Your Turn: Teaching “I Can”

ImageWhat do London cab drivers and Michael Jordan have in common?  Today we’re excited to post an idea from Liza Enrich, a chemistry teacher in Washington, DC that answers that question.  Liza joined us on Sunday for the collaborative and shared her thinking about the importance of starting off the year by teaching students about malleable intelligence. Here’s the link to the document she created and her short explanation of her plans for the first day of school 

 The idea is that students will realize that even if they don’t think that they are “good” at science now, that, with practice, they can be good at science. It’s just a matter of growing their brain in that particular way. They will then set measurable goals that I can hold them accountable to throughout the first quarter, that we can reflect on at the end of the quarter.

Check out this excerpt from the article Liza is sharing with students:

ImageBut new research shows that the brain is more like a muscle – it changes and gets stronger when you use it. And scientists have been able to show just how the brain grows and gets stronger when you learn. 

Everyone knows that when you lift weights, your muscles get bigger and you get stronger. A person who can’t lift 20 pounds when they start exercising can get strong enough to lift 100 pounds after working out for a long time. That’s because the muscles become larger and stronger with exercise. And when you stop exercising, the muscles shrink and you get weaker. That’s why people say “Use it or lose it!”

But most people don’t know that when they practice and learn new things, parts of their brain change and get larger a lot like muscles do when they exercise.

Inside the cortex of the brain are billions of tiny nerve cells, called neurons. The nerve cells have branches connecting them to other cells in a complicated network. Communication between these brain cells is what allows us to think and solve problems.

When you learn new things, these tiny connections in the brain actually multiply and get stronger. The more that you challenge your mind to learn, the more your brain cells grow. Then, things that you once found very hard or even impossible to do – like speaking a foreign language or doing algebra – seem to become easy. The result is a stronger, smarter brain. 

What examples of this could you show your students?  Check out the rest of the research Liza put together (examples from London cabbies to Michael Jordan included)!

Let us know how you could use the idea of teaching “I Can” in your classroom.

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Categories: Stage 2: Joyful and Efficient

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1 reply

  1. I am so glad that Liza was willing to share her materials. This was EXACTLY the type of lesson I planned to compile after reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset this summer. I wanted to share her research in a student-friendly form to prompt discussion and goals-setting at the beginning of the year. Thanks so much for sharing!

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