Sunday, April 19, 2009

Brain compatible instructional strategies

Last month I signed up for and attended a webinar on Brain compatible instructional strategies. Before I post my rough notes, I want to point out a blog post from my reader. It is a list we have mostly seen before but you have to love that a neurologist turned middle school teacher is the writer (and the fact that she claims teaching is more difficult than brain surgery.) Enjoy her thoughts here.

Thoughts and discussions from the webinar on 3/19/09 (any thoughts of mine are in bold):
  • Are the activities that we do enhance the social, intellectual, and emotional well being?
  • Emotion is the gatekeeper to performance
  • Intelligence is a function of performance
  • There are multiple ways to demonstrate intelligence
  • Learning is a 2 step process
  • This is our goal for the year - what do you take away from this class. What is it about your subject that gives you the greatest pleasure? What I love about my subject is the interconnectedness that brings greater understanding and clarity of life and the earth. The identity with process makes me marvel at the complexity and beauty of life itself.
  • Life in school is constantly start and stop. Agreed. It was sad when block scheduling did not pass in our district. I am all for team taught interdisciplinary blocks with just 3 subjects per semester.
  • Have lost context while chasing content. How do we change minds about the content?
  • Remove items and people in the room to reduce the sensory input. Need a filter system to keep them focused. Today's students are too engaged. She made a point of removing extraneous things in the room (poster, etc.) and only keeping with the theme of the teaching for the day or unit. Find this interesting. A bulletin board specifically engaging with thoughts and items on that unit of study that is thought provoking.
  • Brain compatible elements
  1. absence of threat, nurturing
  2. meaningful content - this year we reduced the extraneous material to the important information learned deeply
  3. movement to enhance
  4. choices - as much as we could we would let material be expressed in their choice of format but can still improve on that
  5. adequate time - tough to do in 43 minutes and with so many standards in biology. I am really thinking of eliminating dissections from biology to free up time
  6. immediate feedback - not next day, same day - we are still next day as class time too short, but worked on a massive amount of formative assessment. We also used checklists for information learned and verbally check student knowledge (best for dissections)
  7. collaboration - tried many forms with more resistance this year than last. Last collaborations have been on gathering data only
  8. mastery - Of all the changes we have made, this I like the best. The assignments are tougher as we are looking at critical thinking and process skills. Because of this, answers that are not on the mark are given driving questions and students have the opportunity for re-do in order to improve upon knowledge and consequently grades
  • mirror neurons - montessori - explicit modeling and behavior
  • use a theme in a day
  • teach kids to move
  • in order to make any right decisions that impact future, science is the most important - she suggests that all subjects should center around science. For example, English should be taught around the reading of science, history can be framed in science (really it is when you think about it). Places like the Science Leadership Academy in Phila. is centered around this philosophy
  • While we are reading, we are not learning content. Start by not reading fiction. Read non-fiction and learn something. We don't read non-fiction and then listen to others about what they believe - Excellent point. Students spend so much time on non-fiction and then learn about what impacts their lives from the ideas of others in the news, community, etc. Students need to make meaning for themselves and can only do that through interacting deeply (reading and questioning) with the material. How do you make reading for understanding integral AS MOST STUDENTS DO NOT LIKE OR WANT TO DO THIS ON THEIR OWN
  • Is it correct, is it complete, is it comprehensive - does it have a mental range of grasp.
  • Create a common playing field for all students
  • Need as much hands on and going places to activate the maximum numbers of senses for learning.
  • Homework would be : what would you ask the character if you could? Where else could this story be found? Regurgitating back facts is not homework. That is excellent. Especially in the harder topics, we kept the easy stuff as group work and activities and the synthesis and analysis as homework with plenty of time to ask questions for clarification
  • Immersion wall that has the focus of what you will be doing. What is the goal. What is the wow of what we are going to do? This can be done for every unit and would be a great map of where we are in our journey of understanding.
  • mastery - How do we get them there? What is the target? How can they use it in an everyday situation? Have them describe where they use it outside of school.
This webinar gave me plenty to think about. The profession of education is much like that of other professions. They are practices. Some basics stay the same, but as we learn more about learning, we need to absorb more ideas into our practice.

tags: Brain compatible instruction

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