Brain Rules

What would learning look like in the classroom if we, as educators, truly understood the way our brain works qrbrainruleswhen it comes to learning? What innovative techniques and tools should be used to enhance and deepen student learning? John Medina, molecular biologists and brain expert,  shared 12 rules about our brain. In this month’s circles session, we are going to explore some educational applications of his Brain Rules.


The Rules

Brain Rule: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

  • Our brains were built for walking – 12 miles a day!
  • To improve your thinking skills, move.
  • Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.
  • Aerobic exercise just twice as week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent.

Brain Rule: Repeat to Remember

  • The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments, the stronger it will be.
  • You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.
  • Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality because they mix new knowledge with past
    memories and store them together as one.
  • The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.

Quiz Quiz Bricks & Clicks

Quiz, Quiz, Trade is a cooperative-learning technique which has students review information with other students by asking and answering questions. This technique gets students up and moving and also requires them to repeat, repeat, repeat. Have you seen Quizlet?

Do you like the infographics we are using? Would you like to find or design your own infographics? Google is a great tool for finding just about anything. In fact, if you type the words “infographic for …..” into Google and then click on the images option, you will likely be surprised by all of the amazing content out there. Not sure how to do this?  Every teacher and student can benefit from learning enhanced Google search tactics and strategies. However, if you really want to up your game with respect to image search, you should be using which allows for reverse image searching (using a picture to find other similar pictures) and a variety of other advanced image search techniques. Here is a training video if you are interested.  

If you are interested in making your own infographics, you might want to check out Canva or Piktochart. These are free, easy to use infographic makers. Not sure if you are up to the challenge? Ask your students to make you an infographic on something you are teaching. Remember Brain Rule: Vision Trumps All Other Senses. 

Brain Rule: We Don’t Pay Attention to Boring Things

  • The brain’s attentional spotlight can focus on only one thing at a time: no multitasking
  • We are better at seeing patterns and abstracting the meaning of an event than we are at recording details
  • Emotional arousal helps the brain learn
  • Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.

Brain Rule: Stimulate More of the Senses at the Same Time

  • sensesOur senses evolved to work together – vision influencing hearing, for example (check out the McGurk Effect) – which means that we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once.
  • If you combine hearing with seeing, recall of information is stronger than if you read, hear, or see alone. 
  • Smells have an unusual power to bring back memories, maybe because smell signals bypass the thalamus and head straight to their destinations, which include that supervisor of emotions known as the amygdala.

Brain Rule: Vision Trumps All Other Senses

  • Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.
  • What we see is only what our brain tells us we see, and it’s not 100 percent accurate.
  • We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.

Bricks & Clicks

The presentation software known as PowerPoint has become ubiquitous, from work meetings to college classrooms to conferences. What is wrong with that? PowerPoint presentation are often boring (We don’t pay attention to boring things – check out Life After Death by Powerpoint) and they are mostly text with an average of 40 words per slide. John Medina suggests: 1) Burning your current PowerPoint Presentations, or 2) Making new ones. Especially ones with more graphics and interactive hooks every 10 minutes or so. Another idea would be to consider giving students something to do every 10 minutes by making your content virally accessible. In other words, present your content live from the cloud and allow for interactivity. Storify 2 gives teachers and students (any content team really) the tools to create their own live blog stories, uniting traditional storytelling with engaged audiences. If you haven’t seen one. Check this storifyqrout. Click on this link or scan the QR code here. Prior to this session becoming a Circles Post, it was a Storify.

Looking for a more traditional, brain-friendly Brick to try with your students? Have you ever tried Serial Testimony? Serial Testimony is a facilitation method that empowers students by valuing their knowledge and insight. It offers young people the opportunity to testify to the realities of their own lives, making their personal reflections part of the curriculum. Serial Testimony creates classroom dialog that is low stress (Brain Rule: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way,) one that doesn’t focus on convincing others or winning an argument, but rather on sharing perspective that can inform how students view themselves and the wider world.

Let’s Try It – Remember to:

  • Listen to each speaker in stillness
  • Do not interrupt with comments, questions, or physical signs
  • Concentrate on what others are saying before your own turn comes and immediately after your turn, tune back in, rather than wondering “how did I do?”
  • In speaking, stay with your experiences and feelings and reflections, not your opinions
  • During your turn, do not refer to what others have said before you.  Focus on contributing your own experience
  • Keep your comments within the time allowance
  • Use Serial Testimony to learn how to listen and reflect as well as to focus your speaking

The Question: Which brain-friendly tool would you consider using in your classroom and why?

TED Talks

For those of you interested in a good video on sparking student interest, you might like this TED Talk. Below Ramsey Musallam discusses how to avoid pseudo teaching by igniting curiosity within our students. Embrace mess, encourage questions and reflect on how you can deepen student learning.

Good Reads

Getting Curious (Not Furious) With Students

The Teaching Channel Looks at Inquiry Based Teaching

12 Brain/Mind Natural Learning Principles Expanded Renate N. Caine, Ph.D. and Geoffrey Caine, LL.M. (Make sure you are logged in to the Valencia Library before clicking on this link.)

Some Ed Tech Tools worth a look