Use brain science to teach effectively

Back in the day when I was teaching lessons to children regularly as a school counselor, I was always trying to determine the best way to engage children in the lesson as well as make sure that they could actually learn and remember it later.  Lucky for educators and parents today, there is all kinds of brain research to show the way.  In her book, Wired to Grow: Harness the Power of the Brain Science to Master any Skill, Britt Andreatti identifies three steps to learning anything well.

  1. The first step is simply the process of listening and taking in the information.  Research has shown that the attention limit is about 15-20 minutes, so keep your presentation short.  So much for those long drawn out lectures we used to listen to in college.  We knew it wasn’t a good way to learn even then.
  2. The second step is getting the information into your long term memory.  There are specific ways to do this and they mostly involve practicing some sort of retrieval that involves participation.  Have students summarize information, take a quiz on it, play a game or use it in some way that involves remembering the essential facts. Three times of intermittent repetition is the sweet spot.
  3. Finally, the last step involves behavior change and in order to effect behavior change, you must practice for about 40-50 repetitions.  I know that sounds like a lot but if you think about it there are lots of things that we repeat numerous times in a given day.

Here’s what a typical lesson might look like:

Teach a lesson on being a good friend; you can include a story, examples of students practicing the qualities of friendship, a list of good qualities, etc.

Review the material.  Here are some ideas:

  • play a game
  • have students role-play ways to be a good friend
  • complete a worksheet
  • make a booklet
  • have students quiz each other on how to be a good friend.

Practice being a good friend throughout the day.  Point out each time you see students practicing friendly behaviors.  Try to catch students modeling the behaviors you are teaching.

Related Posts:

5 effective ways to teach kids in the digital age

the growth mindset and success

7 steps to creative thinking in kids

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Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt Learns about Giving 

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Teaching kids to get better at getting along

You’ve got two kids who disagree and fight constantly…

Yet they seem attracted to each other like magnets…

You’ve talked to them

You’ve threatened them

You’ve separated them… repeatedly.

What’s the answer?

We’ve all been in this situation before as educators and parents; two kids who just can’t get along but who somehow manage to always wind up together and arguing no matter what you do.  I recently responded to a question much like this on the ASCA forum from a school counselor who was at her wits end with a similar situation.  Here was my answer:

Helping Kids Learn to Get Along

I’m going to suggest something that is probably counter intuitive and outside the box. However, I have found that when you try to enforce a separation strategy,  that it takes a great deal of energy since the students challenge the boundaries at every possible chance. It is much like trying to fight the resistance of two magnets.  There is a better strategy.  Yes, it involves a good bit of time but it is all designed to not only prevent future disagreements, but teach the kids involved how to handle any disagreement in the future. Clearly they need that kind of training.  Plus… you are spending a ton of time trying to keep them apart and putting out fires anyway. Why not invest the time in teaching new skills?

Here’s the plan:

Re-frame the problem as two friends who want to enjoy each other but don’t know how to resolve conflicts.  I would perhaps use the analogy of two carpenters who are trying to build something but who show up for the job with the wrong tools.  They need a hammer and nails and instead they brought a chain saw and a screwdriver so what they try to build results in a lot of frustration.  You are going to teach them the right tools for building a friendship.

Begin with a commitment from each of them to do the work necessary to improve their friendship.  Then back track with them to their latest incident.  What started the conflict?  Who said and did what?  Write it down as though it was a role-play… you could even have them act it out while you write it down, stopping them after each statement. (Pausing should keep emotions low).

Create a list of conflict rules:  No name calling.  No blaming. No yelling.  Think before you speak.  Treat others as you would like to be treated… etc.

Develop a new dialogue: Now working with the students at each point in the latest conflict, have them suggest what they could have said that would have followed the rules and built rather than damaged the relationship.  Have them act it out and describe how they feel at the end.

Anticipate the future: Have the students brainstorm situations that could create problems again.  Review things they can say and do to prevent problems.  Have them practice and role-play the situations so they are prepared.

Follow up:  Check back on a regular basis to mediate any problems, reinforce what they have learned and encourage them to continue good practices.  Review the rules and repeat the  role-playing of situations as necessary until they learn better habits and strategies. Congratulate them on taking the time to learn to be great friends.  Once they are successful ask them to help others who are having friendship conflicts and teach them what they have learned.

Related Posts:

five ways to turn sibling rivalry around

taking the drama out of conflict

what to do when kids argue

 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

                    

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Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

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Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

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do you teach rules or values?

Do you feel like you are constantly correcting your child?

Do you feel that you are redirecting and repeating behavior rules all the time?

Guess what? You probably are.  In fact, research shows that from ages two to ten children are urged by their parents to change their behavior once every six to nine minutes… 50 discipline encounters a day or over 15,000 a year!  No wonder you are so tired.  School isn’t even out yet… and you are counting the days until the summer is over.

So how can you make sure that all that correcting is effective anyway?

Two discipline options

The same research shows that there are a couple of ways parents can chose to correct a child.  One is using reasoning or a rational approach.  It often involves identifying a rule and why it is wrong. For instance:  The rule is no hitting and hitting your sister is wrong because it hurts people.

Another option is to have fewer rules but focus those rules around values. The golden rule is a good example:  The rule is treat others as you would want to be treated. So, I know you don’t like someone to hit you, do you?  How does it make you feel?  How would your sister feel if you hit her?

You may wonder what difference it makes. Aren’t rules… just rules? According to the research, it can make a lot of difference. The second option creates adults who are able to demonstrate, even in difficult situations where there is pressure to follow a crowd mentality, that they can behave in ways that demonstrate positive character values. So teaching positive values such as integrity, honesty, perseverance, or compassion trumps simple rules every time.

Related Posts:

The power of not yet in changing behavior

How do you create better behavior?

One phrase can change entitlement mindset

 

 

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 




 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.

Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

                    

Got hustle?

You’ve got one kid in your class who is knocking it out of the park…

  • they are on top of their assignments
  • they are engaged
  • they ask questions and are genuinely interested in learning

You’ve got another who is failing…

  • they are always behind the eight ball
  • they are disengaged
  • they are disinterested

What is the difference?  Intelligence?  Talent?  Ability?

Those factors may be a part of the picture, but its also very possible they are not the root of the problem.  I bet the deciding factor is: hustle.

What is hustle?  Tim Elmore in a recent post defines it like this:

Energy + Effort + Urgency = Hustle

Angela Duckworth in her book Grit identifies a similar standard for the high achiever; grit. Students with grit put forth more effort and exhibit more drive, even when they experience failure.  In fact, they re-frame failure as an opportunity to learn and approach the task with even more energy and effort.  They set goals and push themselves to accomplish them, even when it may appear that they have less talent or ability than someone else.

So how do we as educators and parents encourage hustle?  Here are a few ideas…

  • Focus on the experience of learning more than the experience of success— Help children understand that success is a process not an event.
  • Focus on effort more than talent or ability–Help children understand that energy and effort trumps ability or talent.
  • Focus on persistence and endurance–Help children understand that sticking with a task is more important than giving up especially when the outcome is uncertain.
  • Focus on serving others more than personal accomplishment–Help children understand how their efforts benefit others (their team, their family, their friends or their community) as well as themselves.

There are lots of ways to teach grit or hustle but one effective and engaging way is to use the examples and lives of well known individuals who have overcome failure, lack of resources and even personal handicaps to succeed.  Here are some great books to use:

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream  by Deloris Jordan

 

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

 

Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmeah

 

Harvesting Hope The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull

 

Odd Boy Out by Don Brown

 

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkin

 

Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull

 

End of School Year Special

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Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 




Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

 

 Lesson Plan to teach growth mindset and grit with Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Kids and vision boards

If there is one activity that is always a hit with kids, it’s creating a vision board.  I’ve used vision boards as a way to create focus for kids around different topics such as goal setting or determining an intention for the next season.

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of reviewing an intention that was set at the beginning of the year.  A great way to set an intention for the weeks or months ahead is to create a vision board around that intention.  Here’s how:

Use a vision board as a focus for goal setting

  • Have students write down their goal:
    • It could be a goal for the summer: Relax and enjoy my family and friends.
    • It could be a goal for a sport:  Place first or second in breaststroke for my swim team.
    • It could be an academic goal:  Read 5 books this summer.
  • Have students create a vision: Students can close their eyes and imagine accomplishing their goal.  What would it look like?  How would they feel? What would they be doing? How would their senses come into play (what would they touch, see, taste, smell?).
  • Have students  find a way to represent the vision: Students can cut out images and words or phrases from magazines that represent them accomplishing their goal.
  • Have students make their vision concrete:  Once they have accumulated enough images, they can glue the images on a piece of poster board.  Using markers or other creative tools, they can decorate their board so it is eye catching and memorable.
  • Have students share their boards with the class:  Research shows that goals that are shared are more likely to be accomplished. Have students identify how they will use the boards as inspiration and motivation for accomplishing their goal.

Related Posts:

Learning from Goal Setting

5 Effective Ways to Teach Kids in the Digital Age

The power of ‘not yet’ in changing behavior

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 




Kids and anxiety

I was recently talking with a teenager that I volunteer with at Mostly Mutts, a local shelter for dogs.  In the course of our conversation, she told me that she is home schooled because she “has anxiety.”  What does it mean when we think and talk about anxiety this way?

When we talk about anxiety as something that we “have”, much like we might say we have blond hair or blue eyes, we are saying that it is something we have little control over.  At best it becomes something that we somehow caught like a cold or the chickenpox. And the trouble with that view of anxiety is that it becomes a condition that we just need to live with or treat until it goes away as mysteriously as it appeared.

In actuality all of our emotions are feelings in our body that we create based on our thoughts.  This is true of positive and negative feelings.  Sometimes these thoughts are so ingrained that they are practically unconscious.  Sometimes  they are either so common in society or in our minds that we accept them without question as the truth or  the  only way to believe or think.

But the good news is that with enough effort and insight we can unearth the message that is creating any feeling.  Once we understand the message or thought process we can change that process so that we can change the feeling.  I think you would agree that this is not only worth the effort, but also a much better plan than learning to live with fear or anxiety through various coping strategies or medication that numbs our feelings.

Here’s how to teach kids to challenge and change feelings:

  • Become an observer— Take the time to evaluate a situation where the response is anxiety or fear.  Ask the questions:
    • What happened?  “The teacher announced a test on Friday.”
    • What did you tell yourself about the situation? “I don’t understand the material.  I always do badly on tests.  I’m not ready.  I’ll probably fail…”
    • How did you feel?  “Worried, nervous, afraid, anxious…”
  • Challenge your thoughts– argue with them, make them prove themselves, be the devils’ advocate, don’t accept thoughts as the truth
    • “I understand a lot of the material and I can learn the rest by Friday.”
    • “I don’t always do badly on tests.  I have made some really good grades on tests.”
    • “I’m not ready… yet.  I know how to study and prepare for a test and and I can do it.  I have the time and the ability.”
    • “I won’t fail if I put forth enough effort.”
  • Create a plan— don’t just change your thoughts, change your actions based on your thoughts.  Plan to do what is necessary to be your best self and put forth your best effort.
    • “I’ll study 30 minutes every night”
    • “I’ll finish reading the assignment and doing the extra work.”
    • “I’ll ask for help on the things I don’t understand.”
  • Be vigilant and stay in control of your thoughts and your actions in order to stay in control of your feelings— It’s hard to stay anxious when we are occupied with other things.  Stay on track with the plan.  Keep working on it and reminding yourself that you are in charge of your thoughts.
  • Be patient and give yourself time–The thoughts that create anxiety have had a lot of practice and repetition.  It will take some time to replace them but eventually the new way of thinking will become the new habit.

 

Related Posts:

Teaching kids to manage feelings

3 ways to teach kids to tackle anxiety

Is your child a people pleaser?

 

End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

AND

Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)