Monday, January 26, 2015

Make Teaching Meaningful to Bring Learning to Life

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

When we speak to teachers, one of the things they consistently tell us is how much value they find in the BrainSMART: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning text. Some of many strategies we teach in this text help teachers to teach students how to remember important information. For example, the brain is somewhat like a computer. It acts as if it has a save key and a delete key. It automatically deletes the meaningless information we receive on a daily basis. To promote learning and therefore initiate the "save key," we need to make the information we teach meaningful to young students.

Meaning is in the mind of the learner. Thus, it's important that we make information meaningful by connecting it to the real world so that students are more likely to save it.

The brain learns best by using relevance, emotion, patterns, and context to create meaning. Relevance relates to how much the learner personally connects the information. Emotion helps make the information memorable. The brain seeks out patterns and thus learns best when new information is connected to the big picture. Providing context, therefore, is an improvement over providing isolated information, which often seems meaningless and is easily forgotten.

The brain has different learning pathways. Presenting information in a manner suited to a child's way of thinking helps make it more meaningful. That means parents and educators should seek to identify children's processing preferences and present information through a variety of means to help forge learning connections.

In our book 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, we recommend several ways to make meaningful learning connections:

  • Plan a field trip that would allow students to engage all their senses in a learning experience. Sometimes a "field trip" can be something as simple as a scavenger hunt around the playground to search for signs of the changing seasons or a walk through a school neighborhood to observe local history and architecture.
  • Use story scaping, which involves students to become actively involved in creating a story by shouting out words that they would like to include. Have the students act out the story for maximum impact.
  • Use memory scaping, which incorporates movement, re-creation, and visualization to tap into a student's imagination and bring learning to life.

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