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More Brain Based Strategies for the Classroom

What are Brain Based Tools?

Brain based tools are ideas, strategies, and tips for maximizing learning in the classroom. Teachers that take advantage of these tools can help students to retain information better, perform better in class, and become life long learners. Below you will find five additional tools for improving student's retention of subject material with helpful tips for implementation.

Following the tips and tricks outlined herein will allow both you and your students to develop new perspectives on learning and reduce daily stress in the process.


In general the classroom should be a stress-free place for the students to learn. However, the fact of the matter is that negative experiences, such as punishment in the learning areas of the classroom can cause students to associate the classroom with negative feelings. Over time this can lead to even more problems as students act out on their own or in pairs.

Tips and Tricks

  • Consider having designated areas for work and learning and a different area for reprimanding misbehaving students.
  • Keep discipline a private matter, do not discipline students in front of the entire class.
  • Create areas where students can go to relieve their own stress in predetermined and constructive ways.
  • Let students have some control over where they sit in the room and how the finished assignment will look.

Cycles of Concentration

As we grow and develop a great many things change in our lives. One important change is one involving our energy cycles. Due to changes in our energy cycles there are certain times of the day when our age groups are most productive. Knowing which parts of the day are best for productive work among your students can reduce their stress, your stress, and promote greater success.

Tips and Tricks

  • Energy rhythms flow in cycles of 90 to 110 minutes during which time we experience a full range of motions. To capitalize on this, be sure to acknowledge that students have on time and off times and make the best out of both.
  • Most people have an energy plunge, leading to an off time in the afternoon. If something is very important try to work on it with the students in the morning.
  • The range from 9 am to 2 pm is the optimal range for students to focus in. This can be slightly different for teenagers, who focus better later in the day.
  • The early morning is better for short term memory activities, such as spelling, math, and science.
  • The afternoon is better for movement, art, drama, and music. If teaching the afternoon, work in some kinesthetic-tactile activities.

State Changes

The brain is an amazing organ, unfortunately for all it's prowess it is not designed for long term attention. The brain needs to take in multiple stimuli from the environment compiling them into information. This is a holdover from when the brain was constantly needed to focus on survival.

Tips and Tricks

  • A person can usually pay attention for a time (in minutes) roughly equal to his or her age. After this they need to change state and begin getting information from other stimuli in the environment.
  • This means that a person who is 14 years old can pay attention for about fourteen minutes.
  • Students should be able to transition between multiple parts of the lesson through movement.
  • Allowing students to move often between times of writing, thinking, or discussion helps the students to refocus later.
  • Having students simply stretch, or do a small movement out of their seats before continuing can make a great deal of difference.


As a teacher the goal is to facilitate the transfer of things learned from the short term memory to the long term memory of the students. However, the job doesn't end there. Long term memories may still be flawed. In order to make sure that students' long term memories are as accurate and complete as possible it is necessary to go deeper and expand upon topics. In doing so you both review the basics and cause the students to work with prior knowledge, building upon it and understanding it better.

Tips and Tricks

  • In science this is often best achieved by having the students build hypotheses and run experiments. These can be simple demonstrations, multi-day lab activities, or the creation of models.
  • Similes, analogies, and metaphors comparing things that the students are relatively familiar with and things that are newly learned can create lasting positive connections.
  • Teaching students how to reflect on what they have learned in a journal may also help them to build on their knowledge.


Our minds store information through memory pathways. The more pathways that connect to the memories or information, the easier they are to recall, and the more clearly we recall them. Stronger memories will develop based on not only what the experience was like, but also how many different connections we have to this memory.

Types of Memory

  • Semantic- This kind of memory deals with facts and often involves words or pictures.
  • Episodic- This kind of memory is related to a time or event that has happened.
  • Emotional- This kind of memory is tied to strong emotional responses.
  • Conditional Reflex- An automatic response that has been taught. This can include times tables and basic facts, but also movements and plays from team sports.
  • Procedural- This final kind of memory deals with understanding processes that are needed to accomplish a given task.

Tips and Tricks

  • Involving emotions in what is being learned will strengthen the memory. This can be accomplished by including music, stories, humor, or role playing activities.
  • Hands-on activities and role playing activities also strengthen the students' procedural memory.
  • Mind maps and videos help to strengthen the students' semantic memory.

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