Behaviors in the Classroom

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Brain-Compatible Strategies

Cathleen Galitz

Grand Canyon University TCH-517

September 8, 2012

“It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.”
John Godfrey’s Saxe’s famous poem, “The Blind Men and the Elephant” illustrates how a diverse group of highly educated people could easily come away from mountains of brain-based research with entirely different opinions about how to best implement their knowledge in the classroom. By focusing on very different parts of their subject, each blind man argues loudly about whether the elephant is like a wall, a fan, a rope, a spear, a tree, or a snake. Likewise educators must be wary of taking single pieces of research to extrapolate about what is best for all students in all classrooms. With that caveat in mind, I will share my thoughts on brain-compatible strategies using research that I found in first five peer-reviewed articles as well as from other readings associated with this class. In an article entitled “Brain-Based Education in Action” Eric Jensen offers practical advice to educators on how to use “strategies that are based on real science, not rumor or mythology.”(2011) Using studies linking physical activity with cognition, Jenson shakes his head at the reduction of physical education in schools as a result of No Child Left Behind. He links physical goals to academic achievement in his book Enriching the Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner's Potential. “Now all this brain stuff may sound good, but does this evidence translate to the real world? What happens to student achievement when schools engage kids in quality physical education? First, it improves self-concept and reduces stress and aggression. Second, it improves academic performance. Various states have mandated physical activity and spoken out in favor of it. And finally, it regulates mood. Some evidence suggests that it may be a protective factor against depression, which is becoming increasingly prevalent at the secondary school level. A preliminary analysis conducted by the California Department of Education shows a significant relationship between academic achievement and the physical fitness of public school students. In the study, reading and mathematics scores were matched with fitness scores of 353,000 fifth graders, 322,000 seventh graders, and 279,000 ninth graders. Higher achievement was associated with higher levels of fitness at each of the three grade levels measured. Exercise is consistently a part of any successful enrichment program.” (Jensen 2006) While most teachers have no control over scheduling decisions involving physical education classes, adding a little movement to stale classrooms certainly couldn’t hurt if it is meaningfully integrated into the lesson at hand. A logical place for this in a language arts classroom is in using the performing arts to study literature. Assigning poetry to cooperative learning groups and having them “act out” their poems as a team is a wonderful way to stimulate deep thinking. Students truly have to focus on each word and contemplate what they think the poet intended to convey as well as relate to it personally. Such an activity allows a “hyperactive” child an opportunity to showcase his/her energy as well as giving a shy child the opportunity to be seen and heard. Watching the same poem performed differently has much merit—as does giving teams different selections and taking the entire performance “on the road”. A performing arts troupe by the name of Poetry Alive! is an excellent, inexpensive resource for teachers looking for both workshops and performances. As a facilitator, I intend to model such techniques with a new teacher who is working with a specific group of students with fluency problems in...
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