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You'll find practical classroom strategies and tips from real educators, as well as lesson ideas, personal stories, and innovative approaches to improving your teaching practice. If you have any thoughts or comments about these blogs, please don't hesitate to let us know.

Donna Wilson, Ph.D.February 11, 2014

Editor's note: This post is co-authored by Marcus Conyers who, with Donna Wilson, is co-developer of the M.S. and Ed.S. Brain-Based Teaching degree programs at Nova Southeastern University. They have written several books, including Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice.

Enhancing Student Commitment

Explicitly teaching students about neuroplasticity can have a transformative impact in the classroom. A central facet of our work as teacher educators is teaching about how the brain changes during learning. Many teachers have told us that these findings have had a positive effect on their expectations for their students and on students' perceptions of their own abilities.

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Joshua BlockFebruary 10, 2014

When collaboration goes wrong, it can be toxic for learning and classroom culture. We are all familiar with the scene: a group of students that is supposed to be completing a collaborative project has splintered off into dysfunctional factions. Maybe it's one student who has sullenly separated her- or himself from the rest of the group, or maybe the group has become two non-communicative teams with separate visions. Sometimes these conflicts lead to resentments that have the potential for long-term damage to the classroom community.

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Matt LevinsonFebruary 10, 2014

One of the most challenging lessons for schools to learn in implementing iPads is that the iPad is not a laptop. The conversation can sometimes get bogged down around the device, trapping schools in these definitions as they lose sight of the central reasons to use technology:

  • To enhance teaching and learning
  • To differentiate instruction
  • To personalize the learning experience
  • To solve authentic problems where technology must be used to solve those problems
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Matt DavisFebruary 10, 2014

Valentine's Day creates a lot of excitement for students, and of course, there are plenty of teachable moments around the day. You might cover the history of the holiday, some V-Day-themed math, or a fun, heart-shaped art project. The opportunities are endless. But Valentine's Day is also a great time to talk with your kids about compassion and caring.

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Heather Wolpert-GawronFebruary 7, 2014

In Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury writes that the grandma's kitchen was warm, exciting, and full of "organized chaos." I like to think that my classroom environment is also like that. Well, at least it's a positive spin on the piles of books, the stacks of papers and the uneven bulletin boards that define my middle school classroom.

But when teaching study skills and organization, it's vital that I model a more perfect world. One of the ways that I help my students -- and myself -- to organize our assignments is to create checklists.

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Maurice EliasFebruary 7, 2014

Can a school have a positive culture and climate when its special needs students are not strongly included in the mainstream of all of its activities? This is a question that is not posed often enough in the social-emotional and character development worlds, but it is asked constantly in the offices of Special Olympics International (SOI). Within SOI, Project UNIFY is tasked with creating programming that brings differently-abled students together in various forms of shared activities and purposes, focused on the mainstay of SOI, sports.

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Suzie BossFebruary 7, 2014

International educator Scot Hoffman is a big believer in the power of curiosity to drive learning. After nearly two decades of teaching around the globe, he also realizes that school isn't always so hospitable to inquiring minds. (As Einstein said, "It's a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.") That's why Hoffman has developed The Curiosity Project, a self-directed learning experience that engages students, parents, and teachers as collaborators in inquiry.

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David CutlerFebruary 6, 2014

When I was a student, nothing helped me become more skilled at writing history than learning about journalism -- news reporting, in particular. I don't mean to undervalue my fabulous teachers in high school or college, many of whom spurred my intellectual growth and curiosity. Still, learning about reporting played a pivotal role in my success as a history major at one of America's most revered academic institutions, Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Each year, then, I teach my high school history students some news-reporting basics. You might consider doing the same.

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Lori DesautelsFebruary 6, 2014

In the mid-1950s, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow created a theory of basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs that motivate individuals to move consciously or subconsciously through levels or tiers based on our inner and outer satisfaction of those met or unmet needs. As a parent and educator, I find this theory eternally relevant for students and adults, especially in our classrooms. After studying it over the past couple of years, my graduate and undergraduate students have decided that every classroom should display a wall-sized diagram of the pyramid, as students and teachers alike place pins and post-its on the varying tiers based on their own feelings, behaviors and needs. What do actual brain-compatible strategies look like on this pyramid?

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Joe HirschFebruary 6, 2014

Worried about the shrinking presence of empathy in our schools? I know how you feel.

With classrooms operating more like grade factories, it's hard to make the case for school-driven empathy. Faced with an endless cycle of memorize, drill, spit back and test, teachers have become the wardens of a new educational reality that pits the head against the heart. Even if educators manage to skate past the dizzying array of standards and value-added evaluations, they must still contend with this fundamental divide: academic rigor, with its unflinching emphasis on measurable success, seems strangely at odds with emotional intelligence, a soufflé of moods and feelings. Which leaves many to wonder -- can empathy feel its way back into the classroom?

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