“Brain-based learning refers to teaching methods, lesson designs, and school programs that are based on the latest scientific research about how the brain learns, including such factors as cognitive development—how students learn differently as they age, grow, and mature socially, emotionally, and cognitively” (Great Schools Partnership, 2013). As a teacher, I try to create lessons that engage my students on both and emotional and cognitive level. I have to admit that it not a quick or easy endeavor and sometimes I fail miserably. I think that all teachers struggle to make their lessons engaging and I am definitely struggling with keeping my fourth-grade students engaged. As Jensen (2005) writes, “To the student’s brain, biologically relevant school stimuli include opportunities to make friends (or find mates), quench thirst or hunger, notice a change in the weather, or interact with classroom visitors. All the while, the student’s brain is concerned with avoiding the dangers of embarrassment, failure, or harm.” Added to these distractions, is the fact that many of my students come from low-income families. They have added worries like having enough food to eat and a stable home life. I agree with Jensen when he writes, “we do know for certain that the following extremes will not work:
- Focusing only on the basics (drill and kill).
- Maintaining order through a show of force.
- Eliminating or reducing time for arts, sports, and physical education.
- Increasing and intensifying classroom discipline.
- Decreasing interaction among students.
- Installing metal detectors.
- Delivering more heavy-handed top-down lectures.
Nor does it work to pity kids raised in poverty and assume that their background dooms them to failure” (Jensen, 2009). I have heard other teacher’s say at my school that because the students are low income, they can’t learn. It frustrates me when I hear that because I feel the opposite and I’m happy to say that my principal feels the same way. At my school, we do not give homework or have our students complete worksheets. Instead, we develop hands-on group and individual activities. I try to give my students choice in activities to allow for differentiation. I just started literature circles where table groups have each picked a book to read and discuss their book with each other both on their own and with me. As Dunn (2010) wrote, “All students come from different backgrounds, and will be able to share different ideas with the group. This gives students a chance to make many different connections at one time, and makes the information very meaningful. Socratic seminars are a different way to teach, leaving the discussion up to the students, instead of having the teacher ask questions in front of the room and students raise their hand if they’re daring enough to share an answer.” When they are finished with the book, they will come up with a project (either as a group, with a partner, or individually) about the book. I will give them ideas if they need assistance, but for the most part, I want them to design and create the project themselves. This is my first time having students complete a book reading in this way and I’m excited to see how my students do with it.
Dunn, B. (2010, May 27). 3 Techniques for Brain Based Differentiation. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from We Teach We Learn: http://www.weteachwelearn.org/2010/05/3-techniques-for-brain-based-differentiation/
Great Schools Partnership. (2013, August 29). Brain-Based Learning. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from The Glossary of Education Reform: http://edglossary.org/brain-based-learning/
Jensen, E. (2009). Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.
Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.