone who is practicing incorrectly and must relearn. In situations like that, is is even possible to change? Will children automatically have to relearn some things in life because they have preconceived notions of completion?

This also made me wonder about the noun-pronoun-adjective differentiation assignments some of my students struggle to learn. Those words can be used interchangeably which makes them confusing. Originally, I did guided practice before I let them practice independently. We are still going to practice more this week, because the grades could be better.

So here is my question: even if teachers/parents follow this brain-based learning suggestion, how do we ensure that students are practicing correctly? If it is troublesome to have them relearn, how do we ensure they practice right?  

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Switching Update

It's been three weeks since I switched back to being a teacher in a typical classroom and stopped being a SAHM. I hope the kinks are worked out in schedules and moods. The family had an adjustment period but I am hoping that is over. Smooth sailing, right?

Probably not. I have realized a few things during all these switches. I have learned that some things never change - working, SAHM, alone, with kids in tow. Here is what I know about myself, because some things just don't change:

1. I will never remember my reusable bags for the grocery store. If I do happen to remember them, I will leave them in the car when I go in the store or will have not brought enough. Miraculously if I bring them in the store and have enough, I will have forgotten the plastic bags to recycle. My grocery store trips, no matter how organized I want to be, will be messy.

2. I will never be a morning person. No matter how early I go to bed, I will hit snooze on the alarm clock. It also doesn't matter if small adorable people wake me, or an alarm clock does. I will be fine when I am actually up (and have coffee) but before then, I want to sleep.

Za will always dump out my purse, SAHM or not.

3. I will always read to my kids. If I am very tired from work, I still believe enjoying reading and having strong reading comprehension skills are the foundation for a good education. My voices may not be as enthusiastic as my former SAHM's character interpretations, but I will always read.

4. I will dread messy art projects. When I became a SAHM, I thought surely, I would not mind paint dripped on the floor and glue on the table. I did though, even though art projects were daily at our house. Then when I switched back to work, I thought surely, the kids would do fewer messy art projects and I would not mind picking up every once in awhile. Nope; even though I love my kids being creative and having fun, cleaning up art leftovers will always be a big sigh for me.

5. I will miss my kids like crazy no matter where I am. You know that quote that having kids is like having a part of you walk outside your body forever? That is how I feel. Even when I was a SAHM and went somewhere along, I wondered if they were getting along or having fun. I just think about them, working or not.

As I settle back into a working routine, I see the patterns that make me a mom, working or not. I hope my kids laugh some day that I will remember reusable grocery bags about the time I get out my money to pay or that I am always missing wayward streaks of glue on the kitchen table. It's nice to realize the mom characteristics that are me.