Martin's Musings

April 26, 2015

Brain Research

In this week's "ASCD Express: Ideas from the Field", Elizabeth LeBlanc and Becky Kappus give some simple research-based strategies that will increase the "stickiness" of what we are teaching our kids. The thing I liked about this article was the fact that each suggestion can be implemented with little to no preparation or planning (And no cost- which is something all administrators like!)

Multiple Viewing Options

In the not too distant past, it was believed that "windows of learning" were open only during early childhood. The latest brain research has debunked that theory. Constantly developing interneuron connections need to be fed. Teachers can feed these evolving neural pathways by "providing students multiple opportunities to learn content and skills." Students should be exposed to content and skills multiple times at an increasing level of complexity.

Reflection Time

Providing time for students to think about the day's learning is supported by research as a way to increase learning. In a 2014 study, Schlichting and Preston reported that "students who reflected on what they had learned scored higher on classroom tests." This technique is closely linked to multiple viewing in that it causes the students to once again bring the new learning to mind. Journaling, drawing pictures, completing exit slips, writing notes to themselves or their parents, or engaging in quick think-pair-share conversations are all ways to encourage student reflection.

Vary Teaching Methods

For years we have heard about the importance of allowing students to experience content through multiple modalities. With the increase of technology in the classroom, this is easier than ever before. Video, audio, multimedia can all enhance a student's learning experience. In addition, we should provide students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in a variety of ways. Traditional pencil/paper assessments may still have their place, but there are many other ways students can demonstrate mastery.

Integrate Music

The authors write, "Music offers one of the most powerful teaching methods for helping students build neural pathways and strengthen connections to new learning." (I bet Lynette gets a big smile on her face when she reads this.) Whether songs are selected that support the current learning, or playing the same songs during formative and summative assessments, music is shown to help students master material at a higher rate.

Even though the year is about over, let's never stop trying to improve our teaching and student learning. In fact, since some of our high stakes testing is over, this might be the perfect time to be a risk-taker and give one or two of these ideas a try.

Time to Experiment

With the EOY rapidly approaching, both kids and teachers can start to feel a bit run down (hopefully not run over). In order to keep student engagement high and energize yourself these final few weeks, don't be afraid to try something new with your students.

Consider Genius Hour

Video One

Video Two