Tag Archives: neuroscience

Using Mash-ups to Deepen Understanding

I always tell my students, “Everyone loves a mash-up.” It’s basic neuroscience at its best. Our brains pay attention to what is novel, look for patterns, and seek to make connections.

I wanted to help my students get a better understanding of theme. I gave them a choice of two tweets to work with. By mashing the ideas from a short story we read and film we watched with a current news article and video of a living sculpture, the students flexed their thinking about theme in a deeper and broader sense. The discussions were rich and gave me the opportunity to do some on-the-spot reteaching.


Graffiti Walls Promote Engagement


Deep Thoughts Are a Work of Art!

During my daily browse through Twitter, I was struck with inspiration. I thought of a way to re-purpose the post-it notes that were being used during my lessons.

I started collecting them, assessing the work, and then putting them on my cupboards without any apparent plan.


Then I waited for the kids to notice.  Some started asking questions after a few days, others took a full two weeks to notice! It was fun to listen to them predict and argue about what I was making.



And the days we didn’t use post-its? Well, they gave me an ear full. They loved the novelty and sustained predicting, and they kept on me to assess their work and add it to the picture.

When Pacman was completed, they immediately wanted to know what I was making next.  I told them, “We’re doing a contest for student-designed murals.” They can’t wait!


Any ideas of other cool things to do with post-its?

Dispense a little Dopamine

Tara Brown is a must see presenter when attending a conference.  Her messages about teaching and reaching middle school students are dead on.  For me, one of her most memorable messages is that we need to be Dopamine Dispensers in the classroom.

If you have ever spent any time in a middle school during the last week of the quarter, you’ve noticed that the students’ stress-level is elevated.  I’ve decided to consciously plan for dispensing Dopamine this week. Here are a few ways I am combating student-stress:

Music – I start the music before the students enter the room, and I leave it running as they work on their Do Now.  (We even snuck in a twenty second dance party during last period.)

Memes – Kids love to laugh.  Memes are their language.IMG_3619

Kahoot – We have two quizzes this week.  To help students study, we are Kahooting.  If you aren’t Kahooting yet, you need to check it out!

Laughing Babies – I played a laughing babies Youtube video while the kids were getting set up for an activity. It didn’t take any extra time, and we were all laughing as we worked.

All of these were easily integrated into my lessons, and the students loved them. They appreciated the chance to relax and be kids. Rather than be distracted by their stress, they were ready to learn.

Here is a link to Tara’s website.  Check it out.

The Power of Predicting

On Friday, I  attended an NHASCD presentation by Dr. Judy Willis Brain Friendly Strategies for Igniting Student Engagement and Learning was an overview of how the brain takes in, stores and uses information with specific classroom applications for teachers.

Her presentation was amazing!  One thing that I found particularly interesting was that extra Dopamine is released when accurate predictions are made.  She recommends using prediction as much as possible to sustain attention.

Although I frequently use prediction, her explanation of the neuroscience adds a new twist to what I’ve previously done.  She suggests that students make predictions which they are allowed to revise as a lesson/unit progresses.  She says that the brain needs to find out if its prediction is correct, so it is motivated to pay attention to find out.

It is important to be explicit so that the brain is fully aware that predictions are being made, and then reveal clues along the way to support revision of the prediction.  Interesting pictures, riddles, Animoto commercials, student-friendly written subtopics are all ways to engage the brain in making predictions.

Now I know why the kids liked the Christmas Sock clues so much.  I can’t wait to try new ways to incorporate more predicting in my lessons.