Monday, 12 September 2011


Thank you to those of you who chose my brains session at the recent 'Signposts' conference.
I hope you enjoyed it, I think it is a fun session to deliver but I also think it has a very serious message.
Here are my thoughts.

Different people do the same task in different ways. In the session we tried the memory activity, the colours activity and the maths. It was interesting to observe different facial expressions and the different way people wrote lists or the way they read the colours from board. It shows that we all have different ways of doing things, but do we remember this as teachers. When we give a activity to our students we tend to expect them to do it our way.

Remember how you felt doing the maths or the second memory activity, that stress can lead to disruptive behaviour.

The brain is a complicated organ, it works in a myriad of ways and although different parts are responsible for different things the brain work bests when it is asked to interact. In general we can say that:

1. Limbic system - emotions, survival instincts

2. Cerebellum - movement, posture, balance

3. Brain stem - breathing, heartbeat, etc.

4. Frontal lobe - reasoning, planning, emotion

5. Occipital lobe - visual processing

6. Parietal lobe - movement, orientation, recognition

7. Temporal lobe - auditory, memory, speech

So I asked you if you had ever

 been told off for chewing gum in class

 fallen asleep in class

 felt an urge to run out of a classroom

 had an argument with a teacher

 been told off for daydreaming

 been told off for humming or singing in class

 been told off in school for the way you look

But I also wonder if you have ever had it happen to you as a teacher, so have you

 told off a student for chewing gum in class

 had students fall asleep in class

 had a student run out of a classroom

 told off a student for daydreaming

 told off a student for humming or singing in class

 told off a student in school for the way they look

Obviously there is nothing wrong with telling students off for these thing but we should probably consider why they are doing it.

The brain needs oxygen to help it work, therefore we need to air our classrooms, and encourage good posture and movement to help the brain process oxygen.

The brain needs security, we need to feel safe and comfortable, if we feel threatened we tend to respond either with flight or fight, we either run away or cause trouble. Therefore the classroom should be non-threatening, encourage students by saying things like it is not important if you don’t get it right, just have a go! Award students for trying as well as succeeding, see previous blog.

Some learners need visual stimulus, when they don’t get it they tend to go it alone and lose themselves in their own worlds. So we need to ensure we have visuals, visualisation exercises, drawing activities etc.

Teachers tend to like students working in silence, personally I can’t stand it as a learner. So I tend to hum to myself. Teachers can occasionally play music in the class to encourage those more musical learners.

I have only touched on a few things here, but it is interesting to think how we can feed the brain with different activities to encourage a holistic response.

So these are the basic ingredients to a brain friend lesson

Our frontal lobe is longing for logical organised lessons and courses. That means a logical structure in the lesson, rues and formulas to analyse and recycling in the lesson

Our Occipital lobe is longing for visuals and a chance to visualise.

Our limbic system wants to be able to express itself in a safe environment whcih values the input it can make

Our brain stem, cellebrium and parietal lobe movement to keep us awake and alert

Finally we need variety to allow us to stimulate our brains in a range of ways that will aid learning and kep us awake and keep us from running away.

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