How the Brain Learns

By: David A. Sousa

Synopsis of February 17 book discussion.

During the School Family meeting yesterday, Dr. Miller led the staff in a collaborative discussion of the first two chapters of the book.

Some of the most important take-aways from the discussion:

  • The brain is always working, even when we are sleeping.
  • Neurons in the brain can regenerate and can be strengthened by diet and exercise, but weakened by prolonged sleep loss.
  • Window of Opportunity is the period when the brain must have specific input to create certain life-long structures such as motor development, emotional control, vocabulary, spoken language, math/logic and instrumental music.
  • The brain stores sequences of patterns, like recognizing someone by sight, sound or walk.
  • Sight, hearing and touch contribute most to learning.
  • Short term memory is like a clipboard and long term memory is like a file cabinet.
  • Experiences determine the importance of a memory therefore; in our classrooms, it is important to activate prior knowledge and use anticipatory sets at the beginning of lessons.
  • Emotion is a powerful force in learning and memory.
  • Before students can learn, they must feel physically and emotionally secure.
  • Chunking lessons into 15-20 minute components is important for long term memory.
  • Information is more likely to get stored in long term memory if it makes sense and has meaning to the student.
  • Connections, connections, connections!!
  • Activities to help students store information are humor, movement, multi sensory instruction and quiz games.


  • Read Chapter 3 for next week and be prepared to participate in the discussion.
  • Send Dr. Miller an email reflecting on the first two chapters, mostly chapter two, and share your greatest take-aways as well as how you will use this in your instruction.
  • The 4th grade team will lead out on the Chapter 3 discussion.