Brain based learning isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” method to student success; it is small changes and revisions to your curriculum that can be easily implemented to benefit a large variety of students.
I have condensed 10 strategies to implement brain based learning in the classroom that can be easily fused into any teachers programme.
Let me introduce you to the first strategy ‘Brain Time Clock’ and why its needed.
We’ve all been there before: after a long day of work or learning, we feel burnt out, tired and fatigued – even if the day comprised of sitting in the office or classroom. Students experience this too, especially after long school days seated at the same desk all day long.
But why does this mental and physical fatigue happen even when students are seated quietly at desks, with little to no physical exertion?
The human brain runs on cycles called ultradian rhythms.
An ultradian rhythm is a recurring cycle repeated throughout the 24-hour day, closely linked to circadian rhythms that influence our sleep cycles based on the natural environment around us.
Ultradian rhythms, unlike circadian rhythms which cycle once a day, cycle much more rapidly – once about every 90 to 120 minutes! They influence attention, interest, cognition, memory, visual perceptions, moods, and behaviour.
So if students are passively learning for hours on end, their ultradian rhythms are being worn out. The expectation that they be at attention and engaged in passive or lecture learning is simply counterintuitive to how the brain works. In fact, it is these ultradian rhythms being overworked that often contribute to brain fatigue and “burn out.”
So we need to teach our students how to regulate their brain time cycles or classroom management will be a tough road. Student will fight you every step of the way. So lets change how we do, what we do.
It is recommended that passive learning be taught for no more than 12 to 15 minutes at a time, and be varied properly with instructional learning. For example, lecturing for 12 to 15 minutes is okay – but hours on end will leave your students tired. In the meanwhile, instructional learning can be used to engage students in step-by-step or hands-on material.
Since ultradian rhythms cycle once every 90 to 120 minutes, another important aspect of nurturing the brain “time clock” is to fully unplug in that same time. This means pausing both instructional and passive learning, and invigorating the brain with physical or creative activities.
“Unplugging,” however, doesn’t include allowing for time with electronics. Students shouldn’t be checking their phones during these breaks, but should aim for an activity that engages them both physically and mentally. Using a phone, laptop, tablet or other electronic device can derail the 90 to 120-minute break.
Ultimately, students are humans. Humans are living beings – we function in cycles, like how birds fly south for the winter, or how whales swim across the worlds’ oceans with their young.
On a much smaller scale, implementing an understanding of ultradian rhythms in the classroom is one way that the human brain – and body – can become functional parts of the learning process, without the brain fatigue or “burn out.”
Repetition is a tricky game to play. You don’t want to repeat material until it becomes redundant and boring, distracting from student attention and productivity.
However, it is also unlikely that a student will learn the content once and be able to accurately and fully remember that information forever, or even until the exam.
Successful repetition of information can be done in different ways in order to strengthen connections in the brain. In fact, the brain remembers information best when it is repeated in multiple ways.
In presenting the information in multiple ways, the medium of the presentation is important. Video, images, charts and infographics are all productive mediums for repetition. If information is shown in a video, then in text and images, then in analytical charts, students will have different methods of grasping on to the information; their brains will also be reinforcing the information by strengthening connections.
The brain rarely understands information the first time it encounters it. We as educators can improve this rehearsal by scheduling how material is presented.
This scheduling can be approached by presenting the information over time:
Pre-exposure: By providing preliminary information about the topic in advance, students can prepare for the content and begin to make inferences. Something as simple as providing a syllabus can begin pre-exposure!
Previewing: An overview of the information at the beginning of the lesson will introduce the student to the information, without overloading them. The preview should be clear and concise.
Priming: This is the primary lesson, or the direct teaching of information. This is where more detail, nuances and facts are provided in the information.
Reviewing: Now that the lesson has been covered, coming back and repeating the information becomes essential. Reviewing can be for an exam or assessment, especially to present the informative details taught beyond the initial overview.
Revising: After the lesson has been taught, educators should occasionally check that the students have learned the material correctly, and for the long term.
However, this presentation of information shouldn’t be timed at exact intervals.
This presentation should happen at gradually lengthening intervals, to further exercise and reinforce brain connections. Properly spacing out the priming, reviewing, and revising periods is a good method to promote the beneficial practice of repetition.
By lengthening the intervals in which information is presented, students are actively made to recall key information on the spot.
Repetition of information is the root of many of the other aspects of brain based learning; indeed without appropriate repetition, many of these other facets will not be as useful as they might.
Want to learn the other eight brain based learning strategies? We have created an ebook for our members, that summarises Brain Based Learning into 10 strategies. They fit neatly into an acronym created by Sara Hileman.
In our FREE ebook, ‘The Benefits of Brain Based Learning’ each chapter includes a definition, function in the brain, benefits to learning, and how to practically implement it in your teaching immediately.
Short fast and quick. One or two hours and you will have read its 60 pages and be either confirmed in what you’re already doing or tooled up to make improvements. It’s an ongoing process but this gives you a framework for what you do.
Purchase PRO Membership, for your FREE copy and two other freebies.
The Benefits of Brain Based Learning and Why Every Teacher Needs to Rethink How They Teach, by Julie Schoen.
By keeping The Benefits of Brain Based Learning in your “toolkit”, you commit to the idea that there is a smarter, healthier, more effective way to actually teach the students in your classroom. And, in doing so, your role as a teacher isn’t just relegated to the one-dimensional realm of “giver of information”. Instead, you become an invaluable mentor, someone who your students will remember, and thank, for years to come.
You will also gain a solid understanding of the functions of the brain and how they interpret learning, in order to maximize student potential. By identifying the functions of different parts of the brain, you will be able to address this kind of learning from the approach of psychology, technology and neurology.
The wonderful thing is that you can use brain based learning anywhere: in the classroom, on the field coaching, in the kitchen demonstrating, or anywhere else, teaching what you know, to anyone. Feel free to implement it in eLearning environments as well.
With creativity and drive, educators can make the small changes required to present this learning to their students.
Get the ebook today! Great for PD hours.