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Brain Based Teaching

and Learning

“If the brain is the organ for

learning, then why aren’t
teachers brain experts?
Cognition and Emotions
• The ability to engage the mind and
heart with high interest, focused
attention and relevancy and meaning
of subject matter.
• Research verifies that emotional
connections, prior knowledge and
novelty are key ingredients to
creating experiences where
students learn and retain knowledge
at deep levels of understanding-
applying it in the everyday world!
• Imagination is our greatest domestic
renewable resource. Without it, education
is utterly empty!
• Testing and data collection is born of good
intention: to close achievement gaps of
race and poverty. Too many public schools
focus on the measurable to the exclusion
of the possible. We are preparing for tests,
but are we preparing for skillful learners in
the world beyond school?
There is no conflict
between Imagination and
• Our brains and minds are wired for
patterns, observing details and visuals,
curiosity, and emotional connections. Our
brains love and ponder questions long after
they have been asked!
• Our brains are wired to create meaning
and capable of holding larger perspectives
IF we are guided in this direction!


Emotional States and
Child Development
• We have to observe and understand how children
develop as a part of the holistic model of effective
education. We need to look at
• Attachment
• Right brain and left brain development
• Environment
• Prior knowledge and past experiences
• Emotional IQ which accounts for 75-96% of life and
job success and happiness, which includes self-
efficacy, self-awareness, the ability to empathize,
motivation and social awareness
Brain Friendly
• Positive emotion
• Gratitude
• Optimism
• Curiosity

• In early and continuing on through adolescence,

20% of responses are reflective with conscious
• 80% reactive or involuntary responses from the
older brain –limbic system (amygdala)

• As teachers, our goal is to help our students

critically think and problem solve through the
executive function of the frontal lobe.
• Pre-frontal cortex is underdeveloped.
• Hormones surging
• Peer group becomes most relevant
• Reactionary or thalamic responses
come from the amygdala which is
usually stimulated and over
• High stress levels- affect immune
system, clarity of thought, and
memory function
Executive Functions
• Delay of gratification
• Decision-making
• Organizing
• Prioritizing
• Tolerance
• Empathy
• Adaptability
• Only five or six emotions are
Working Memory

• Key to learning!! This is the ability of

focused attention and manipulation
of presented knowledge or
information. Many students are
diagnosed incorrectly because we
are not looking at the significance
and contribution of the working
memory in learning and interacting
with others.
How do we reach
focused attention?
• Novelty
• Pique curiosity- drives attention
• No threat is perceived

• Causes of Stress
• Overpacked curriculum
• Fear of being wrong
• Test-taking
• Frustration with difficult material
• Boredom from lack of stimulation!
• Embarrassment ( to read aloud)
Stress- The Diagnosis of
the 21st century
• Stressed state : nor pre-frontal cortex= low memory
• Positive emotional state: PFC= passage of information and
memory engaged

• Anytime there is perceived fear, there is stress and a decrease

in flow of information to the PFC.

• Boredom makes you do crazy things- it may create its own fun or
• Lower Brain output is involuntary in the state of stress- which is
fight, flight or freeze!
• Most often, it is not the child’s choice- misbehavior is when the
lower brain is in control

• Flight-withdrawal, look like ADD or ADHD

• Fight- ODD
• Freeze-Social Anxiety and Seizures or OCD
Why do students drop
out of school?
• 75%- material wasn’t interesting
• 39% material wasn’t relevant
• 37%no interactions with teachers

• Boredom is stressful!

• So what do we do?
• Create a community and classroom culture that feels
safe and accepting.
• Consistent guidelines
• Teach students ways to control their own responses and
monitoring their emotions
• Visualizations and activities that are physical and tactile-
movement engages 100% of the brain which no cognitive
skill or strategy can do this!
Dopamine driven students!

• Movement
• Playing music
• Story-telling
• Choices
• Gratitude circles or journals
• Interaction with friends, social exposure
• Video Games
• Why are they so powerful and keep a child’s attention
• 1. Achievable challenge- they can see and feel their success
• 2. Incremental Progress-gives students evidence of their
incremental goals
• This is why we differentiate!

• Dopamine Study- Nine week study- middle school grade level (

30 second visualization- happiest day) -20% better on math
work sheets and assessments
Environment is Key
• Genius is much more than genes! When
you enrich the environment and exercise
the muscles of the brain and power of the
mind, you are literally creating neurons,
neural connections and stimulating IQ and
brain development
• Frequent informal assessment strengthens
• Self-assessment is the most powerful form
of assessment because it empowers the
student, gives relevant, personal and
meaningful feedback and reinforces