Teaching Students about their Brains

We spend a lot of time teaching kids to use the tools in their backpacks – textbooks, calculators, computers, tablets – and the tools available to them like databases, the Internet. But we spend very little time teaching students about the most important tool they have – their brain. I would bet if you asked most kids about how their brain operates, they will answer something about learning styles or left brain/right brain, and most likely they will claim to be visual learners. Since it seems the right brain/left brain dichotomy is oversimplified and learning styles may not even exist according to recent research, we need to do better.

I have spent time reading about the brain and how it works, new findings and theories. I have informally shared this information with students – intelligence is not fixed; sleep is important in the learning process, etc. It is time to formalize this in the classroom for my students. They should be reading some of the articles I am reading. We should spend time talking about learning.

This year, my first two goals in my classroom have nothing to do with my curriculum, but they have everything to do with the success of my course. On the first day, I am going to share an article with the students about learning. I was inspired by an article by Annie Murphy Paul, Eight Ways of Looking at Intelligence so I will likely use that one. I want to start the year with a conversation about the how of learning before we get to the what of my course. Second, I am going to spend a lot of energy creating a learning community in my classroom in the beginning – more on that in another post.

We all recognize that we need to teach kids to learn to use the tools available to them, yet we neglect the most important one,the brain. If you have any other suggestions for readings or videos for students,I would love to hear them. While I plan to start with this on the first day, I am certain I will revisit it throughout the year.


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