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Brain Research & Learning | Research Articles | Instructional ProgramsSummary | Links
Strategies and ResearchAs seasoned teacher will tell you, there are as many instructional
strategies as the stars. They are frustrated when a school district
goes from one to the next. This is why it is good to stick with sound
research and best practices.
There are small windows of opportunity to teach students effectively.
Motor development begins in the womb and closes around the age of two.
The window of opportunity to learn a second language opens at birth and
closes around the age of 10. The window of opportunity for mathematics
and logic is from the age of 3 until 6. Of course this doesn't mean
that students can't learn outside these ages, it means it is much more
from Brain Research & Brain Compatible Learning
Fact: According the researchers Renate & Geoffrey
Caine, children who learn from flashcards learn it better when the
cards are round. The circular design is least destractive. This has
been confirmed in the classroom environment.
Application: If your art students need to memorize
material, use circular flashcards. Use the circle when you want
students to focus and concentrate on the content of the circle.
Fact: According to researchers Marlin Languis, Tobie
Sanders and Steven Tipps, physical movement ties in both hemispheres of
the brain and makes it easier to pass information between both
hemispheres. Younger children learn better while moving around while
Application: Allow your students to stand at their table
or move around the room between learning centers. Use drama as a way to
teach art. Refer to the section on the integration of art and drama.
Fact: According to researcher Pat Wolf, the average
human brain has about seven memory "spaces." From about the age of
three, a space is added each year. If a student learns while stressed,
they will develop these spaces slower. Initially, students can learn
only one dimension at a time. For example, a blue "A" and red "A" can't
be the same letter to them. A taller glass can hold more, even if it
can hold more volume than a short, wide glass.
Application: Give younger children manipulatives that
enable them to sort, classify, and solve problems. Geometric shapes and
colors can be used to hasten this development.
Fact: Pat Wolf also says that the wrist is not fully
developed until the age of seven. Because of this, they can't draw
details or shapes easily until this age. A child younger than seven
also doesn't realize that 2-dimensional abstractions can represent real
life. Students have reached this point when they can draw a diamond.
Application: Have students draw pictures that force
their eyes to track in a full circle rather than vertically,
horizontally, or diagonally. Don't give seatwork or worksheets to
students younger than seven.
Fact: Pat Wolf says that the brain in all ages loses
interest in something after 18 seconds. The brain will then either drop
the input or retain it. Visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation is
retained or dropped in less than a second!
Application: Have a great introduction that captures
students' attention. Use exciting and attention-grabbing visuals. This
is especially important in a world of video games and text messaging.
Fact: According to Hotz, the brain has reached its peak
of activity at the age of five. By the teen years, thousands of neurons
are being lost per second. Neurons that are reinforced through
Application: Continually reinforce material and give plenty of hands-on work.
Fact: When the brain hears music, neural circuits are strengthened- especially in the area of mathematics.
Application: Here's your permission to have the radio on while students work on art.
Fact: Rote memorization is not retained or transferable
unless it is immediatley associated with an experience. Sylwester says
that activies that draw out emotions, role playing, and cooperative
learning help prompt students to recall information.
Application: If students need to memorize something, have them do it in groups, while role playing, or in engaging activities.
There are hundreds of other facts and applications with recent brain
research. Because there isn't enough space to contain this information
on this page, here is a collection of links for further study:
This site includes brain research, learning styles, and the effects of caffeine and sleep on the brain.
This is a collection of brain research-related links.
These link to newsletters and articles on brain research
This is a summary of the brain and principles of learning
IAD Brain Research Articles
Major Instructional Programs and Strategies
There are many instructional strategies out there. Here are a few:
Project Based Learning
Students are challenged by working on real-life problems. Learners
decide how to solve problems and decide what activities to pursue. The
teacher guides and advises rather than manages students. See Project-based Learning: a Primer
Integrated Thematic Instruction
There are nine brain compatible elements in ITI. They are: Absence of
threat, meaningful content, choices, movement to enhance learning,
enriched environment, adequate time, collaboration, immediate feedback
and mastery. See Integrated Thematic Instruction (ITI).
An example of thematic
instruction can also be found here on IAD. You can also see a nice
thematic lesson with social studies and art.
Inquiry Based Learning
Students are actively engaged in activities in small groups on the
floor or at tables. Observation and discussion is occuring on a regular
basis. There is plenty of exploration and inquiry. Typical questions
are "I wonder what would happen if I do this?" See Connect: Inquiry Learning
Students learn in different ways. Some are visual learners, some are
auditory, others are kinesthetic. A smart teacher will design lessons
that address all learning styles. You can take a learning style
questionnaire here and here. Gregorc's learning styles include concrete, abstract, random, and sequential learners. See Mind Styles- Anthony Gregorc
Howard Gardner says all people excel in certain areas or intelligences.
Some have linguistic intelligence, some have musical, logical, spatial,
kinesthetic, personal and intrapersonal, and more. See Howard Gardner's site
Benjamin Bloom categorizes levels of learning. Lower methods are called
knowledge an comprehension. Higher methods are called synthesis and
evaluation. Teachers can use his methods to formulate questions that
enable students to increase critical thinking skills, retain and learn
information better. See IAD's detailed page on Blooms Taxonomy here.
Strategies for Empowering Students- Activities that promote higher order thinking. The page is divided by primary, intermediate, and upper grade levels.
Hunter's Mastery Teaching
There are seven basic elements of the Madeline Hunter Method:
- Setting objectives
- Setting standards
- Anticipatory Set (the introduction that sets up the lesson)
- Teaching Presentation
- Check for Understanding
- Questioning Strategies
- Guided Practice/Monitoring
- Independent Practice
Hunter's TESA (Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement)
TESA, created by Madeline Hunter, is a training program that
trains teachers how to improve the classroom climate, set high
expectations, and use initiatives to close the achievement gap. TESA
modifies the way teachers interact with students in order to improve
student performance, gender and diversity awareness, and reduce
discipline problems. TESA is an approved program of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Following are links pertinent to TESA websites:
See this and this on Madeline Hunter.
Other big ones:
Good educators will take parts of strategies and programs and tailor
it to their own classroom. Because all communities, teachers and
are different, it would be wrong to only use one philosophy or style. I
believe this is the mistake of many districts who adopt a program to
the exclusion of everything else.
I recall the controversy over outcome-based education years ago.
There are aspects of this philosophy that are based in sound research.
problem was that schools gave their program this name rather than adopt
portions of several strategies and call it their own program.
Nothing can beat keeping up on the latest research and adjusting
your teaching methods so that your students learn to the best of
Because poverty has been directly linked to poor achievement, you will need to make a few adjustments. Ruby Payne's book, A
Framework for Understanding Poverty is a good one to give you ideas.
Lesson Plan Mistakes
An excellent site that reviews common mistakes in lesson plans.
A list and discussion of strategies
Instructional Strategies Online
A huge collection of strategies listed alphabetically.
Education Partnership- A collection of PDF documents that
include information on research, partnerships, assessment, and instruction.
Best Practices and Instructional Strategies
This site features articles and information on best practices.
This is a page of links and ideas by teachers in the Bedford
County of Education
Instructional Support Services, Inc.
This site includes a wealth of information including hand-outs, research, strategies and more.
Phi Delta Kappan- Phi Delta Kappa is an educational honors association. They publish research on the latest teaching strategies and brain research.