George Lucas Educational Foundation

Fun Brain

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I absolutely love teaching, and I am constantly reflecting on new strategies and techniques that I can use in my classroom to impact my students.

I recently read the article "Brain Research on Education: Fab or Foundation?" by Pat Wolfe. In the article Dr. Wolfe discussed the relationship between brain research and education. It was very interesting to read about the intuitions teachers have always had, and how the current research is confirming their intuition. Brain research is so important to teachers because we are constantly wanting to understand how are students are learning.

Over recent years, the school district that I work in has been holding Highly Effective Teaching professional development trainings that focus on brain research. After attending a simplified training, I learned many new techniques and strategies to use in my classroom. They discussed how important it is to greet your students at the door in the morning with a positive attitude. I feel as though the way I start my morning with my students, directs how the rest of the day will go. They also discussed classroom environment such as using cool colors and plants to create a calming effect. My classroom is done in blues and greens, I use lamps for lighting (I am in a classroom with no natural lighting), and

After completing this training and reading the article "Brain Research and Education: Fad or Fashion?", I am eager to learn more about brain research and its relation to how students learn.


Wolfe, P. (2003, Fall). Brain-compatible learning: Fad or foundation? Retrieved May 24, 2007, from

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Danielle Jenkins's picture

I never thought about leaving my classical CD's for a substitute, but I think it is a great idea after reading your post. I will definately leave a note stating where my music is from now on!

I also wanted to mention that I love the temptations as well and might have to venture off from the classical every once and a while to listen to some oldies. Thanks for the great idea!

Taba's picture

Nikki, I agree with your comment about how the research supported what we are already doing in our classrooms. Here I was racking my brain trying to figure out new strategies, but what we are already doing is helping as well. Thanks for the insight.

However, I am still interested in learning about other teaching strategies that can be used to support the research. In another blog, there were several comments about different computer programs, but I'm interested in more hands-on techniques that I can try out immediately in my classroom.

Stefanie Culp's picture
Stefanie Culp
First grade teacher from Olympia, Washington

I excited to hear all you gleaned from the articles on brain research. I read the article "Addressing Literacy Through Neuroscience". They brought up the program Fast ForWord. It is a computer program that helps the students brain make connections from morphemes to syntax.
I do appreciate what you suggested Chandra about plants and lightings. I also greet my students at the door in the morning I say "Good morning everyone" They respond with, "Good morning Ms. Culp" then they come in and I give them a high five with a good morning to each one. It creates a very positive morning for all of us. After they are settled in with seat work I do a morning check in telling them a brief statement about my night and then ask each one how they are. I believe it gives them a chance to say what is on their mind.
I am interested like you Taba about more strategies that I can incorporate using brain research.

Betsy Sanford's picture

I use a strategy called 10-2 that I believe fits well with the article Brain-compatible learning: Fab or Foundation. I try not to teach more than 10 minutes without giving the students a time (about 2 minutes maximum) when they have to share with a partner about our topic. For example, during a math lesson we discussed 3-dimensional shapes and I showed my students examples of each. Then I asked them to talk to a partner and find those shapes in the classroom, allowing them to get up and touch them. After a short discussion about what they found, I continue with the next step of the lesson. These breaks are not in the textbook but we all know that students need to touch, hear, and discuss a topic for it to become routine.

Lesley's picture

I read the same article by Pat Wolfe. It certainly does confirm what teachers have always known about how children learn best. Children learn best by doing hands-on inquiry based activities. They need constant repetition spiraled throughout the curriculum. The use of pneumonic devices and songs help children learn and retain information too. I have used the same pneumonic devices that my teachers taught me 30 years ago. In addition, a child's emotional health plays an important role in their learning. I look forward to learning more about the reasearch that has been done on the brain in relation to how children learn. If you come across any other interesting articles, please let me know. Thanks!

Ashley Knaffle's picture

One of the best parts of my day as a teacher is the beginning and end of the day. I greet my students every morning with a smile and general conversation about new outfits, hairdos, and how a siblings basketball game went the night before. This starts the day off on a good note. As far as the end of the day, I found that this part of the day is the most chaotic because it is lacking in routine, which I thrive on. So, about a month ago, I implemented the 3 H's for the end of the day. Each day, my students have the choice of leaving with a hug, handshake, or high five from me. There is no pressure and they can choose whichever they prefer. For some of them, this changes from day to day. But for most of them, they almost always choose to end the day with a hug from me. This has turned into a very positive experience for me at the end of the day. And what child doesn't need a little more encouragement, be it through a hug, handshake, or high five.

Amy's picture

I just read the article titled "Addressing literacy through neuroscience," and found it very interesting. I have never looked into brain research or read anything about it. I am very glad to have read this article. It helps us as teachers realize that we are doing the right things.
Some things I do in my classroom to create a positive learning environment are greeting the students in the morning and using songs throughout the day. I use classical music during writing time and "teaching" songs throughout the day. I just received a promethean board in my room, so I have been able to find numerous teaching songs on there where the students can sing and move the video. I also like to take "brain breaks" throughout the day. We do small rhymes and exercises. I like to cross over our left and right brain a lot during math time. When my students count we high five our neighbor using opposite hands and do cross over punches across our chests.
I really like all of the ideas given here. I am moving to a new classroom this year with no natural lighting. I am definitely going to have to go get some lamps to put in the room after reading the suggestions on this board.

Kayley's picture

I have really enjoyed reading everyone's comments. It has helped me assess what other "break break" activities I can incorporate into my classroom and just how important those little gestures we show the kids are. Last year I did not greet my students at the door at every class period. It is so easy to get caught up cleaning up the room or reorganizing something that I lost the importance of starting each class off on this positive note. I agree with the talk about "brain breaks" being extremely important to keeping students focussed in class. I try to have a brain break at least twice a period, which is 42 minutes. Sometimes it consists of allowing the to talk to a friends, stretching, different right brain/left brain activities, or slight exercise. But they need and look forward to these breaks. I also do an activity every Monday. I pass a little ball around the room. Whomever has the ball has the floor to talk, where they tell me one thing they did over the weekend...anything of their choice. This has really helped the students open up and feel comfortable in my clas. It also is a great tool I use to get to know my students better and understand what is going on in their life. I also enjoy using songs or crazy sayings that I make up in order to help the students remember important concepts or formulas. If anyone has any good math sayings or songs, please let me know! I also do not have very many lamps or plants to give my classroom a safe home feeling. Something I need to try for this coming up school year.

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