Tuesday, April 24, 2018

We Explain in Ed Week Why Brain Plasticity Should Be Taught More in the Classroom

Donna and I had the opportunity to stress the importance of teaching students about brain plasticity in responding to Education Week as a part of the popular Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo.

The question for this blog post was: "What is an instructional strategy and/or teaching concept that you think is under-used/under-appreciated in the classroom that you think should be practiced more widely?"

As we emphasized in our response, teaching students about how their brains change during learning can have a positively transformative impact in the classroom. This is something that is not traditionally taught in schools, but certainly deserves to be. When kids realize they can become smarter through study and practice, it often helps improve their dedication to the learning process.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Students With Learning Disabilities Thrive Using Cognitive Assets

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the 20-year anniversary of BrainSMART, we are sharing some of our educators stories. All of the featured educators earned their Master’s in Brain-based Teaching curricula and/or the Minor in Brain-based Leadership, co-developed by Dr. Donna Wilson and Dr. Marcus Conyers, co-founders of BrainSMART. Below is a synopsis of one of those stories.

As a veteran teacher, Paul Farmer appreciated a fundamental principle of the M.S. program with a major in Brain-Based Teaching—that all students, even those with learning disabilities, can become functionally smarter when they are taught how to learn.

“I am no longer content to see my job as an educator being limited to that of teaching A, B, C and 1, 2, 3, and I feel that such a limit is a disservice to the disabled students in my classroom,” said Mr. Farmer in an interview for the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students. “I feel that a greater and more profound service is provided by viewing all students as having the capability not only to develop their bank of knowledge and skills, but also their capacity to learn and function in the world in which they live.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Teaching Students How They Learn Best

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the 20-year anniversary of BrainSMART, we are sharing some of our educators stories. All of the featured educators earned their Master’s in Brain-based Teaching curricula and/or the Minor in Brain-based Leadership, co-developed by Dr. Donna Wilson and Dr. Marcus Conyers, co-founders of BrainSMART. Below is a synopsis of one of those stories.

A productive learning environment puts the cognitive assets of Clear Intent, Practical Optimism, and Thoughtful Behavior to work on a daily basis, according to Theresa Dodge, who has taught in the Greenfield School District in Greenfield, Massachusetts, for more than 20 years.

Ms. Dodge earned her M.S. degree with a major in Brain-Based Teaching from Nova Southeastern University in 2009. As quoted in the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students, she said the degree program equipped her “with an incredible arsenal of instructional strategies to meet just about any challenge I could have in the classroom.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

For Ed Week's Classroom Q&A, We Urge Principals to Promote Teacher Leadership and Purposeful Collaboration

In responding to Education Week as a part of the popular Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo, Donna and I described the school principal's role in emphasizing teacher leadership and purposeful collaboration among teachers.

The question for this blog post was: "What are the biggest challenges faced by principals, and what are the best ways to respond to them?"

We point out in our response how quality of teaching has a significant impact on students' ability to achieve their full learning potential. Principals play an important role in elevating the level of teaching by understanding and emphasizing  teacher leadership and purposeful collaboration among teachers to support effective teaching.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Guiding Students to Persevere to Achieve Their Potential

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the 20-year anniversary of BrainSMART, we are sharing some of our educators stories. All of the featured educators earned their Master’s in Brain-based Teaching curricula and/or the Minor in Brain-based Leadership, co-developed by Dr. Donna Wilson and Dr. Marcus Conyers, co-founders of BrainSMART. Below is a synopsis of one of those stories.

Dr. Kelly Rose’s educational career has been greatly influenced by her studies of brain-based teaching. While earning her Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Instructional Leadership, with a Minor in Brain-based Leadership, she was teaching second year at Sullins Academy in Bristol, Va. She recalls asking students to write about their most important body part and was excited that many of them decided to write about their brains.

Dr. Rose has sparked interest among her second-graders about the human brain, based on conversations she had with them describing this amazing organ that is growing and changing inside them. “Students often get frustrated when they can’t reach an answer right away,” said Dr. Rose in an interview for BrainSMART’s publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students. “Reminding them that their brain is growing when they have to think helps them to persevere.”

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Power of Music Drives Learning

Holly Linder has been known to sing the praises of her elementary school students in the Kent City School District in Kent, Ohio. She is a music teacher, after all, so any singing of praise—either literal or figurative—is highly appropriate.

Sometimes, when her students’ voices are raised in song, Ms. Linder simply cannot contain herself. “I feel so good about them that I shout out the window how great they’re doing,” she said in an interview for the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students.

What causes Ms. Linder to raise the window and her voice in praise is the effort that students put into improving their performance. As with any academic pursuit, meaningful musical achievements come primarily through hard work. This is something that Ms. Linder impresses on her students—that the work they’re doing in second grade is harder than what they did in first grade, and that it will be harder still in the third grade. However, with hard work comes the reward of becoming more accomplished musically.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Building a Metacognitive Classroom

Teaching students basic knowledge about the brain’s potential can have a positive impact on their motivation, grit, and achievement. In particular, explicitly teaching them that learning changes the structure and function of their brains can be transformational in building a stronger belief in the value of working hard to master new material.

Teachers who explain these findings report that the knowledge has a positive effect on students’ perceptions of their abilities as well as on their expectations for success.

Examples from Elementary Classrooms


Diane Dahl of Texas, a participant in our brain-based teaching program, enjoys teaching her elementary students about the brain and strategies for learning. Students learn what neurons, dendrites, and axons are and how connections between neurons created by axons and dendrites create learning. Dahl emphasizes that each child has an amazing, unique brain and that through their practice and effort, all students will learn and remember a lot during the year. (Marcus discusses these brain basics and classroom implications in a short video.)