Stage 2: Active Processing

Throwback Thursday: Brain-based learning

Today’s post tries to make sense of all the buzz around brain-based learning.

John Medina has “12 Brain Rules”

Mariale Haridman suggests “6 Brain Targets”

Eric Jensen advocates “5 Schoolwide Success Factors”

WKCD (What Kids Can Do) created the “Gr8 8 Rules of the Teenage Brain”

If you have time, read them all! Here’s a quick synthesis of common themes among these and other researchers.

(photo credit:
(photo credit:

1. Brains hate stress. They crave emotional and physical safety. They need sleep. And physical exercise. ASCD launched the Whole Child Initiative in 2007. Not only does it just make sense to look after the complete well being of our students, it turns out that sleep and exercise are critical for academic learning. And even small amounts of stress inhibit learning. Click here for ideas to reduce stress in schools.

(photo credit:
(photo credit:

2. Brains crave variety. Mix it up. Take them outside. Make them perform a skit to demonstrate understanding. Act out concepts yourself. Move the desks around. Play music during work time. Do some skill drills. Then a Socractic Seminar. Change the posters on the wall. Seriously. It matters. Click here for ideas to add brain-targeted variety to your lessons.


3. Brains crave making sense of things. Don’t let the few loudmouths fool you when they say, “Just give us the answer. We don’t want to think for ourselves.” At the time of birth, we crave figuring things out. How do you know it’s true? What does this remind you of? What is it similar to and different from? How will you remember the order of this? Can you give me your own example? Can you explain it in your own words? These should be daily staples in classrooms.

4. Brains are unique and brains change. Neurodiversity is a term designed to move from a deficit model for kids with Asperger’s and Autism to one that demonstrates the positive aspects of the fact that everyone’s brain is wired differently. See # 2, variety is also important for this reason. Neuroplasticity is a term used to describe the physical changes that occur in brains after intense study (or stress, see #1). Even if you feel this is “pseudo-science” as one teacher I worked with put it, we can’t deny the research results on academic achievement after telling students that their brain is like a muscle and can grow with effort. David Shenk puts it this way, “We can influence (talent development and intellectual acumen) though never fully control it”. Seems worth doing everything we can to try to influence it, no? The research is exciting and syncs well with Stage 2: Active Processing of Learning. What aspects of brain-based learning have you explicitly tried? Post below.

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