Brain Rules by John Medina

Semester 1 Book Study

Review

For my book study I choose to read Brain Rules by John Medina. Choosing to reading this book was really simple; it's about how the brain works and how we can use certain rules to give an advantage when working or learning. Not only did the topic of the human brain appeal to me but applying practical ways to enhance learning seemed good to look into, especially for a soon to be college student and a possible future teacher. I've come to hear, and often think myself, the all too famous saying, "I just can't do this." While in some cases it may just be a lack of motivation or effect, I learned in Brain Rules that, sometimes, it can be more.


Brain Rules is based on the study of how the human brain works through survival and through everyday life. It tracks the progress of our brains and the evolution humans have accomplished over the centuries that have altered the brain. Medina does a wonderful job of making the book exceptionally enjoyable while still getting the point across. He adds a great deal of humor to make the book flow. The book did a fantastic job of pointing out the way our brain works and the problems in society we face because of the gaps between the two, but it did not address how to change or fix the problems we can run into. I wish he would have given a few examples as to how we could change certain elements of our lives to better cope with the way our brain works, but by leaving these out, Medina forces the reader to imagine their own ideas.


A few main ideas and take away educators can acquire from this book are:

  1. Some students work and think a little differently than the normal classroom. You can learn why and how to teach to more than one kind of student.
  2. There are many ways to teach in the classroom, but some are better than others. In Brain Rules you can learn some tips for teaching that cater to the brain and how it works.
  3. Medina gives numerous tips to help cognition and energy levels throughout the day. These instructions are simple and can be used by teachers, parents, bosses, everyone.

The Brain Rules

There are many important points mentioned by Medina in Brain Rules, all falling under these simple truths about our brains:

  1. The human brain has evolved, too.
  2. Exercise boosts brain power.
  3. Sleep well, think well.
  4. Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
  5. Every brain is wired differently.
  6. We don't pay attention to boring things.
  7. Repeat to remember.
  8. stimulate more of the senses.
  9. Vision trumps all other senses.
  10. Study or listen to music to boost cognition.
  11. Male and female brains are different
  12. We are powerful and natural explorers.

How does it connect to you as a student/ learner?

There were quiet a few things the Medina brought up that connected to me as a learner. It was neat to learn why some of the things I struggle with are not because I'm not smart enough or talented enough, but that instead the flaws are in the method. This fact means that I, or anyone, can accomplish anything, but we may need to change my way of thinking or doing. Certain points made in Brain Rules have showed me why some things are harder to learn or accomplish; it all comes down to the human brain and how it is wired. I enjoyed reading the section of the book on Stress. This section of the book focuses on the fact that humans are only supposed to endure small amounts of stress, but because of school, work, and family stress has become much more common. Because stress is prolonged for so long, it can hinder the brain and often damage the way we process language and interact with others. But, to counter his previous statement, Medina says, "If the stress is not too severe, your brain preforms better when it is stresses than when it is not stressed." I can defiantly see this point, and many others made in the book, ringing true in my life. Sometimes stress can be good; it can motivate people, even people stricken with the most difficult cases of senoiritis. There were lots of great guidelines throughout the book that could accompany my high school career.

How Can Brain Rules be applied to the Classroom?

From stress to memory, there were several ways to use the information given in this book in a classroom. While some things, like exercise, would be harder to implement in a classroom, there were several very practical ways to incorporate these simple ideas into the classroom. One thing I could try to do is to boost physical activity whenever I can, whether that be quick 1 minute stretch breaks or planning a lesson that involved a non-time consuming moving game. To cater the brain's need for sleep, schools could have a nap time after lunch. After lunch, it is harder for people to stay focused and awake because of the hormone levels in the brain at this time. A small nap during this peak would be beneficial and would increase productivity. Also, we tend to retain information better after taking naps. While these are important, there is one rule that I think most teachers forget. We, especially younger students, don't pay attention to boring things. As a teacher, it would be my job to keep a child's attention throughout a lesson. To accomplish this feat I would have to do certain things. Number 1: only do one thing at a time. It is super important to focus on one thing because if your brain strays to other things, so will your students. Another strategy for keeping the attention of those your teaching is to divide the class into ten minute segments. After about ten minutes of listening to something boring, people will start to loose focus, so I will need to either change subjects or do something different or interesting to regain their attention. There were many other ideas Medina brought up, but I felt like these were some of the easiest to accomplish in a classroom setting similar to what we have now.

Questions

Medina brings up many interesting points about the brain in general, but also focuses on education, even stating, "...to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing... design something like a classroom." With some interesting points made, I had a few question running through my head.


  1. Since there are several benefits linking exercising and learning, what are some ways to create a more active, yet practical classroom environment? Medina offered some ideas to make children more active, capitalizing on the benefit of exercise in education. However, many of them would force a complete makeover of the schooling system used in the area. While his ideas are very good, they would be pretty difficult to shove onto teachers and students. I would like to hear Medina's opinion on how to start incorporating the exercise ideas he stated into classrooms.
  2. With decreased budgets and increased pressure on schools to preform, is changing the education system to better fit the brain a good idea? Is it even possible? I would like to know Medina's thoughts on public education, specifically how to change it to work better for our brains. While he gives many answers to the problems in the education system, there are several ideas that would be difficult to implement. It would be interesting to see if some of Medina's ideas could be executed in the schools.