Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Advantages of "Playful Learning"

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

Summertime is upon us, which gives many pre-school and schoolage children an increased opportunity to pursue one of their favorite activities: play.

As we mention in our book, Flourishing in the First Five Years: Connecting Implications from Mind, Brain, and Education Research to the Development of Young Children, it’s hard to overstate the importance of free play and more directed “playful learning” to support the development of young children’s language, problem-solving, social, and creative abilities.

Young children play with various toys that teach them how to sort objects by shape or color, how to stack, how to count, how to say the letters of the alphabet, and how wheeled objects can go from point A to point B. When playing with others, they learn the concepts of sharing or taking turns—though perhaps not always willingly at first. As they grow older, they learn such concepts as problem solving and perseverance. A determined 4-year-old may get discouraged when her block tower keeps falling down, but she doesn’t give up, figures out a better way to build it, and the sixth time she tries—success! Thus, play provides many paths to mastery.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Your Chief Executive Officer: Taking
Charge of Your Brain

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

In the business world, the chief executive officer is the person responsible for the highest-level decision-making made at a corporate entity. Without a leader to guide them, the people 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 book, Thinking for Results: Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement By As Much as 30 Percent, we cite the work of neuropsychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Elkhonon Goldberg (2009), who applies the metaphor of a chief executive officer to the brain’s frontal lobes. For example, he notes that
The prefrontal cortex plays the central role in forming goals and objectives and then in devising plans of action required to obtain these goals. It selects the cognitive skills required to implement the plans, coordinates these skills, and applies them in correct order. (p. 23)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Presenting at Rollins College

I'm looking forward to presenting some key concepts from our new book, Positively Smarter: Science and Strategies for Increasing Happiness, Achievement, and Well-being, as part of the Rollins Health Forum Series during the Rollins Health Forum Series. Our topic is Living a Brain-Healthy Lifestyle, which we will present at 7 p.m. in the Bush Auditorium at Rollins College.

The presentation will focus on how to achieve and support optimal cognitive performance across the lifespan through the application of practical lifestyle strategies. We will be sharing a framework on how the brain can benefit from good nutrition, physical activity, positive affect, and social connections. Participants will experience a variety of brain challenges to engage the mind in logic, visual perception, concentration, and attention. Those in attendance will leave with a toolbox of practical strategies that they can put to immediate use so as to facilitate the process of living a brain-healthy life.

It will be great to re-connect with our friends in Winter Park tomorrow evening on the beautiful Rollins College campus. We hope to see you there!

Our Article on Body-Brain System Is
Featured on PDK Common Core Website

Understanding how the body and brain work in conjunction with one another has positive implications for learning and student achievement. Donna and I were pleased to have the opportunity to delve into this topic in an article that we contributed to the Phi Delta Kappan Common Core Writing project.

In the article, entitled Smart moves: Powering up the brain with physical activity, we describe the body-brain system and its importance in student achievement, classroom behavior, and the development of cognitive skills. We also cite compelling research that shows the positive effect that physical activity has on cognitive performance of students from preschool through college.

Read the article in its entirety here for specific strategy recommendations that teachers, administrators, and policy makers can use to incorporate physical activity into classroom learning, with the desired result of improving students’ performance as measured by the Common Core and other academic standards. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Praise Effort to Drive Academic Success

by Guest Blogger Donna Wilson

We all like to be recognized for a job well done. However, research indicates that teachers and parents can increase youngsters’ motivation by focusing their praise on students’ efforts and improvements rather than on outcomes alone.

In our book, Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting, Mind Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice, Marcus Conyers and I give examples of what teachers can say to students to keep the focus on hard work and effort rather than on results alone:
  • “All that effort you put into your homework has really made a difference—look how much your grade improved on this week’s quiz.”
  • “I like how you looked up the definition yourself rather than just asking what the word means.”
  • “If you work on your note-taking skills, you will have better materials to use when studying for the next test.”