Warren G. Phillips Brain-based teaching strategies
Happy New Year! I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled “How to Crush Your Habits in the New Year With the Help of Science”. (https://nyti.ms/2Rv56aw) Helpful tips included Think Big, Be Patient, Plan to Fail, and other great ideas. The article continued with Prime Your Environment, Embrace Rewards, and Celebrate Often.
I started thinking about my classroom. I have always prided myself on the fact that students remembered their science lessons, and learned to like science. After 40 years teaching in a middle school, what was it that made my classroom unique enough to win national awards? I think that it was the environment that I created…and worked at every day. I wanted a happy place, where learning was FUN. The fun was for all of us, using science as the vehicle. Science IS fun! My classroom environment included science toys, fish tanks, games, demonstrations, amazing discoveries, plant experiments, science songs, and purpose-driven (HOWL – Helping Others While Learning) assignments using our science knowledge. (Check out my web page at www.singalongscience.com for more details).
Rewards and Celebrations
I have always used fun celebrations in my classroom to break up the hard work that was being done. Not applause, which can be viewed as “boring” or “embarrassing” to middle school students, but something different. Like, for example, movements. Sayings. Ditties. Corny sounds. You can check out a free video showing some of my celebrations at: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Celebrations-3832019 They take very little time, provide positive rewards to students for their ideas/contributions to class, and break up the learning into “Chunks*”.
In terms of brain-based learning, these celebrations affect emotions, leading to emotional learning, which reaches the amygdales of students. Eric Jensen writes about this in Chapter 14 of his groundbreaking book Brain-Based Learning. This change in brain chemistry creates a happy environment that leads to “Memory and Recall” (chapter 15 in Jensen’s book).
Recently, in 2018, scientific evidence using brain studies have proven Jensen’s ideas that these rewards and celebrations actually increased learning and create a positive behavior change.** The study states that the “evidence-backed claim, based on Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory….amplify the positive affect experienced during positive health behaviours and strengthen the non-conscious motives.”
So, what is the takeaway? Have FUN in your classroom as you work hard. Introduce celebrations! Change the pace, increase learning, and watch your students’ positive behavior changes! Good Luck!
Warren G. Phillips biography can be seen at:
**(PsycholHealth.2018Jan;33(1):7797.doi:10.1080/08870446.2017.1320798. Epub 2017