Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites
20 Techniques for Managing a Brain-compatible Classroom
Dr. Marcia L. Tate
CEO, Developing Minds Inc.
Visualize the following story. Once upon a time, there was a small town. In the middle
of the town, there was a highway. Cars that had not been to the town before would travel
down the highway and, without realizing that the highway dropped over a cliff, would
plunge into the valley below. The town council got together and decided that the best
solution to the problem would be to park an ambulance at the base of the cliff, so that,
when cars fell over, their occupants could be rushed to the hospital in the shortest amount
of time possible. This story sounds ludicrous; however, it is a metaphor for the actions of
a reactive, not proactive, classroom manager. Reactive managers wait until students
disrupt, or fall over cliffs, and then they put them in ambulances and rush them to various
places – the principal’s office, in-school suspension, or after-school detention. Proactive
managers figuratively put up detour signs in their classrooms directing students around
the danger. Let’s look at five detour signs that will help to keep every student in your
classroom on course.
Detour Sign 1: Remain calm and confident with high expectations
Proactive managers are calm with the belief that every student who comes in their room
is capable of meeting their high expectations. You do not hear them screaming and
yelling at students. In fact, teachers who have loud voices tend to have students who
develop even louder ones. Did you know that He who angers you, controls you!
Detour Sign 2: Create a positive physical classroom environment conducive to
Classrooms which most students tend to love are ones that give consideration to
appropriate music, color lighting, aromas, and seating. These classrooms look less
artificial and more like home. When students enter the room, calming (classical, New
Age, jazz, etc.) music is softly playing. Oftentimes high-energy music accompanies
appropriate lessons. Blue markers are used for most writing but things to be emphasized
a written in the high-energy color of red. Rather than the harsh fluorescent lights found
in most schools, teachers allow the natural light from windows to shine through or they
may have lamps strategically placed to dim the light source. For classrooms where no
student or teacher has an allergy, calming fragrances of lavender or vanilla may be the
order of the day and students can be seen talking with a partner on the carpet, reading in a
bean bag chair or standing while discussing a question asked by the teacher.
Detour Sign 3: Teach rituals and procedures until they become habits
The teacher has spent a great deal of time during the first few days and weeks of school
practicing the routines and procedures with students until they become habits. Students
know how to enter the classroom, get into groups when necessary, and when and how to
converse with other students. There are celebrations and affirmations when students
make progress and consequences are used sparingly. Time is spent working as a family
and getting to know each student since rules without relationships equals rebellion.
Detour Sign 4: Engage students’ brains with 20 effective strategies
It has been said that we spend the first three years of our children’s lives teaching them to
walk and talk and the next 15 telling them to Sit Down and Shut Up! Students get in
trouble for doing the very things that come naturally to the brain – talking and moving.
There are 20 brain-compatible strategies that actively engage students in the learning.
They include such tools and music, movement, storytelling, visuals, games, projects, and
so forth and when used correlate with increased student achievement, reduced behavior
problems, and loads of fun! Remember that your best defense against classroom
management problems is an engaging lesson.
Detour Sign 5: Get assistance with chronic behavior challenges
I am smart enough to know that even if you put up allof the previous detour signs, you
may still have an occasional student who falls over the cliff. Rather than an ambulance,
have a team of people (administrators, counselors, special education teachers,
psychologists, and so forth) at the base of the cliff with a safety net and a proactive
management plan for putting that student back on the road to recovery!
Tate, M. L. (2007). Shouting won’t grow dendrites: 20 techniques for managing a brain
compatible classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.