The power of a teacher to touch the future goes far beyond student time spent in their classroom. A teacher’s enthusiasm for learning and their willingness to care about and work for the benefit of even the most problematic student motivates and sustains individual growth and societal progress.
No two students are exactly alike. The same goes for teachers and teaching methods. Everyone has different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and things that motivate them. What works best in the classroom for me comes naturally from my ‘charming’ personality. (Hahaha) But those same things might not be comfortable for another teacher.
It takes dedication and continuous experimentation to develop your personal “power teaching” techniques to engage your class and light quest fires.
Key Points for Student Learning According to Neuroscience
Understanding how the brain operates to learn and retain new material helps educators light fires. Neuroscience tells us:
The brain is neuroplastic.
Being neuroplastic allows the brain to change, adapt, and learn. The brain’s chemistry provides a lifetime of learning. Changes in experiences cause changes in the brain.
2. Learning happens best when rewards are expected but uncertain.
To obtain rewards, learners have to pay attention and earn them. Prizes do not have to be big, but there is nothing like the emotional high of meriting a reward. Earning one in a concentrated group effort is even better.
3. Everyone has different learning abilities.
Some students struggle in all areas; others in specific subjects. Patience is always warranted. Looking for new ways to connect difficult-to-understand material helps the brain find new ways to relate and process.
4. Blood flow to the hippocampus increases with body movement.
The hippocampus area of the brain forms and consolidates memories to enhance learning. Muscle movement helps students process and understand new concepts.
5. The brain generates new neurons daily.
Neurons coordinate learning and memory. In my experience, there is a magic moment in every student’s life where the light bulb turns on. After all, they are getting new brain cells every day.
When I was a kindergartner, the sounds letters made and stringing them together made no sense. It started to come together in first grade. In second grade, I realized all those words made stories, and I could experience the world in stories. And magically, the light bulb turned on, and suddenly, I was reading on a high school level.
Whole Brain Teaching
In 1999, college professor Chris Biffle developed whole brain teaching. He started with students repeating what he said and then incorporate some of neuroscience’s key learning processes.
Numerous YouTube videos demonstrate whole brain teaching methods. These videos show quick, almost robotic, student reactions to keywords spoken by the teacher. For a reserved teacher or student, it may appear overwhelming.
However, it may be the perfect way to channel disruptive student energy and keep a tight focus on learning. The process moves fast, requires student involvement (spoken and physical movement), and motivates with a scoreboard tally.
According to Biffle, whole brain teaching incorporates six phases or concepts.
Command student attention by using a keyword to denote student participation. Biffle uses the word, “Class” to which the students respond, “Yes.”
Another attention grabber is “Mirror on,” meaning the class mirrors your words, voice, cadence, and gestures. (My kids love opera voice. Just saying.)
2. The Scoreboard
Keep students’ attention by regularly adding a tally to a smiley-face/frowny-face scoreboard. If students follow instructions and participate, add a tally mark to the smiley-face side. If students are not positively engaged in the learning process, add a tally to the frowny-face side. Having students accompany the placing of the mark with an appropriate “Yeah!” or “Ugh!” increases the power of the scoreboard.
Ideas for rewards for younger students include an extra five minutes at recess, bragging rights for engaging like 5th graders instead of kindergarteners, free reading time, or a ten-second dance party.
For older students, smiley faces could be for less homework, extra point opportunities on tests, or ten minutes of free time at the end of the week.
3. Chunk Material into Micro Lectures
The longer the lecture, the less likely you retain student attention.
4. Students Teach Each Other
Take frequent breaks while teaching for students to turn to and teach each other. Parroting your voice and gestures increases student retention and understanding.
Dr. Biffle uses the word “Teach” to indicate student teaching time.
5. Comprehension Check
While students teach each other, roam the classroom and listen in to discern student comprehension. Do you need to cover the material again? Do you need a different application or method?
6. Hands and Eyes
Biffle uses the phrase “Hands and Eyes” to indicate he wants students’ full attention to cover an essential point.
Regardless of your teaching style, some portion of the whole brain teaching might improve your teaching power. Start small. Pick one concept to include in your class instruction and master it before you try to pick up another one.
Keep at it. You’re a teacher with strong grit, seeking to light fires. Reflect for a few minutes at the end of every day. What worked to maintain student focus and understanding? What needs to be tweaked?
And most importantly, HAVE FUN while teaching. Dr. Biffle says the root of the whole-brain approach is “a large amount of highly structured tomfoolery.” Go ahead use silly voices and gestures. The more fun you have, the more fires you will ignite.
Teacher Power Energy Drinks
Power teaching calls for an energized teacher. Teacher Power Energy Drinks have you covered. Our energy drinks are simply formulated, sugar-free, and budget-friendly.
We offer six delicious flavors. If you have a hard time choosing between them, try out our sample pack to discover your favorite flavor. (The strawberry lemonade is lip-smacking delicious. Oh, but there are times the black cherry hits the spot, too. Choices, choices, choices.)
Every serving provides a full array of B vitamins and 100 mg of caffeine to boost your day. Is that too much caffeine? No problem. Just use a half-scoop of the powdered mix instead of a full one. And the best part, with no added sugar, there is no associated crash with Teacher Power Energy Drinks.
Why wait? Teacher Power powers teachers to light fires in young minds. And a portion of every Teacher Power purchase goes towards purchasing needed classroom supplies.
By: Jae O. Haroldsen
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Sterns, Clio. “Whole Brain Teaching: Rules & Strategies.” Study.com. 2015. https://study.com/academy/lesson/whole-brain-teaching-rules-strategies.html
Murray, Jacqui “Is Whole Brain Teaching the Right Choice?” Jacqui Murray.net. 2017. https://jacquimurray.net/2017/08/10/is-whole-brain-teaching-the-right-choice/
Kharsati, Preslee D. & Prakasha, G.S. “Whole Brain Teaching.” Journal of Humanitarian and Social Sciences. 2017. https://www.iosrjournals.org › papers › Version-2