TL Standard 2

TL Standard 2

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed all of the assigned online articles and readings from our required books Brain Matters, Jossey Bass and Brain Rules for this quarter. There are so many important pieces that go into teaching and education. Before this class, I feel that I was always focused on the curriculum as well as supplementing that curriculum to give my students the best education I possibly could. Now, I feel that my original focal point is shared with a new, additional component. I am not only focused on those aspects of the teaching field regarding curriculum, but now, I am focusing more on best practices. These best practices are based on solid research regarding how students learn and retain information.

Both Brain Matters and Jossey Bass do a wonderful job explaining the brain. These two texts covered a lot of similar information such as; the structure and functions of the human brain, the development of the brain, sensory input, information storage and how the brain learns best. As an educator, I was able to take away and apply many pieces of these books into my classroom immediately. However, there were a few topics of discussion during this quarter that I feel really grabbed my attention that I would like to discuss. I really connected with and would like to talk about the “buy in” at the start of each lesson and its importance. I would also like to discuss using the arts in my teaching. Another large take away was, teaching using concrete experiences. I will also touch on the benefits of exercise in the classroom, student’s memory, and the importance of using visuals in the classroom.

In a webinar Dr. Willis, an educational researcher, mentioned it is important to make your lessons enjoyable, you need to have what she called, the “buy-in” method. Making your lessons relevant for your students allows them to immediately connect and engage. They should understand what she called the “here-me-now” not only in reading, but in every subject area. At any age, students should be able to answer: what will this information or skill offer me, here, at this time. In Brain Matters Wolfe explains, “Occipital Lobes are the primary brain centers for processing visual stimuli (Wolfe 2010).” The visual stimulus connects with stored cognitive associations which make what is being seen, meaningful. So what does this mean in my classroom? Making sure my learning targets are always posted and up to date for my students to see. It also means making learning meaningful to my students, and giving them concrete experiences (which I will discuss later). I see the best learning and highest success in my students when I have provided a great buy in to my lesson and then continue with a highly interactive, hands on activities. Looking back into chapter 11, Wolfe states, “We learn some things by experiencing them concretely, others symbolically, and still others in abstract terms (Wolfe 166).” I was recently introduced to a program called BTiC: Bringing Theater into the Classroom. It is a program that teaches you ways to integrate drama into your entire curriculum. I was able to immediately implement my learning into my classroom. I played around using a type of acting called tableaus. I had my students use a tableau to demonstrate their understanding and comprehension of a story we had read that they were struggling with retelling. I was amazed at how well they did and the results showed they were able to retain and pull great content from our lesson using this exercise. Research proves that the arts allow students to explore, learn from peers and learn how to explore and express emotions. The arts provide students with skills which are not directly taught in content based classes, but which are required to have and use in content based classes.  For example: observation, spatial relationships, kinesthetic, symbolism, imagination, abstractions, cooperation (Sousa, 335-336). Using a buy in, music and theater in our classrooms more often could ultimately be the new “best teaching practice”.

Another big takeaway for me this quarter was the idea of getting my students out into the real world. That all not all of my assignments have to be pencil and paper based, like our curriculums seem to have them. “Young children learn best through concrete experience. It is important to provide hands-on learning to strengthen natural interactions in natural settings (Wolfe 6).” In chapter 11 of Brain Matters Wolfe mentions, “Many of our strongest neural networks are formed by actual experience (Wolfe 169).” Looking and researching further, it is beneficial and more interesting to find actual problems in our own school or community for students to problem solve and work together to find possibly solutions. Teaching kindergarten and having my students be so young I find other ways to help give them concrete experiences at home too. I have my students out in natural settings to gain experiences. They help parents write grocery lists, they cut out words from food labels, bags, magazines to add to our classroom word wall. They go on nature walks with their parents to connect to science curriculum. I look forward to incorporating real world problem solving strategies into my classroom!

A big interest of mine has always been the benefits for students and the research behind exercise within the classroom. In John Medina’s Brain Rules, he states that, “kids pay better attention to their subjects when they’ve been active. Kids are also less likely to be disruptive in terms of their classroom behavior when they’re active (Medina 18)”. Not only are they less disruptive but they “feel better about themselves, have higher self-esteem, less depression, less anxiety. All of those things can impair academic performance and attentiveness (Medina 14)”. So how can I take this into my classroom? Well, each morning in my class, we are now taking the time to do our Get Fit- Count to 100s song, stretching, doing breathing exercises, and having them do children’s yoga to help set my students up for a successful morning and day. It has been a great way to get the blood flowing and get more oxygen to their brain. I have really noticed a difference in their level of engagement after such activities. In the book Brain Matters, Wolfe talks about research that Harvard University did that shows that exercise plays a critical role in brain functioning (Wolfe 94). Having a lot of research backing up and supporting my choice of adding 20+ minutes of exercise each morning and again in small periods throughout my day lessens the stressful feeling that I am “wasting” teach time because I am, in actuality, helping their learning.

A large chunk of our time this quarter was researching and completing readings about our memory, long-term, short-term memory and the inner workings of each. During our Brain Rules presentations we learned that most memories we make are lost within minutes (Medina 147). Hearing that students are likely to lose a large percentage of the information taught each day is a scary and concerning thing for any teacher to hear. So what is the solution? How do we make sure our lessons and hours upon hours teaching each day are not wasted? Our memory experts Wolfe and Medina suggest if teachers “want something to stick in students’ long-term memory, then teachers must build elaborative rehearsal strategies into their instruction.  Building elaborative rehearsal strategies allows students’ time to process the information.  This increases the strength of students’ learning because the strategies allow consolidation to take place (Wolfe, 157.) It was brought up in class discussion after a Brain Rules presentation that it is best for teachers to plan lessons where content is incorporated gradually and then repeated in intervals. At the beginning of each year, teachers spend time looking at their specialist schedules hoping and trying to work their days where they can have large chunks of teach time during ideal parts of the day. I feel that I have always had an inconsistent specialist time and I never really have more than a small block of time for teaching a lesson before recess or a specialist interrupts it. Well, research has shown that leaving a lesson and revisiting that material is actually doing your students a service. The best way to retain information in your memory is to rehearse and revisit as much as possible. I am now using my choppy daily schedule to my advantage to really reiterate my main teach points.

The last piece of information that I found extremely valuable, that I would like to discuss is the importance of visuals and active engagement used in your daily lessons and in the classroom which connects to my presentation on Whole Brain Teaching. We learned through class discussions and our readings that images help us learn and remember more than just written words. This immediately made me think back to my own classroom and what I could change in my lessons to fit this model that is more visual based. Medina says, “Vision trumps all other senses…We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.” (Medina, 223) In a sense, less is more. Teaching kindergarten my classroom is filled with pictures and word labels for my ELL students and non-readers. For my kiddo’s on IEP’s I have several picture schedules that allows consistency for them. I have always been aware at how beneficial images are for ELL students and students on IEP’s but I had never understood how important images were for increasing understanding for the whole class. Wolfe discusses in chapter 12, “Not only are visuals powerful retention aids, but they also serve to increase understanding,” (Wolfe, 184). This will be a constant challenge for me in my teaching career. To look at my lessons each day and find ways to scale down the amount of text and increase the visuals.

I am happy to say that I feel like I have been able to make many changes so far this year in my room to better the learning for my students. Although making a change or trying something new that I do not not feel 100% comfortable with, like theater and drama, can be intimidating it is proving to be effective and really helping my student learning. I was able to use my presentation on Brain Rules: Chapter 8- Stress to help me manage and eliminate stress not only for myself but also within my classroom for my students. What is most important in my eyes as an educator, is to remain open minded and open to suggestions that could best benefit your students. Always be willing to take risks, and better yourself as an educator, because we have to remember, it is all about the students! I look forward to using Medina’s Brain Rules in the future as a teacher leader and possible future administrator.

Resources:

Bringing theater into the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.seattlerep.org/Programs/Education/BTIC/Default

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school (pp. 14-147). Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Sousa, David A. (2008). The jossey-bass reader on the brain and learning. (1st ed., pp. 95-336). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Willis, J. (n.d.). ASCD Webinars – Judy Willis, Brain-Based Learning Strategies. Membership, policy, and professional development for educators – ASCD. Retrieved October 6, 2013, from http://www.ascd.org/professional-development/webinars/judy-willis-brain-and-learning-webinars.aspx

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed.,pp.16-223). Arlington, VA: ASCD

Wolfe, P. (2013). Early Brain Development. (pp.1-10) A position paper for the 9th Bridge Early Childhood Program in Las Vegas.

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EDU 6655 Is Theater the Answer?

While reading chapter 14 of Brain Matters, Wolfe does a wonderful job recapping the main takeaways from her book. While reading over the importance of using appropriate rehearsal strategies and providing many opportunities for students to revisit information over time on page 222, I was able to connect a phenomenal new resource I received during our staff LEAP time.

Our staff was lucky enough to have a training session from BTiC: Bringing Theater into the Classroom. It is a program that teaches you ways to integrate drama into your entire curriculum. They give activities, and ice breakers to help start your year off. With those activities, comes a set up for grouping our students that you are able to pull from for the rest of the year. Looking back into chapter 11, Wolfe states, “We learn some things by experiencing them concretely, others symbolically, and still others in abstract terms (Wolfe 166).” What I loved about BTiC is this program provides methods of learning that research has proved to be most effective. During this mini workshop, we learned a lot about tableaus and how effective they can be in all subject areas and used for many purposes. This immediately excited me and got me eager to apply my new learning into my classroom. I already had an idea of where and exactly how I wanted to test out using tableaus.

In my classroom during reading workshop, the curriculum is focusing hard on oral retelling of the highlighted story from the curriculum. We are provided with a hardcopy version of this story, the story is available online, and we are given blank picture cards for students to “fill in the blank” of the story. However, no matter how many times we listen to the story (me reading the book, played online or using the blank cards) my students are still having a difficult time with going back and recreating the story in the correct order. I went back into my classroom after the workshop and immediately introduced tableaus to my students. Rather than having my whole class attempt to retell the entire story together, I divided the story out into 4 sections and grouped my students into 4 groups. Each group was given a section of the story and they had to work together to create a tableau to show the most important piece of their section of the story. Each group then watched the others mini productions! We had a quick discussion about each tableau and why they chose the stances, and gestures they chose. After this activity, we sat back down and debriefed the whole lesson. The next day I came back and revisited this same story and asked them to retell the story. The outcome was phenomenal. Every single student was able to correctly retell the story in the correct order and they were actually able to pull even more information from the story after that activity than they were able to before.

All of the reading and research from Jossey, Wolfe and the fabulous online readings that we have been able to discover have really come to life in my classroom with how students learn best. I can’t wait to continue using tableaus and theater in my classroom!

Bringing theater into the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.seattlerep.org/Programs/Education/BTIC/Default

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.221-223). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Creativity

Creativity holds a lot of meaning in my eyes, especially in education. Over the last 4 years of teaching, I have learned the importance of engaging students and student choice. Within that, there are a lot of opportunities for students to find ways to incorporate creativity within their work. I am lucky to say that my school is well known for exposing our students to the arts and encouraging creativity in every aspect of the classroom. Recently, I have been incorporating drama into my teaching. My students are using props and acting out stories daily. Last year, I provided my students with an opportunity to put on a play presentation that we invited our parents to. The students got to pick the story they wanted to act out. As a class we sat down and picked roles for the story then the students then wrote their own script for the play. Once the script was written the students then created their own costumes and after a lot of rehearsing, we performed on our stage for the parents and a few classes within the building.

What I learned from this experience is how much interest and ownership the students took in their own work and learning. They were dedicated and motivated to make it the absolute best they possibly could. After watching my students use creativity in a way that boosted learning and performance I have been intrigued to find other ways, programs to get the same results.

This week I was able to explore a new program called WeVideo.  I was pleasantly surprise at how easy and fun this program was to use.  I was asked to film small clips equaling 10 minutes of footage about my life. Using WeVideo, I clipped the footage down to a 3 minute video. Video editing was all new learning for me and I was very happy to realize its simplicity. I feel that this program could be a fun way for my students to use. Being Kindergartners, they would need a little assistance from their parents with recording. However, it would be very doable for us to put a small clip from each student into one video and work together on it. It would also be fun to take small clips during the school year, field trips etc. and then at the end of the year put it together to make a small video montage of the kindergarten year that I could send home with each child. It would be a simple and fun way to remember some of the best times in kindergarten!

Mnemonics Saved the Day

Growing up, I always had a difficult time studying for tests. There was always so much information that I needed to retain but I struggled keeping the information organized and straight in my mind. I always seemed to struggle until the day I started using mnemonics. In chapter 13 of Brain Matters Wolfe states, “many teachers view mnemonics as mere memorization or ‘memory tricks’ (Wolfe 208).” They say that mnemonics are unrespectable because they don’t enhance deep and meaningful understanding. As an educator, I could not disagree more. I was able to be successful in elementary school, middle school, high school and college because of the help from mnemonics. It is a great tool to  aid memory and the ability to recite information.

Wolf spends a great deal of time reciting many of the categories of mnemonics. Two categories that I was able to connect with the most is acrostic sentences, as well as acronyms. The two are very similar to one another. The difference is acrostic sentences are always sayings in a sentence form whereas acronyms are using just a single word.  Many of us have probably learned several of these as young children and still to this day are able to recite these silly sentences or words. Examples are how many days are in each month “30 days has September, April, June and November..” ,  learning the notes of the line on the treble clef by learning the sentence “Every good boy does fine” . A popular acronym that I still use to this day to help me remember how to properly use the words affect vs. effect is RAVEN.  “Remember affect (is a) verb, effect (is a) noun (Wolfe 210).”

“When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking (Wolfe 211).” Using what seems to be just a silly sentence during reading workshop to help students remember a very important rule while reading, truly works. In chapter 15 of Jossey Bass Reader, it talks about the differences between literate and illiterate students. One intriguing difference was when they looked into reciting nonsense words. “The illiterate people tended to turn these into real words (Blakemore 240).” Teaching kindergarten, I still have several students who are not reading yet. Illiterate students, struggle retaining the information and research shows that they are actually using a different part of their brains when attempting to read words. They use the part of the brain responsible for problem solving.

After looking deeper into this new learning, I am curious to see how helpful it could be using mnemonics more frequently with my illiterate students. I look forward to learning more creative ways to distribute information for my illiterate students to recall it better/faster, as well as strengthen my literate student’s skills. Could this change, decrease or eliminate (in some areas) the problem with students using the wrong part of their brain while trying to read? Even if it couldn’t solve the problem, I am curious to see the growth with those illiterate students in using mnemonics. As teachers we can teach students about how their memories work and give them the tools they need in order to recall and pull from that stored information.

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.200-217). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Blakemore, S. J., Frith, U. (2007). The JOSSEY-BASS READER on the Brain and Learning (p. 101). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Week 5 Research

This week I explored many new ways to include technology into research. I spent time viewing and using different search engines to see how useful they were in finding applicable information on my research topic. I also looked into how using technology in my classroom aids learning in early childhood. I also spent a lot of time looking into the benefits of student choice. Research shows that students are more likely to be engaged and complete their work when the are able to decide what they are studying. It also mentioned that too many choices can demotivate them as well. It is important to find that happy medium.

I am excited to incorporate and tie all of these things into my classroom for a project in the upcoming months. I will allow my students to pick an animal to study. They will then research their topic using a online research database. They will have the choice of using technology to create their presentations or doing a hard copy. All students will be presenting their projects to their classmates.

This week, looking at the research behind the benefits of project-based learning rather than taking an assessment, and allowing student choice really confirmed my choice for how to present material and the steps the take to research are helping their learning. This overall will allow for better retention and recollection of the information they researched. As well as the information they hear from other student presentations.

EDU 6655 Real-Life Problem Solving

In chapter 11 of Brain Matters it states, “John Dewey contended that school should be less about preparation for life and more like life itself (1937) (Wolfe, 169).” This quote from Dewey really makes me look at how I teach my classroom in a different way. I have always felt that preparing students for life is the most important part about my job. In the past I have focused on helping my students learn about how to become a better friend, citizen and overall person using problem solving strategies. These lessons have been taught in different scenarios and I have even had my students act out and role play problems and solutions.

Wolfe states, “teachers can find actual problems in their own schools and communities for students to solve (Wolfe, 170)”. I really want to find a way to incorporate a smaller scale of this idea for my kinders. We are currently doing informative writing and later in the year my students will be learning how to use research data bases to find information to support their writing. Finding a way to get student into the action of solving a problem to allow for some real hands on experience would improve their learning and retention. Wolfe mentions, “Many of our strongest neural networks are formed by actual experience (Wolfe 169).”  We have spent a lot of time in classes discussing how quickly and how high the percentage of information that is taught, is lost after the students walk out the door. Giving students the hands on learning, where they are able to put their problem solving strategies to use over a week or two time frame, would support their ability to recall and therefore remember materials. Solving a real-life problem would fully support those skills. Dewey mentioned how most schools have students developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills but they are almost always hypothetical case studies. They are not addressed in the classroom. They are typically taught by lecture and recitation of the information given during instruction. Wolfe mentions that by having students solve a real problem within their community or school, “students learn both content and critical thinking (Wolfe 170).”

A lot of discussion was swirling this week about how important visuals are in our teaching. Less is more. Lessons and information that are jam packed with words quickly become ineffective for our students. Wolfe supports this discussion in chapter 12, when she states, “Not only are visuals powerful retention aids, but they also serve to increase understanding,” (Wolfe, 184). It is important to really tie these two topics of discussion together. While solving those real-life problems in the classroom,  it is important to be showing students how to access databases and how to use visuals to support their learning and presenting. It is just as important for students to understand the importance of visuals as teachers. When we were students growing up giving presentations about different topics from kindergarten all the way through college, no one ever told me how less is more, how important visuals were for retaining and recalling information. Medina states, “the more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized-and recalled (Medina, 233).” As students we were pushed to give as much information as possible and that typically resulted to PowerPoint slides in 8 pt font so we could fit everything on! As current educators, it is our responsibility to not only use this in our own practice, but also to teach our students about the importance of these topics too so they can apply it into their daily work.

Resources:

Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules: 10 Vision (1st ed., pp. 233). Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.169-184). Arlington, VA: ASCD.