Tag Archives: teaching

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

Wyatt’s Leadership Series for Kids

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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

Wyatt Learns about Giving 


7 Lesson Plans based on Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of Highly Effective People


A set of problem situation cards to develop critical thinking skills in difficult situations

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Is being fair a bad idea?


When was the last time you heard, “It’s not fair!”

Do you struggle to be fair to the students in your classroom?

Do you worry that you don’t give equal attention or time to your kids?

Being Fair Means Everyone Misses Out

I was recently listening to an Andy Stanley podcast on leadership in which he proposed that the idea that being fair is a bad idea.  Are you surprised?

According to him,  the scenario goes something like this;  a parent, a teacher, a boss says, “I can’t give you _____  (fill in the blank with time, attention, affection, money, resources) because I can’t give the same thing to everyone and if I gave it just to you it would be unfair. Since I don’t have enough resources to be fair and give it to everyone, I won’t give it to you or anyone.”

The end result is that not only does no one get the benefit, but that the giver becomes disengaged, uninvolved, distant.  What could be a win-win situation becomes a losing situation for everyone, including the person who wants to give, the person in charge of the resources.

Do for One

How do you reconcile this situation?  Andy Stanley proposes what he calls “Do for one, what you wish you could do for all.”  But wait, do for one and leave someone out?  Isn’t that unfair?  Aren’t you as a parent, a teacher, a boss, playing favorites?  The answer of course is… yes.

But isn’t life unfair?

I’m not suggesting of course that a teacher, a parent, a boss give all their attention, all their resources or affection to one child and nothing to another.  Just as Andy is not suggesting a leader ignore the needs of all employees and dote on one.  Instead he is suggesting that you select those situations where you can tutor, counsel, encourage, and make a difference.  In other words, “do for one what you wish you could do for all.”

It Makes a Difference

Throughout history, there have been examples of this.

Oprah Winfrey was mentored and encouraged by a fourth grade teacher, Mary Duncan, who took extra time with her, allowed her to stay after class to help with various tasks and encouraged her to overcome her feelings of insecurity.

Walter Cronkite, well known news anchor, was encouraged by his devoted high school journalism teacher, Fred Birney, who gave him practical experience as editor of the high school newspaper and encouraged him to go into journalism rather than engineering.

Finally, Dr Martin Luther King Jr was inspired by Dr. Benjamin Mays, a minister, a scholar and president of Morehouse College.  Dr. King was so influenced by his close relationship with Dr. Mays that he would call him his “spiritual and emotional father”.

What if each of these individuals had decided not to mentor, not to encourage, not to inspire because they didn’t have the time to do that for all their students?  What if they had been afraid to become involved in the relationship because it wouldn’t be fair to others? Would we have even heard of Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr or Walter Cronkite?

Applying the Principle

Overwhelmed by the needs of the students in your classroom?  Pick one where you can make a difference and mentor them.  Overcome by the turmoil, the needs of our broken world?  Pick one cause, one area where you can make a dent in the universe.  Think what a difference you could make if you applied this principle.  Think what a difference we all could make if we each one applied this principle to just one person.

What if instead of worrying about being fair, we instead worried about making a difference?  Would the world look like a different place?   I’d love to hear your comments!

Need a good read for the summer?  

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: 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.

Have you ever had a friend that did some things that you disagreed with?  Wyatt does and he doesn’t know what to do about it. Join Wyatt as he learns that being honest with his friend is the best and only way to solve the problem.  A great story!

~Lynn Hughes M.Ed. professional school counselor, Ball Ground Elementary, Georgia