Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cultivating Cognitive Assets in Students

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

Over the past half-century, psychologists and neuroscientists have learned a great deal about the way our brains work. These discoveries have revolutionized our understanding about how people learn. We now know that academic achievement is greatly influenced by students’ abilities to apply thought processes in a systematic way. In education, terms often used are cognitive strategies (we use the term assets) and metacognition.

We cover this topic extensively in our new book, Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas. Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists may use the term executive functions or skills to describe similar functions. For example, educators, psychologists and neuroscientists may all speak of the importance of capacities such as working memory, selective attention, and metacognition with regard to learning.

All three groups of professionals are talking about skills that are linked to the brain's prefrontal region, as well as other areas of the brain depending upon the specific skill. Ongoing research continues to increase our understanding about related structures and functions.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Becoming the Boss of Your Brain: Modeling Metacognition

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

In the course of our work in the field of teacher education, Marcus and I have had the opportunity to share science along with our frameworks and strategies with some amazing and dedicated teachers!

One such teacher is Diane Dahl. One of the most important things Diane took away from our program was how to teach students how to use higher order thinking skills alongside key content she teaches.

As an example, Diane framed her lesson in a way that second graders discovering how the Chinese invention of paper changed the world spontaneously were able to connect their new knowledge to a previous lesson on Sequoyah’s creation of a writing system for the Cherokee people.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Your Chief Executive Officer Resides in the Brain’s Frontal Lobes

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

In the corporate world, the chief executive officer of a company is responsible for making the highest-level decisions to ensure a strategic, well-coordinated, and coherent course of action. Without such a leader, the employees in the organization might scatter in a variety of different directions and find themselves at cross-purposes instead of working productively together toward the same goals.

In our new book, Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognition Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas, we talk about the importance of executive function, which describes the brain processes and mental faculties involved in goal setting, planning and execution, reasoning, problem solving, working memory, and organization.

We cite the work of Elkhonon Goldberg, who applies the metaphor of a chief executive offer to the brain’s frontal lobes and describes specifically how the prefrontal cortex plays a central role in forming goals and objectives and devising plans of action to obtain these goals.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

What’s in a Word? The Meaning of Metacognition

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

For many years, Marcus and I have been using the word “metacognition” in our writings and presentations. It may seem like a mouthful, but when you break it down, it’s easy to understand.

The syllable “meta” means “referring to itself, self-referential,” whereas “cognition” describes the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding. So, simply put, “metacognition” is defined as “thinking about thinking.”

The aim of metacognition is to improve the way we learn. It’s a word that is at the foundation of the Thinking for Results approach that Marcus and I use in the graduate degree programs we have developed in brain-based teaching as well as in our presentations internationally. It's also a theme of our new book, Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas, published in conjunction with ASCD.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pioneering New Book Through ASCD: Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains

Donna and I are pleased to announce the publication of our pioneering new book, Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas, published in conjunction with ASCD.

Coinciding with the release of the book, Donna and I will be conducting an ASCD webinar, Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains, taking place from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 28. We invite you to register at the link.

As many of you know, metatcognitive strategies have been an important focus of our work in the area of educational research and professional development. We strongly believe, and research supports, that metacognition is key to higher student achievement. Unfortunately, studies of classroom practice indicate that few students are taught to use metacognition and the supporting cognitive strategies that make learning easier.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Print-Rich Environments at Home and School Enrich Learning

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

Words are all around us—on signs, storefronts, business vehicles, television sets, computer screens, calendars, product packaging, magazine covers, and book jackets. What learning opportunities for emerging young readers! However, it takes parents, caregivers and early childhood educators to point out letters and words in the child’s surroundings. Promoting print-rich environments in the home and in the classroom will enhance the ability to do that.

Fortunately, there are a lot of creative ways to get children to take notice of the alphabet and begin to understand how it is the basis for forming words. Magnetic letters, for instance, are a fun diversion for toddlers and preschoolers. If they are just learning to spell their names, they will love to pick out the letters and arrange them on a magnetic surface like a refrigerator or dry-erase board.

In our exploration of the subject, Marcus and I have found that children in print-rich environments spontaneously use almost twice as much print in their play as those not exposed to a print-rich environment. Environments filled with letters and words are effective in encouraging reading as well as the earliest stages of writing.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Start a Child on a Lifelong Journey of Reading

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

Want to introduce a young child on a brand new adventure? There’s no better adventure to be had that what awaits them between the covers of great book.

Books are the gateways to new worlds, new experiences, new places, and new people that we otherwise might not have encountered. Adults hold an amazing responsibility as the literary guides who can help young children discover words and their meaning. Whether as parents, teachers, caregivers, or early childhood educators, we are the child’s conduit to magical places—both real and imagined—that are conveyed through the endless combination of 26 letters that young pre-readers are trying to master.

Long before children can read, adults can and should introduce them to books by reading aloud to them. Reading aloud is widely recognized as an important way of building an early and lifelong love of books, with research clearly showing that adults who read aloud to children form a connection and pave a path toward literacy.