Judy_Willis_Institute_Materials by stariya


									Judy Willis, MD, M.Ed
AISA 2-day workshop

             Applying the Developments of Neuroscience
                to Neuro-logical Teaching Strategies

Goals for This Workshop

      Learn how the brain learns in the classroom and beyond

      Learn neuroscience research compatible strategies to sustain attention,
       control focus, and direct input to the thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) with
       a focus on literacy

      Practice using classroom ready tools which will help to build curiosity and
       utilize prediction to help motivate and empower students to achieve their
       maximum potentials with increased participation, engagement, and

      Discover how you can use the newest research about neuroplasticity to
       increase memory

      Learn classroom strategies to lower student resistance to active
       participation, including making mistakes

                               ** Participant Activity **
                              Challenge Unit Description

WRITE: What is a unit of instruction that is challenging for your teachers to teach or a
challenging topic of professional development/type of meeting you supervise or present?
Briefly write a note about the challenging unit or presentation topic.
Challenging unit or presentation topic and/or scenario:




Throughout this handout, the challenging lesson, supervisory activity, meeting,
presentation topic and/or scenario that you described above will be referred to as your
“Challenge Unit”.
             The Brain’s Structures -- Viewed from the Left


The first step in understanding how the brain learns, is to explore the three main
concepts of R.A.D. learning and teaching. Each letter in the acronym R.A.D. stands
for both a physical feature of the brain and a corresponding word that represents
how that brain feature is connected to learning and teaching.

                        R.A.D. LEARNING and TEACHING =
                           Reach + Attitude + Develop
               Reticular Activating System + Amygdala + Dopamine


A = Cultivate a positive ATTITUDE and reduce stress (AMYGDALA)

            The Brain’s Attention System and How to “Work It”
     Reach students by making sure that the information they need to learn passes
     through the brain’s sensory filter – the Reticular Activating System (R.A.S)

  The Reticular Activating System (RAS) which is in the lower part of the posterior
  brain filters all incoming stimuli and makes the “decision” as to what people attend
  to or ignore. Information constantly comes into the brain from the body’s sensory
  receptors. At any given moment we are experiencing sights, sounds, smells, tastes
  and tactile input. It is impossible for us to be consciously aware of all of this sensory
  information. Therefore the brain has a filter (the RAS) that selects the sensory
  information to which we consciously attend.

                                                      From all of the input, the          This input
Sensory Information:          ------                 sound of a baby crying is           now has
                                                      selected for attention by           the
                              ------     R           the RAS.                            potential
                                          A                                               to
                              ------     S                                             eventually
                                                                                          end up in
                              ------                                                     the
                              ------                                                     brain”.

  How does the RAS select which information passes through the filter to gain
  access to the conscious brain? What are the criteria?

  The RAS first prioritizes novel stimuli. If there is a change in the environment, the
  related sensory input will likely pass through the RAS. For example if a fox looks out
  of his den in the morning and sees an unfamiliar fox walk by, that information will
  be attended to above other sensory input (e.g. the taste of food he just ate, the sound
  of birds singing, the feel of the breeze on his fur).

  The novelty that receives the highest priority is threat. If the RAS senses that the
  change in the environment is a source of threat, the related sensory input will pass
  through the RAS at the expense of other stimuli. For example, if the fox hears the
  howl of a wolf, a dangerous enemy, the related sensory input (the sound of the
  wolf’s howling) will likely take precedence over all other stimuli, including the sight
  of the unfamiliar fox.
Therefore, information (sensory stimuli) will most likely be selected by the RAS if
there is no threat in the environment and the stimuli is novel.

                            ** Participant Activity **
                           Understanding the RAS Filter

PAIR SHARE: Work as a group to complete one of the activities below. Then, select
one product that you would like to share with the entire group.

   1. Draw a diagram, graphic organizer, flow chart or other sketch representing
      your image of the RAS
   2. Or Create an analogy about the RAS:
                                Analogy example:
             The RAS is to a the Brain as a Password is to a Website

How can educators influence what the RAS selects?

Step 1) First the educator should reduce any elements of perceived threat in the
environment. For a student, threat can come in many forms, both subtle and overt.
Threat can take the form of the grumpy face of a teacher, the fear of making a
mistake in front of one’s peers, the anxiety of anticipating that a lesson will be too
challenging. Specific suggestions for reducing anxiety and promoting positive
feelings will be discussed in the “Attitude” (amygdala) portion of this presentation
and handout.

Step 2) Next, the educator should capitalize on the RAS’s preference for novel
stimuli, because becoming aware of novel stimuli provokes curiosity. If a student is
authentically curious about what a teacher has to share, attention and focus will
follow. Specific suggestions for incorporating novelty into teaching are described in
the following section.

A word about inattention in students: Often students are criticized for not paying
attention. However, the student’s RAS is constantly attending to information (e.g.
the sound of their neighbor whispering, the texture of their too-tight pants, the ache
of their growling stomach, etc.) but it may not be the information that the teacher
thinks is important. The challenge for educators is to present their information is
such a novel or curiosity provoking way that the RAS selects the educators input
over all other competing stimuli.
Strategies that Provoke Curiosity and Promote Attention and Focus

      Music can be played as students enter the class
      Costumes related to the lesson can be worn by the teacher
      Speaking in a different voice (cadence, volume) can catch students by
      Moving in a different way can be unexpected. For example, a teacher can
       walk backwards before a lecture. This could relate to topics such as:
       foreshadowing of negative events in literature, “backward” analysis or
       hindsight about events leading up to discoveries, historical events or
       negative numbers.
      Varying the color of the paper, font, and spacing in a given text can spark
      Suspenseful Pause: a significant pause before saying something important
       builds anticipation as the students wonder what you will say or do next
      Alterations in the classroom such as a new display on a bulletin board
       promotes curiosity
      Discrepant events capture attention as students want to know how to make
       sense of something unusual that they are seeing. For example: “Why is the
       principal sitting in the library reading a Dr. Seuss book?”
      Animoto Videos: An “Animoto” is a short video that you can make for free
       online. Once you select images, text, and music, the website edits your
       selections into an eye-catching advertisement. If you sign up as an
       “educator”, you can use additional special features of the website, and have
       your students make “Animotos” too.

   Sustain Attention with Prediction

How can key points be emphasized throughout a lesson?

The above suggestions are often used at the outset of a lesson to alert students’
attention the fact that something new and important is being introduced.
Throughout a lesson however the teacher is usually presenting information that
represents varying degrees of importance. For example, in describing human
anatomy a teacher might want students to understand the parts of the digestive
system. Some anatomical structures are more important for understanding how the
digestive system works than others. How can the teacher alert students to the most
important information?
     Color: The teacher uses a set of colored markers when writing notes on the
       board. Green could represent that a piece of information is important, yellow
       could represent even more importance, and red could represent the most
       important “take home message”. The students will also use colored pens or
               pencils to write their notes. This system also helps students when reviewing
               information later.
              Hat: During an oral presentation, when notes are not being used, a teacher
               could wear a hat and turn the bill of the hat in different directions to indicate
               levels of importance.

       Things to consider when planning a lesson geared toward reaching and
       sustaining student attention and engagement:
           Will your information get through the students’ RAS filters (low stress - high
           In planning your instruction consider: Does the RAS input signal danger?
           What is the “So what?” Why should the RAS let the input into the brain?
           Would the RAS consider the sensory input valuable (survival, curiosity, or

                                      ** Participant Activity **
                                 Challenge Unit – Reaching Attention

       WRITE: Think back to the “Challenge Unit” that you wrote about previously. What
       RAS stimulating strategies could you use to better capture and sustain the
       attention of your audience?

       RAS stimulating strategies that would improve your “Challenge Unit”:





       SHARE-OUT: When you have written a brief description, share your ideas with the a
       partner or your small group

               The Stress Reactions that Deflect Information Processing
                              and How to Reduce Them

                                            “A” for AMYGDALA

         Promote a positive attitude and reduce stress so that information can pass
          through the amygdala and on to the “thinking brain” (prefrontal cortex)

Common teacher concern: “My students ‘act out’ or ‘zone out’ in class making it almost
impossible to teach! What can I do?” Until the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is more mature,
adolescents are more reactive than they are reflective, especially when they perceive
stress. Stress comes in many forms for students. Stress can come from the boredom of
already having mastery of the information being taught. Stress can also come from the
frustration of not being sufficiently interested in a topic or aware of how the topic relates
to a student’s own interests or prior knowledge. Finally, stress can come from being lost or
confused and thus unable to follow the information as it is offered. This section answers the
above question with information about attitude, the amygdala, and achievable challenge.

Amygdala: The amygdala is a part of limbic system that is found in the temporal lobe of the
brain. The amygdala can be thought of as a “fork in the road” or a “switching station” on the
way to the “thinking brain” (prefrontal cortex). After information passes through the RAS, it
enters the amygdala. The amygdala then directs the information to one of two places. The
information can be sent to either the lower REACTIVE brain or to the REFLECTIVE
“thinking brain” (prefrontal cortex). In the reactive lower brain, information is responded
to with an automatic fight, flight or freeze response. In the reflective “thinking brain”
(prefrontal cortex) conscious thought, logic and judgment can be used to respond to new

  Information enters the amygdala

                                   REFLECTIVE “thinking brain” (prefrontal cortex)

                                    *conscious thought, decision making, judgment*

                                                 REACTIVE lower brain

                                       *automatic fight, flight or freeze response*

What determines if the amygdala directs information to the reflective “thinking
brain” (prefrontal cortex) or to the reactive lower brain?

When a person is in a state of stress, fear, frustration, helplessness, anxiety or boredom
new information coming through the sensory intake areas of the brain cannot pass through
the amygdala’s filter to gain access to the reflective prefrontal cortex. Instead, the
information is conducted to the lower, reactive brain. As mentioned above, the lower,
reactive brain has a limited set of instructions it can use to direct behavior, such as fight,
flight, or freeze. Observing students during these states of stress-directed behavior, it is not
surprising they some students are misidentified as suffering from ADHD, petit mal epilepsy
(staring spells), and oppositional-defiant syndrome. Alternatively, if stress is reduced, and a
person is in a relaxed and alert state, information can pass through the amygdala and on
to the reflective “thinking brain” (prefrontal cortex).

Causes of stress in school:
    Fear of being wrong
    Feeling too embarrassed to speak in class, answer questions or present their work to
      their peers
    Test-taking anxiety
    Physical and language differences
    Boredom from lack of stimulation due to from prior mastery of the material or
      feeling that the information lacks personal relevance
    Frustration with material that exceeds a student’s foundational knowledge
    Feeling overwhelmed by the increased demands of each subsequent school year, and
      their inability to organize their time to respond to these demands

What teachers need to know about stress in school:
   Stress can cause behavior problems and obstruct learning.
   Participating in new learning requires students to take risks that are often beyond
      their comfort zones. Steps should be taken to reduce stress during these times.
   Before students can attend to higher-order thinking they must meet lower-level
      needs like survival and safety. Examples of survival needs experienced in school:
      thirst, hunger, clothes that don’t fit comfortably and lack of sleep. Examples of safety
      needs experienced in school: illness, being physically injured, being insulted or
      emotionally hurt and having ones property stolen or destroyed.


How to promote a positive attitude so that information gets to the prefrontal cortex
    Use curiosity promoting questions/demonstrations
    Help students link new input with prior knowledge
    Have students work in their “achievable challenge” (video game model)
    Teach students how to recognize their incremental progress towards a goal (effort to
       goal-progress graphs

Offer students ACHIEVABLE CHALLENGES – ones that that prevent stress by avoiding
boredom and frustration:

An achievable challenge is one in which a student has the capacity (or skills to develop the
capacity) to meet an ambitious goal. An achievable challenge is therefore a challenge that
exists within Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development”. As Goldilocks would say, the
challenge is “not too hard, not too easy, but just right!” If a challenge is too easy a student
will become bored, which leads to stress, and ultimately disengagement from learning. If a
challenge is too difficult a student will experience frustration and hopelessness, which also
lead to excessive stress. However, when facing an achievable challenge that is just within
one’s reach, the student avoids detrimental states of stress, and the amygdala is able to pass
information on to the prefrontal cortex.

An achievable challenge includes:
    Structured goals
    Frequent feedback
    Positive intrinsic reinforcement
    Scaffolding, tools and support provided when the level of challenge begins to exceed
      the participants capacity

What can video and computer games teach us about achievable challenge?

Video and computer games are compelling because they offer individualized achievable
challenges to their participants. At the outset, a player is presented with a goal. The player
begins at level one, and through trial and error (feedback) builds enough skills to
ultimately pass level one. The next level challenges the players newly developed skills, but
ultimately, through sustained effort, practice, and persistence the player succeeds and
continues to progress through the levels. The player feels the pride of knowing that their
effort caused their success (intrinsic reinforcement). If a player is feeling stuck, usually
they can find hints on the Internet or learn tips from their peers. In this way, even the world
of video and computer games offers scaffolding.

Achievable challenge and Differentiation

If teachers were able to implement a “video game” model of teaching, all students would be
learning in their personal zone of achievable challenge at all times. Students would be
frequently assessed to determine their appropriate “zone”, they would set and reset goals
throughout learning, and they would receive the individual support needed to overcome
setbacks and obstacles. In the future, it may be possible that individuated instruction will
actually take place through computer programs. So, while students learn basic math facts
from the computer within their personal zone of achievable challenge, their teacher can take
on the role of facilitating projects requiring higher order thinking and collaboration.
However, for many reasons, within the constraints of our current educational system, the
level of individuation required to have every student constantly working within their zone
of achievable challenge is impossible. Teachers simply do not have the time to individuate
all learning.
Differentiation for Achievable Challenge
    What can teachers do to capitalize on the power of having students work within
their achievable challenge level? Each of the following topics are discussed in more detail
in the pages that follow:

      Pre-assessments
      Cultivate a “growth mindset”
      Building motivation
      Highlighting incremental progress
      Formative assessments
      Providing scaffolding
      Rubrics
      Activate prior knowledge and Personalization
      http://animoto.com/education “Animotos”: Students can make Animotos for
       homework to summarize what they have learned in a given lesson. Animotos can
       also be used during the class period for differentiation. If a student has
       demonstrated mastery of a concept based on a formative assessment, that student
       can work on an Animoto that represents what she learned.

Pre-assessments are noncredit self-graded quizzes: A pre-assessment can be used to
alert both the student and the teacher to what the student already knows about a topic. This
gives an initial indication of an individual students “zone”. The teacher may find out that a
student is missing some foundational skills that will be needed for the topic, or that the
student already has a lot of knowledge, and without some additional challenge the student
may become bored and disengaged. Using pre-assessment also benefit students in the
following ways:
         They provide a preview of the upcoming key concepts. Neurologically, this
            stimulates the circuits of any related prior knowledge the students have.
            Activating this knowledge makes it easier for students to understand and
            remember the new information.
         When students make a prediction (by writing down what they think the correct
            answer will be) they have more buy-in when listening to the correct answers
            you provide following the pre-assessment.
         The teacher provides timely corrective feedback by going over all of the answers
            immediately after the pre-assessment. Students correct their own quizzes (in
            another color). This allows them to notice, and then correct, their
         To hold students accountable on these non-graded pre-assessments, you can tell
            students that sometimes the pre-test will be the same as the final.

Scaffolding for Reading and Writing Lower the Barrier not the Bar


  FLIRT Process

                              5                                                     1
             T: Text structure and organization                        F: Fiction/Nonfiction/Poetry
          Scan for signal words to determine the                  Preview the text to determine the
          external text structure and establish a                 genre and establish reading behaviors.
          system for organizing new information.

                     4                                                                             2
            R: Reveal a purpose                                                       L: Look at the text features
    Ask questions to set a purpose and                                       Skim the text features to create
    to anticipate author’s point of view.                                    interest and identify essential themes.

                                                        I: I already know
                                            Make connections to determine existing
                                            schema and identify difficult sections.

  Julie B. Wise and Divonna M. Stebick www.myreadingsecrets.com
Scaffolding: For some students, the level instruction in your class will be beyond their zone
of achievable challenge. These students will need additional support and scaffolding. One
option is to provide pre-underlined books or partially filled in outlines from last year’s
students or note-takers. They can add their own notes as they participate in the lesson.
     Rubrics: Students can use rubrics to develop individualized achievable challenge goals
       before they begin a project or paper. It is helpful if students can see anchor papers
       that previous students have done that correspond with levels of the rubric. Scaffolded
     Previously underlined text
     Tape-recorded text segments
     Personalized Reading (predict, question, connect, summarize while reading) with
     Varied level reading material on the same topic.
     Graphic organizers = visual overviews and connections.
     Preview reading for understanding and more active participation/prediction
     Preview chapter questions
     Visualize for comprehension and memory
     Concepts of text and text cues
     Retrieval is better when students know how information is organized e.g.
       categories, and best when they create these categories or graphic organizers
     Produce a product, make models
     Role play, skits, pantomime
     Link item to be learned with positive emotional events: flash bulb memory. (We
       remember the song playing during our first kiss.)
     Personal involvement in learning experience - hands on and discovery learning,
       prediction, write on overhead projection paper to share with class, cooperative group
          Some of the above from Understanding by Design, Wiggins and
        McTigue ASCD
Formative assessments: As students progress though a lesson or unit, they should
participate in on-going informal assessments with corrective feedback. For example, as a
teacher is providing instruction on punctuation, she can write several sentences on the
board and ask students to write down what type of punctuation they should use to end the
sentence. Students will write their answer on their individual white boards and hold it up
for the teacher to see. The teacher gets immediate feedback on how well everyone
understands the concept. The teacher then explains the correct answer to correct any
misconceptions. This practice serves a variety of purposes. It keeps all students actively
engaged in instruction unlike in traditional classrooms where only the student who raises
his hand and answers the question participates. The student becomes aware of their
misconceptions and the teacher has a sense of how to progress. Perhaps it is time for some
students to move on to a more challenging activity (to avoid boredom) and for some
students to remain with the teacher for some additional review (to avoid frustration).
Highlighting Incremental Progress
         The experience of incremental progress increases the brain’s predisposition for
effort output. Students who feel alienated in school need additional support to regain their
confidence and feel motivated towards reaching a challenging goal. If struggling
academically has always been a source of disappointment for them, you can brainstorm
times when they have been successful towards reaching a goal (e.g. music, sports, art,
making friends, cooking something new, etc.).
        Students should be made aware of the progress they are making towards a goal. In
general we experience an intrinsic reward when we realize that we are making progress
due to our practice and effort. Even noticing small changes can be helpful. For example,
having students keep a graph of how their reading fluency improves depending on how
much they practice can be very motivating.

In an amygdala-positive learning environment we see evidence of active learning and
     Students observing and noticing with focused attention
     Students discovering, thinking and questioning
     Students solving traditional and extension problems
     Students who are engaged, motivated, interested, self propelled learners

WRITE: Think back to the “Challenge Unit” that you wrote about previously. What
amygdala positive strategies could you use to reduce stress and promote a positive
attitude for your participants?

Amygdala positive strategies that would improve your “Challenge Unit”:


SHARE-OUT: Collaborate on ideas or after you have written a brief description, share your
ideas with partners

         Dopamine – The Neurotransmitter of Pleasure, Memory, Focus and
         How to Increase the Dopamine-Pleasure Response for Motivated

                                     Delight from Dopamine
                   Develop motivation and increase participation with dopamine
Dopamine is neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain,
which transmit signals between neurons (nerve cells). Neurotransmitters allow for
information to travel from neuron to neuron throughout the brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with (it both increases and is
increased by) pleasurable experiences and the anticipation of pleasurable
experiences. Its release also increases focus, memory, decision-making, and
executive function.

When dopamine levels go up, the following behaviors are more prominent:
 Pleasure
 Creativity
 Motivation
 Curiosity
 Persistence and perseverance

The following activities increase dopamine levels:
 Collaborating
 Enjoying music
 Being read to
 Feeling self-appreciation-recognizing progress towards a personally meaningful
 Acting kindly
 Interacting and collaborating well with classmates, including group work
 Expressing gratitude
 Experiencing humor
 Optimism
 Choice
 Movement

CHOICE: The following strategies involving choice may increase dopamine
levels among students

   Homework study habits: In the beginning of the year, the teacher can pose the
    question, “Do you want to spend less time on homework this year?” The teacher
    then explains that there is no one way that students study best. Instead, the
    students are going to experiment and choose the most effective and efficient
    system for themselves. Students then hypothesize about what strategies or
    conditions (such as taking too-frequent snack breaks, interrupting their focus
    with texting, creating a homework schedule, or turning off the television) will
    help - or hinder - their learning. Once they have tested different strategies and
    conditions they report back to the class on how they work best.
   Homework deliverables: Students can be given some choice in how they
    produce their homework. For example, if the assignment is to summarize a book
    chapter, there a variety of methods that could be used. A student could create an
    Animoto video online (animoto.com), create a graphic organizer or flow chart of
    the information, create n picture or visual image, submit a hard copy of how they
    would “text” or “tweet” about the information (hyper-condensing information in
    this way requires the use of precise vocabulary and a clear understanding of the
    content - just think about how much meaning can be found in a perfectly crafted
   Vocabulary: When students are asked to choose how to arrange a list of words
    (vocabulary, spelling, etc.) from words they find the most “pleasurable” to the
    words they find the least “pleasurable”, they remember all of the words better
    than if they had had no choice in the order of the word list.

MOVEMENT: The following strategies involving movement may increase
dopamine levels among students

       Pantomime vocabulary words (English, foreign language, content specific)
       Word Gallery: If students have a list of vocabulary words they can walk
        around the room and record the number of the numbered poster that has a
        verbal or pictorial representation of word. Subsequently students can add
        their own sentences or drawings to the wall charts. Provide scaffolding by
        allowing some students to have a one-word definition or work with a
        partner. The activity can be even more dopamine enriching by playing music
        that students can enjoy as they move through the activity.
       Ball-toss review: Students can toss a ball to one another as each student
        states one thing they remembered from a lesson.
       Snowball fight: Each student writes a key point of a lesson onto a piece of
        paper. The students then stand in a circle, crumple up their pieces of paper,
        and toss them into the middle of the circle. Students take turns selecting a
        “snowball” to read aloud to the class.
       Write words with parts of the body: elbow, ear, knee etc.
       Four corners: Each corner of the room can be marked with the letters A, B,
        C, or D. Students can answer multiple-choice questions by moving to the
        corner of the choice they believe to be the correct answer.

                              ** Participant Activity **
                               Writing with your body

STAND AND WRITE: Stand up and write the word “dopamine” using either your
elbow or your ear.
                        ** Participant Activity **
                       Challenge Unit – Dopamine
       WRITE: Think back to the “Challenge Unit” that you wrote about previously. What
       dopamine stimulating strategies could you use to elevate the mood of your

       Dopamine stimulating strategies that would improve your “Challenge Unit”:



SHARE-OUT: Collaborate on ideas or after you have written a brief description, share your
ideas with partners

       At the end of this session, go back and complete a plan for how you’ll incorporate
       RAD strategies in planning instruction and goals for students, with a focus on
       students with whom you work.
              How can you apply R.A.D. strategies to a future lesson or presentation that
              you will be doing?

       Brief description of your future lesson or presentation:




           1. In your future unit or presentation, how can you reach the attention of
               your participants through the use of novelty and evoking curiosity? Refer
               back to strategies presented in the “R” (RAS) section of this handout.


           2. In your future unit or presentation, how can you decrease stress and
               increase academic risk taking and participation? Refer back to strategies
               presented in the “A” (amygdala) section of this handout.


           3. In your future unit or presentation, which dopamine stimulating
              activities and strategies will you use to increase pleasure, motivation, and
        memory? Refer back to strategies presented in the “D” (dopamine) section
        of this handout.


The Neuroscience and Strategies for Maximizing Student Memory

      Making Memories That Stick: Activating and Sustaining the
Brain’s Patterning System to Encode New Learning into Memory

Part 1: Working Memory: Activating and Sustaining the Brain’s
Patterning System to Encode New Learning into Memory

Working (Relational) Memory: After leaving the amygdala, new information
makes one more stop before reaching the pre-frontal cortex. The new information
enters a brain structure called the hippocampus.

                    Hippocampus                                            Prefrontal Cortex

       When the new information enters the hippocampus, related memories are
triggered in various parts of the cortex. These related memories are stored in
different parts of the cortex depending on which sensory receptors initially
responded to the input. For example, the memory of ducks quacking is stored in the
area of the cortex related to auditory input. If you were listening to a lecture about
mallard ducks, the new information you were learning would enter your
hippocampus. Related memories about ducks (e.g. the sound of ducks quacking, the
image of ducks you saw in a pond, a fact you once heard about the properties of
feathers) would “meet” the new information about mallard ducks in your
hippocampus. The combination of the pre-existing related memories and the new
information is called a “relational memory” (also referred to as short-term or
working memory).

Relational memories are temporary. They will only be converted to long-term
memories if they are mentally manipulated in the prefrontal cortex. (Activities that
require mental manipulation are described later in this document in the section
called “Mental manipulation”) Once the information has been converted to long-
term memory, when someone mentions something about a duck, your network of
relational memories will be triggered and available to you.

The ability of the brain to form relational memories is advantageous. If we were
unable to form relational memories, all new learning would seem random and
extremely hard to categorize and use. The brain’s ability to form relational
memories is frequently an automatic process. However, if students have not been
made aware how their prior knowledge connects with new information, it is
unlikely relational memories will be formed. Teachers can make the process of
forming relational memories more efficient, effective, and transparent to students.

Activating a Prior Knowledge Bridge.

                         Prior knowledge is data that students have already acquired
through formal teaching, personal experience or real world associations. Teachers
should “activate” this prior knowledge by alerting students to what they already
know that connects to what they are going to learn. This is consistent with the way
the brain makes these connections through pattern recognition and pattern

       Activate prior knowledge by:
          o Giving pre-unit assessments
          o Showing videos or images that remind students of prior knowledge
          o Holding class discussions starting with high interest current events
          o Discussing with students what they learned about the topic from the
              perspective of another course or cross-curricular studies.

                         Patterning: The process that directs relational memory
formation in the brain is “patterning.” To survive successfully animals need to
understand their environments and make meaning of what they see, hear, smell,
touch, and taste all around them. The brain is designed to perceive and generate
patterns and uses these patterns to predict the correct response to new information.
Based on our brains’ process of patterning, we are able to make predictions and
anticipate what might happen next and the best response. For example, a fox might
have acquired the pattern or relationship between cold temperatures and rabbits
entering their dens earlier in the evening. Therefore, on a cold evening, the fox can
predict that his best opportunity for catching dinner is before the sun goes down.
Teachers can capitalize on the brain’s patterning in a variety of ways.
 Presenting information in context (real world connections, cross-curricular
            themes of study, experiential learning, from concrete to abstract) helps students
            identify patterns and connect new information with previous experiences and
            memories (relational memories).
           Graphic organizers: Help students “fit” new information into existing brain
            patterns (neural networks) by using graphic organizers (e.g. a Venn diagram
            used to compare and contrast new and old information)

Activate prior knowledge: All students have some previous knowledge or connection to
most new information they are introduced to. The teacher can help students make
connections between what they already know and what they are going to learn.
Neurologically, once prior knowledge is activated it forms a loose association with newly
introduced information. This association is what is known as working memory. When
information stored as working memory is consciously manipulated in some way it has the
potential to become long-term memory. Therefore, one can see how activating prior
knowledge is an important first step in the series of events that allows new information to
become long term memory.

Strategies for helping students build personal relevance and activate prior
        Show students how what they are about to study relates to their lives or the
           world around them. Watch a relevant video, such as those relating to math and
           science found on the following website: http://www.thefutureschannel.com/
        Connect a unit with current events
        Read aloud something curious or interesting that relates to the topic at hand
        Before a lesson or unit, tell a narrative about the life of the author, scientist,
           historical figure, or mathematician when he/she was about the age of your
        Discuss the “So what?” factor. Why should students WANT to know what you
           have to teach them? You can discuss with students how information connects
           the “real world” or to their lives. Further it is motivating for students to know
           concretely how they are going to use the new information after you teach it to
           them. Are they going to discuss it with a classmate, or teach it to younger

            Part 2: Maximizing Long-Term Memory with Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity and the neuroscience of how our brain changes when we
learn: Neuroplasticity is the idea that through our repeated thoughts and actions,
our brains change. Scientists previously believed that many parts of the brain only
change during the “critical stages” of infancy. Research now suggests that all parts
of the brain are malleable throughout our lives. Specifically, if a region of the brain
is stimulated repeatedly (which happens when we practice using information), the
connections between neurons (nerve cells) in that region will be strengthened, and
new cells may be added. These strengthened connections, if used consistently,
become useful, long-term memories. Conversely, if a neural pathway is not used, it
will be pruned (removed).

Mental Manipulation: Information that we learn, including that which has become
integrated into a relational memory, will only become part of our long-term,
consciously retrievable, store of useful knowledge if it is mentally manipulated in
the prefrontal cortex. This means that the learner has to “do something” with the
information rather than passively taking it in. There are many ways that teachers
can have students mentally manipulate information.

VOCABULARY Mental Manipulation

     Pantomime vocabulary with scaffolding
     Word Gallery: vocabulary review can incorporate movement, positive peer
      interactions, even music.
Younger children: If students have a list of words they can walk around the room
and write the number of the poster that has a verbal or pictorial representation of
word. Bring additional drawings or cut out pictures from home to add.
Older students: The posters can vary from having definitions or sentences that use
the word contextually in a sentence. Subsequently students can add their own
sentences to the wall charts.
Scaffold students who need it by allowing them to have a one-word definition or
work with a partner as walk the gallery
     Students list vocabulary words by their own choice of most to least
     Model and have students draw sketches with accompanying stories for the
       words (e.g. SHADOW,
     Play telephone, hangman, Pictionary with new words, content specific terms,
       formulas, spelling rules
     Vocabulary in Action with Simon Says: Point to an object that is a

Dend-Writes (a word play on the neural structures called ‘dendrites’) are brief
thinking/writing assignments that students do to help them make sense of and
consolidate new learning. They also can provide teacher feedback such as checking
for understanding. I usually have students write on small note cards.

Following are the ten Dend-Write prompts that I have posted in my classroom:
       1. Create an analogy about what you learned; write what it reminded you
           of, or how it fits with what you already know.
       2. Draw a picture, diagram, or graphic organizer of what you learned.
       3. Write a reaction/reflection of how something you learned relates to
           your life.
       4. Write about something that made you wonder or surprised you - a new
           insight or discovery.
       5. What do you predict will come next?
       6. How could you (or someone in a profession) use this knowledge?
       7. What did you understand today that you haven’t understood before?
           What is something that you are confused about or find difficult?
       8. What was the part of lesson that you enjoyed the most? What was the
           part that was most difficult for you?
       9. What strategy did you use to solve a problem today?
       10. “So What?” – What do you think were the most important things in the
           lesson? What are they important?

When and how to use Dend-Writes:
   When checking for understanding, especially when on-going feedback tells
     you there are problems, you can use Dend-Write prompts such as #4, #7, or
     #8. Students should always start the response by including the positive
     statement that relates to the first part of the question. For #8 one would
     write, “The part of the lesson I enjoyed the most was ………and something that
     still confuses me is…” In that way the student will have a burst of brain
       satisfaction (dopamine) because they are recognizing an accomplishment.
       They then feel less anxious expressing what they still find confusing or
       difficult in the second part of their Dend-Write.
      Feedback to you - how accurately the lesson was understood
      Before the next class correct any misperceptions you discover
      Make check marks on cards that you think the rest of the class would benefit
       from hearing. Students with checks share those insights with the class as a
       review or to promote discussion. (Because the teacher has identified the card
       as useful or correct, it lowers participation anxiety of the student presenters
       because they are confident that their responses are correct)
      Students can add to their own notes based on what they learn from hearing
       the information on their classmate’s Dend-Write
      Cards can become study aides
      Posted on bulletin boards, Dend-Write cards cover important information for
       students who were absent and provide review information before the next
       class or the test.

Additional examples of Mental Manipulation (especially effective if used within
the first 24 hours after new learning has occurred):

      Create a narrative – students can write and share a story about the new
       information. They should be encouraged to use personification and amusing
       details to make even the driest of facts memorable. For example, one of my
       previous workshop participants told an amusing story about a lonely piece of
       new information that entered a brain. It felt lost and sad until it found its
       family amongst the related memories in the hippocampus. Illustrating the
       story adds a further level of mental manipulation.

      Teach the new information to someone else – understanding something
       well enough to teach it to another person requires a clarity of thought and
       understanding that ultimately supports the “teachers” long term memory of
       the concept.

      Pair-share or collaborate: Students experience a greater level of
       understanding of concepts and ideas when they talk, explain, predict, and
       debate about them within a small group, instead of just passively listening to
       a lecture or reading a text.

      Similarities and differences: Just as survival depends on recognizing the
       changes in an animal’s expected environment (e.g. what has changed and
       what has stayed the same in the environment of the fox), people are also
       responsive to remembering information by identifying similarities and
       differences. Researchers have found that identifying similarities and
       differences is the most effective way of committing information to memory.

      Creating analogies allows students to relate information in new ways. For
       example: White is to Snow as Blue is to Sky. You can scaffold analogies by
       using ones students made in previous years, and leaving out one or two of
       the four components of A is to B as C is to D. Then they can explain and
       expand on the characteristic or relationship that ties the two sets together.

      Creating similes such as “exercising my muscles makes me stronger like
       reading makes me smarter” also supports building long terms memories of
       new information.

Mental Manipulation Strategies to Increase Memory Storage and Retrieval
   Memory retrieval increases with multiple and varied modes of instruction of
     the same material.
   Avoid one lesson fits all. Differentiated instruction: use different learning
     style focuses each time you teach review the material.
   Retrieval is better when students know how information is organized e.g.
     categories, and best when they create these categories or graphic organizers
   Visual imagery: Students visualize a mathematics or science concept or
     procedure then note it using words or sketches.
   Produce a product, make models
   Role play, skits, pantomime
   Personal involvement in learning experience - hands on and discovery
     learning, prediction, manipulatives, write on overhead projection paper to
     share with class, cooperative group work.

Memory Cement
   Here-Me-Now so Students See Value of the Information: If students don’t
    sense the information is important to them, it won’t go through the
    hippocampus, become patterned into new synaptic connections (relational
    memories), and become long-term memory. Memories that are associated
    with emotional or personal meaning are most likely to become relational
    memories and be stored.
   Real World Connections and Teachable Moments
    When would this knowledge be useful to you?
    Meaningful comparisons: Comparing the language used in IM or Text
    messages to formal literature.
   Extend working to relational memory by asking students to construct verbal
    and written summaries, represent the content as pictures, symbols, graphic
    organizers, physical models, and create mental images. LATER revise their
    notes, pictures, graphic organizers, homework,
   Achieve maximal memory storage conditions with teaching strategies that
    connect with students as individual learners through their strengths and
    promote positive emotional states.

       Summarize: Use “twitter” or “text message” style to be summaries concise.
        Younger children make “phones” (decorated towel or toilet tissue roll) and
        practice short overseas calls to someone in “a far away country – real or
        imaginary” but need to keep toll charges down with short call planned in
       Creating a puzzle on Puzzlemaker.com
       Animotos that summarize

Graphic organizers (maps, timelines, flow charts) are like an external prefrontal
cortex in the way they match the brain’s mechanisms for arranging information in
meaningful ways. Just as the prefrontal cortex automatically seeks links and
patterns amongst facts, ideas, concepts, topics, and other categories of knowledge,
so does the student who organizes new information into a graphic organizer. Some
of the skills required when using a graphic organizer are: prioritizing, categorizing
and recognizing relationships. These skills relate to prefrontal cortex executive
functions that are not yet mature in our students. Therefore, scaffolding students in
the use of these skills supports the development of their executive functions.

Additional reasons that graphic organizers are beneficial:
      Graphic organizers require students to summarize. It requires active
      thinking on the part of the student to make large amounts of information,
      from different sources, manageable.
      Graphic organizers provide an opportunity for students to actively learn as
      they reconstruct information they hear, read, and discover, into a personally
      meaningful framework.
      They can be done as a syn-naps (short brain break) and/or as a group
      Allowing students choice in regards to which graphic organizing template
      they use boosts dopamine.

Samples of graphic organizers can be found at these websites:

Multisensory learning and review for building long-term memories:
       Multisensory learning: When there are multiple pathways (cross-brain
referencing) connecting to the learned material, there are several neuronal circuits
connecting to the information so retrieval can occur from a variety of cues. The
building of these multiple pathways by which students can access and recall the

       information is the reason multisensory learning and review (rehearsal) makes
       memories permanent and actions automatic.
               Review: Each time students participate in any endeavor the specific pathway
       of neurons is activated and neurons and their connections in this pathway are
       stimulated again. The more times they repeat the thought process or action, the
       more efficient, stronger, and less susceptible to pruning these brain pathways
       become. Eventually, only triggering the beginning of the sequence of an action or
       recalling first part of a set of data, will result in the remaining pieces following in
       sequence. Examples: Tying shoes, touch-typing.

“Talking Back to the Text” is an interactive reading strategy that helps students become
personally engaged with what they are reading. Students begin by writing questions and
prompts on post-it notes or other small papers that they can insert into their text. Some
questions are prediction questions the student will answer before reading. Other questions
and prompts will be answered while the student is reading:

          Before reading the students writes and answers prediction questions:
              o What do I think you’ll be telling me?
              o I already know things about YOU so I predict.....
          During reading students can complete the following questions or prompts:
              o You are similar to what I have learned before, because you remind me of...
              o I would have preferred a picture of...(or sketch or download your own)
              o I didn’t know that and I like what you have to say (or I’ll bet this will be
                 on the test)
              o I disagree
              o This is not what I expected
              o This gives me an idea
              o I want to know more about this than you have to offer and I know how to
                 find out
              o I know there is more than one way to interpret this information
              o I won’t let you get away with anything, so I’ll check your source
              o What clues do you have to help me answer the Big Question? Ah, this
                 could be one right here.

       PEER INTERACTION: The following strategies involving peer interaction for
       mental manipulation (and dopamine)
           Think-Pair-Share: Students, even in middle school and high school, can
             listen to directed lecture with focused attention for only fifteen to twenty
             minutes without some type of break. Having students take a moment to
             process information and communicate with the student next to them is an
             excellent, dopamine raising mini-break.
           Group projects: Groups work best if the members have a common, relevant,
             high interest goal that they can only achieve if all group members are

        accountable for the outcome. Students benefit from having opportunities to
        teach each other. In addition, students are more likely to ask each other
        clarifying questions, rather than asking in front of the whole class. Ideally,
        the problem or question that the group is investigating should involve
        opportunities for critical thinking and reasoning things out together.
       Game show: Students can be grouped in teams and given the chance to
        converse as a group before answering review questions in a quiz show
        format. In addition to the benefit of the peer interaction, game shows are fun,
        which provides an additional dopamine boost.
       Group presentations: Teams can collaborate to produce graphic organizers
        related to a given topic. Graphic organizers can be used for synthesizing
        information at the start of a unit, or for review before a test. The teacher can
        offer a challenge by asking students to relate newly learned information to a
        topic that students are more familiar with. For example, imagine that a class
        has been discussing the Winter Olympics and have generated a lot of
        excitement around the topic. When the class is taught some new anatomy
        concepts, the teacher challenges them to make a graphic organizer that
        relates the Winter Olympics to the parts of the body. A team might make a
        graphic organizer where a figure of a person has different body parts doing
        different sports all at once. While the right foot is skiing, the left foot is
        snowboarding, and the arms are lifting an ice-skating partner overhead.
        Because knowledge of both art and sports are needed to complete the
        “anatomy” challenge, more students than just those who typically thrive
        during science lessons will be engaged. Teams can then present their graphic
        organizers using an overhead projector, which brings with it the added fun of
        using the teacher’s special tools.

Part 3: Mistakes for Stronger Accurate Memory

       Prediction + Mistakes + Neuroplasticity = Accurate Durable Memory

Mistakes are useful, but scary! For most students, their greatest fear is making a
mistake in front of the whole class. However, learning actually increases when we
make mistakes. Every time that a student responds to a question, and receives
feedback as to whether their response was correct or incorrect, the student is
learning. If the student made a correct “prediction” (answer), the neural network
storing the related information is strengthened. If the student made an incorrect
“prediction” (answer), but then received corrective feedback and was able to revise
their misunderstanding, their neural network will be corrected. However, if a
student does not make any “predictions”, because they are not actively participating,
their neural network will not be strengthened. In addition if a student makes a
faulty prediction, and their misconception is not corrected, their misunderstanding
will likely persist which can severely restrict future learning. Therefore, the goal is
to keep all students participating and engaged because only the person who THINKS
(predicts) learns.

Reducing the stress of participation: Students learn best from corrective feedback
when they are in a state of low stress. Therefore, despite the fact that students learn
from mistakes, it is not ideal for a student to be “called out” as having made a
mistake in front of his peers. Ideally, students share their predictions (answers)
through the use of individual white boards. The students make a prediction, and
hold up their white board for their teacher to see. After the teacher acknowledges
that they have seen the students’ answers, the students lower their white boards so
they are not on display for their peers. This protects students’ privacy and prevents
cheating. When the teacher provides the correct answer, each individual student
will know if they made a mistake, and can make their corrections. Of course there
are times for class discussions and the public sharing of ideas. It is important to
build a class culture where all answers, both correct and incorrect, are treated with
respect and seen as learning opportunities. However, the white board strategy is
useful not only for having students feel comfortable participating and predicting,
but it also requires participation from all students, which is important because as
mentioned above, only the person who THINKS (predicts) learns.

What is happening in the brain when we learn from mistakes: There is a small
brain structure called the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens constantly
releases a small stream of dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with
pleasure) into the area of the prefrontal cortex where memories are formed. When
we make a prediction (answer), and discover that our prediction is correct, the
nucleus accumbens releases an extra dose of dopamine. While we may not
consciously register the surge of pleasure caused by this dopamine boost, our brain
does. The brain patterning connected to this correct prediction is strengthened to
increase the likelihood that the correct prediction, and corresponding surge in
dopamine, will occur again.

Conversely, when we make a mistake, the nucleus accumbens diminishes the flow
of dopamine. Our brain registers a decrease in dopamine, and reacts to this
displeasure by deactivating the brain patterning that led to the incorrect prediction,
the goal being to avoid making the mistake again with its corresponding decrease in

                                                        Prediction Reward Circuit
        Strategies that increase participation and risk-taking in school:
            Activate prior knowledge so students feel empowered by what they already
            Frequent interactive formative assessments during lessons keeps students
              actively connected
            Use “safe” prediction opportunities like KWL charts and individual white
            Ask students to discuss information in pairs. Then, have on student from
              each pair share-out either their own or their partners ideas
            Examples and non-examples columns: If you are asking students to list
              examples of odd numbers, and some students offer even numbers by
              mistake, you can add the even numbers to a “non-example” category so that
              the student contribution is still useful
            When students answer incorrectly, if any part of their answer is correct, you
              should repeat that part of their answer before clarifying and correcting their
            Teach students about neuroplasticity - that they literally have the power to
              change their brains and become “smarter” by thinking, making predictions,
              incorporating corrective feedback, and practicing and using the information
              they learn.

A little neuroscience goes a long way in motivating students: Students who come to you
with a high level of negativity can also benefit learning about how powerful their brains are,
regardless of previous performance. Even in elementary school, children enjoy discovering
they can change their brains and intelligence (neuroplasticity). This can be especially
powerful for students who have been marginalized by learning differences. Information
about the brain, and how to teach students about the brain can be found in the following
articles I wrote for Educational Leadership. I call them my “Brain Owner’s Manual” but the
journal articles are: What You Should Know About Your Brain
(http://radteach.com/page1/page8/page45/page45.html) and How to Teach Students
About the Brain (http://radteach.com/page1/page8/page44/page44.html)

Topics included in the “Brain Owner’s Manual”
   Intelligence and accurate memory is constructed by the brain when we make
      mistakes and learn from them because of neuroplasticity
   They learned things already by learning from mistakes: how they learned to walk,
      talk, ride a bike
   Use sports and musical instrument analogies about building greater skill the more
      students practice
   Show visual images of the efficiency of movement with multiple pathways to the
      same destination

Whether to combat stereotype threat about math ability or to empower students with
knowledge of their neuroplasticity and unlimited potentials of their brains, a Brain Owner’s
Manual can change both the minds and mindsets of all students from pre-k to graduate
See Neuroscienceforkids.com and google image for sample photographs/diagrams

        Part 4: The Master Control System that Only Human Brains Have –
              The CEO in Residence is the Executive Function System

          Prefrontal Cortex for Higher Order Skills (Executive Functions)

               The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the region of the brain that allows us to make
       conscious decisions in regards to our thoughts and emotions. It is the last part of the
       brain to mature, and maturation continues into the mid twenties. The PFC, once
       mature, is associated with the highest cognitive processes, also referred to as
       executive functions. Executive functions can be thought of as the skills that would
       make a corporate executive successful. These include planning, decision-making,
       reasoning, and analysis. These executive functions further allow for: organizing,
       sorting, connecting, prioritizing, self-monitoring, self-correcting, self-assessing,
       abstracting, creative conceptual problem solving, focusing, and linking information in
       order to take appropriate actions.
               Mature humans are the only creatures with the ability to analyze their
       thoughts and behaviors and direct them in a way that leads to the successful
       fulfillment of their goals. However, even in college students (early to mid-twenties),
       these functions are still being developed. Following are several executive functions
       that educators can help support in their students:
           o Judgment: This executive function, when developed, promotes a student’s
               ability to monitor the accuracy of his or her work. Techniques such
               estimation, and editing and revising one’s own written work require
           o Prioritizing: This executive function helps students to separate low
               relevance details from the main ideas of a text or topic of study. It also
               promotes one’s ability to combine separate facts into a broader concept. In

     college, many students still need to develop prioritizing skills to help them
     make the most efficient use of their time.
   o Setting goals, providing self-feedback, monitoring progress: Until
     students fully develop this PFC executive function, they are limited in their
     capacity to set and stick to realistic and manageable goals. They need support
     in recognizing their incremental progress towards their goals.
   o Remembering and applying information from the past: The ability of
     students’ to apply “lessons” they have learned from past experiences to their
     current situation is still developing in some college students.

Culminating Thoughts: What have you learned that if implemented could have the
most valuable impact on your students? What resources/assistance would you
need? How will you evaluate your success?

                                 Did You Know?
                    Topics for discussion with your colleagues

Through neuroimaging studies (of the amygdala, hippocampus, and the rest of the
limbic system and through measurement of dopamine and other brain chemical
transmitters) we now have visible evidence that there is a profound increase in
long-term memory and higher order cognition when students have trust and
positive feelings for teachers, and supportive classroom and school communities.

The more dopamine students have released by positive emotional experiences (in
school and out) the less likely they are to seek dopamine/pleasure surges from high
risk behavior of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, risky fast driving, overeating. More
sports, music, dramatics, and enjoyable learning = less high-risk behavior and
suicide in teens. This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place
when classroom experiences are enjoyable and relevant to students’ lives, interests,
and experiences.

Learning connected with positive emotional significance that leads to the new
information being stored in long-term memory. Learning associated with strong
positive emotion is retained longer, and stress/anxiety interfere with learning, so
those lessons do not sustain for end of the year testing, even if students pass unit

Syn-naps: Any pleasurable activity (singing, walk about the room and chat with
friends, listening to music, having a few pages of a class book read aloud to them, or
sharing jokes) used even as a brief break can give the amygdala a chance to “cool
down” and the neurotransmitters time to rebuild, as the students are refreshed.

Dopamine release (and the pleasure associated with it) has been found highest in
school students when they are moving, laughing, interacting, being read to, feel a
sense of accomplishment, and when they have choice.

The last part of the brain to mature (through plasticity and pruning is the prefrontal
lobes. Students and many teenagers do not have fully developed delayed
gratification skills during their school years. The prefrontal regions are major
participants in the executive function networks of judgment, prioritizing, and
delayed gratification processing. This is one reason students from kindergarten
through high school continue to need support and encouragement from their
teachers to keep their efforts directed on long-term goal achievement.

For students with attention focusing difficulties, each time they focus their attention
they are activating the brain’s alerting and focusing pathways. This repeated
stimulation of these pathways makes the neural circuits stronger and increases
their ability to actively direct their attention where it is needed.

Enthusiasm is generated when students are presented with novelty and find
creative ways to explore or connect with the new material and are inspired by it.
Whenever you can generate this awe and sense of wonder, students will be pulled
into the school lessons they bring home and they will be motivated to connect with
the information in a meaningful way.

Students experience a greater level of understanding of concepts and ideas when
they talked, explained, and argued about them with their group, instead of just
passively listening to a lecture or reading a text.

Use more senses: The experiential education motto is that you learn 40% of what
you hear, 60% of what you hear and see, and 80% of what you hear, see, and do.

                            Useful Definitions

Acetylcholine: A neurotransmitter that stimulates multiple brain centers including the
hippocampus, brainstem, and forebrain where new learning takes place. Associated
with attention and focus.

Affective filter: Steven Krashen, in his studies of linguistics developed a theory of
language acquisition and development that included the hypothesis of an affective filter.
He described higher success rate of second language acquisition in learners with low
stress and slower language acquisition when stress was high. He postulated that anxiety
and low self-image created a mental blockade that filtered or blocked out new learning.
The term is now generalized to refer to an emotional state of stress in students during
which they are not responsive to processing, learning, and storing new information.
This affective filter is represented by objective physical evidence on neuroimaging of
the amygdala, which becomes metabolically hyperactive during periods of high stress.
In this hyperstimulated state, new information does not pass through the amygdala to
reach the information processing centers of the brain.

Amygdala: Part of limbic system in the temporal lobe. It was first believed to function
as a brain center for responding only to anxiety and fear. When the amygdala senses
threat, it becomes overactivated (high metabolic activity as seen by greatly increased
radioactive glucose and oxygen use in the amygdala region on PET and fMRI scans). In
students, these neuroimaging findings are seen when they feel helpless and anxious.
When the amygdala is in this state of stress, fear, or anxiety-induced overactivation,
new information coming through the sensory intake areas of the brain cannot pass
through the amygdala’s affective filter to gain access to the memory circuits.

Axon: The single fiber that extends from a neuron and transmits messages to the
dendrites of other neurons (or to body tissues).

Brain Mapping: Using electrographic (EEG) response over time brain-mapping
measures electrical activity representing brain activation along neural pathways. This
technique allows scientists to track what parts of the brain are active when a person is
processing information at various stages of information intake, patterning, storing, and
retrieval. The levels of activation in particular brain regions are associated with the
intensity of information processing.

Brain Stem: The brain region between the spinal cord and the rest of the brain. This is
also where nerve centers essential for basic survival, such as heart rate, breathing,
digestion, and sleep, are located.

Cerebellum: The lower posterior region of the brain that supervises coordinated
movement, posture, and balance and adjusts actions in response to external cues, such
as where your foot is in relation to the step. The greatest numbers of connecting
neurons to and from the frontal lobe are in the cerebellum such that this region appears
to influence higher cognitive processes such as reasoning.

Cerebral Cortex: This outer layer of the brain where most neurons are located is also called
gray matter due to the coloration of the neurons. The cerebral cortex is associated with the
highest cognitive processes, also referred to as executive functions, including planning,
decision-making, reasoning, and analysis.

Computerized Tomography (CT Scan, CAT scan): This scan uses a narrow beam of x-
rays to create brain images displayed as a series of brain slices. A computer program
estimates how much x-ray is absorbed in small areas within cross sections of the brain
to produce the image.

Dendrite: Branched protoplasmic extensions that sprout from the arms (axons) or the
cell bodies of neurons. Dendrites conduct electrical impulses toward the neighboring
neurons. A single nerve may possess many dendrites. Dendrites increase in size and
number in response to learned skills, experience, and information storage. New
dendrites grow as branches from frequently activated neurons. Proteins called
neurotrophins, such as nerve growth factor, stimulate this dendrite growth.

Dopamine: A neurotransmitter most associated with attention, decision-making,
executive function, and reward-stimulated learning. Dopamine release on neuroimaging

has been found to increase in response to rewards and positive experiences. Scans
reveal greater dopamine release while subjects are playing, laughing, exercising, and
receiving acknowledgement (e.g. praise) for achievement.

EEG (Electroencephalogram): EEG measures the electrical activity occurring from
transmissions between neurons in the cerebral cortex.

Executive Function: Cognitive processing of information that takes place in areas in
the left frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex that exercise conscious control over one’s
emotions and thoughts. This control allows for patterned information to be used for
organizing, analyzing, sorting, connecting, planning, prioritizing, sequencing, self-
monitoring, self-correcting, assessment, abstractions, problem solving, attention
focusing, and linking information to appropriate actions.

Frontal Lobes: With respect to learning, the frontal lobes contain the centers of
executive function that organize and arrange information and coordinate the
production of language and the focusing of attention.

Functional Brain Imaging (Neuroimaging): The use of techniques to directly or
indirectly demonstrate the structure, function, or biochemical status of the brain.
Structural imaging reveals the overall structure of the brain and functional
neuroimaging provides visualization of the processing of sensory information coming to
the brain and of commands going from the brain to the body. This processing is
visualized directly as areas of the brain “lit up” by increased metabolism, blood flow,
oxygen use, or glucose uptake. Functional brain imaging reveals neural activity in
particular brain regions as the brain performs discrete cognitive tasks.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI): This type of functional brain
imaging uses the paramagnetic properties of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood
to demonstrate which brain structures are activated and to what degree during various
performance and cognitive activities. Most fMRI scan learning research has subjects
scanned while they are exposed to visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli and then reveals
the brain structures that are activated by these experiences (exposures).

Graphic organizers: Diagrams that are designed to coincide with the brain’s style of
patterning. For sensory information to be encoded (the initial processing of the
information entering from the senses), consolidated, and stored the information must
be patterned into a brain-compatible form. Graphic organizers can promote this more
patterning if they guide students’ brains when they participate in this creating of
relevant connections to their existing memory circuitry.

Hippocampus: A ridge in the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain that consists
mainly of gray matter that has a major role in memory processes. The hippocampus
takes sensory inputs and integrates them with relational or associational patterns
thereby binding the separate aspects of the experience into storable patterns of
relational memories.

Limbic System A group of interconnected deep brain structures involved in olfaction
(smell), emotion, motivation, behavior, and various autonomic functions. Included in
the limbic system are the thalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and portions of the frontal
and temporal lobes. If the limbic system becomes overstimulated by stress-provoking
emotion (seen as very high metabolic activity lighting up those brain areas) the
information taught at that time will be poorly transmitted or stored in the long-term
memory centers.

Metacognition: Knowledge about one’s own information processing and strategies that
influence one’s learning that can optimize future learning. After a lesson or assessment,
when students are prompted to recognize the successful learning strategies that they
used, that reflection can reinforce the effective strategies.

Neuronal Circuits: Neurons communicate with each other by sending coded messages
along electro-chemical connections. When there is repeated stimulation of specific
patterns of a group of neurons, their connecting circuit becomes more developed and
more accessible to efficient stimulation and response. This is where practice (repeated
stimulation of grouped neuronal connections in neuronal circuits) results in more
successful recall.

Neuron: Specialized cells in the brain and throughout the nervous system that conduct
electrical impulses to, from, and within the brain. Neurons are composed of a main cell
body, a single axon for outgoing electrical signals, and a varying number of dendrites for
incoming signals in electrical form. There are more than 100 billion neurons in an
average adult brain.

Neurotransmitters: Brain proteins that are released by the electrical impulses on one
side of the synapse, to then float across the synaptic gap carrying the information with
them to stimulate the next nerve ending in the pathway. Once the neurotransmitter is
taken up by next nerve ending, the electric impulse is reactivated to travel along to the
next nerve. Neurotransmitters in the brain include serotonin, tryptophan, acetylcholine,
dopamine, and others that transport information across synapses. When
neurotransmitters are depleted, by too much information traveling through a nerve
circuit without a break, the speed of transmission along the nerve slows down to a less
efficient level.

Occipital Lobes (visual memory areas): These posterior lobes of the brain processes
optical input among other functions.

Parietal Lobes: Parietal lobes on each side of the brain process sensory data, among
other functions

Plasticity: Dendrite formation and dendrite and neuron destruction (pruning) allows
the brain to reshape and reorganize the networks of dendrite-neuron connections in
response to increased or decreased use of these pathways. Plasticity refers to the ability
of synapses, neurons, or regions of the brain to change their properties in response to
usage (stimulation).

Positron Emission Tomography (PET scans): Radioactive isotopes are injected into
the blood attached to molecules of glucose. As a part of the brain is more active, its
glucose and oxygen demands increase. The isotopes attached to the glucose give off
measurable emissions used to produce maps of areas of brain activity. The higher the
radioactivity count, the greater the activity taking place in that portion of the brain. PET
scanning can show blood flow and oxygen and glucose metabolism in the tissues of the
working brain that reflect the amount of brain activity in these regions while the brain
is processing information or sensory input. The biggest drawback of PET scanning is
that because the radioactivity decays rapidly, it is limited to monitoring short tasks.
Newer fMRI technology does not have this same time limitation and has become the
preferred functional imaging technique in learning research.

Prefrontal Cortex (front part of the frontal lobe): The prefrontal cortex responds to
event and memory processing and makes conscious decisions. It is the region of the
frontal lobe where the brain directs the planning of the movements to do a task

Reinforcement Learning Theories: Theories (such as Dopamine Reward Learning)
based on the assumption that the brain finds some states of stimulation to be more
desirable than others and makes associations between specific cues and these desirable
states or goals.

Relational Memory: Learning consists of reinforcing the connections between neurons
when students learn something that adds to what they have already mastered that
expand on neuronal networks already present in the brain.

Reticular Activating System (RAS): This lower part of the posterior brain filters all
incoming stimuli and making the “decision” as to what people attend or ignore. The
Reticular Activating System alerts the brain to sensory input that sense receptors in the
body send up the spinal cord. The main categories that focus the attention of the RAS
and therefore the student include physical need, choice, and novelty.

Scaffolding: This is instruction based on the concept that learning always proceeds
from the known to the new. Students construct their new learning on the foundations of
what they already know with the help of teachers, parents, or a more knowledgeable
other who support them with instruction to help them build upon the abilities and
knowledge they have to reach a higher level.

Somatosensory Cortex Areas: One in each parietal brain lobe where input from each
individual sense (hearing, touch, taste, vision, smell) is ultimately processed.

Survival Level of Attention: Ideally students are beyond a basic survival mode and can
direct attention to more than just avoiding danger. However, too much stress can push
them into this survival mode. This can occur when students feel confused and
overwhelmed by a classroom experience such that they cannot connect with, focus on,
and create patterns and meaning from lesson’s sensory input data.

Synapse: These gaps between nerve endings are where neurotransmitters like
dopamine carry information across the space separating the axon extensions of one

neuron from the dendrite that leads to the next neuron in the pathway. Before and after
crossing the synapse as a chemical message, information is carried in an electrical state
when it travels down the nerve. It is through synaptic transmission that cells in the
central nervous system communicate when an axon sends a neurotransmitter across
the synaptic cleft to activate the receptor on the adjacent dendrite.

Temporal Lobes: These lobes on the sides of the brain process auditory and verbal
input, language and phonetic discrimination, mood stability through projection fibers
leading to limbic system, and learning.

Venn Diagram: A type of graphic organizer used to compare and contrast. The outer
areas are for differences and the similarities are listed in the middle area.

Working Memory (Short-term memory): This memory can hold and manipulate
information for use in the immediate future. Information is only held in working
memory for about a minute. The memory-working span of young adults is
approximately seven for digits, six for letters, and five for words.

      Dr Judy Willis’ Multiple Web Links to Articles, Books, Videos

           Resources for Educators to Teach Students About their Brains

How to Teach Students About the Brain link:

What You Should Know About Your Brain link:

Hopkins School of Ed Teaching Students A “Brain Owner’s Manual”.
www.NewHorizons.org or direct link http://bit.ly/dopWyO

                               Books by Judy Willis
All ASCD books have direct from my website www.RADTeach.com or directly from
ASCD.org “publications” to several free chapters and downloadable study guides

Research-Based Strategies To Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a
Neurologist/Classroom Teacher, ASCD 2006.

Teaching the Brain to Read: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and
Comprehension ASCD 2008

Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom, ASCD 2007

Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student Attitudes and Get
Results, ASCD 2010 Free chapters and study guide download at:

Inspiring Middle School Minds: Gifted, Creative, Challenging. Great Potentials Press,

How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Based Ways to Ignite Learning and Increase
School Success. Foreword by Goldie Hawn. Sourcebooks: 2008

Current Impact of Neuroscience in Teaching and Learning. A chapter in, Mind, Brain,
& Education: Neuroscience Implications for the Classroom. Ed. D. Sousa. Solution
Tree Press, 2010.

                       Archived Ask Dr. JUDY Webinars:
Maximizing Student Memory by Learning from Mistakes with Dr. Judy Willis, view
archived webinar from 10/14/2010: http://bit.ly/anjSqo

Emotion and Learning: How To Promote a Learning-Receptive Emotional State Feb
2 (www.ascd.org/webinars)

How Can I Motivate My Students? http://bit.ly/deEq07
View webinar with Dr. Willis' unique brain-based perspective on ideas to motivate

Why Don't Students Pay Attention? from May 11, 2010 ASCD archives
http://bit.ly/a0LbMa. The first 10 minutes have a voice repeat/delay, but that goes away
and the rest is clear.

The webinars in the ongoing series are interactive and sustained with an ongoing
discussion group at the free ASCD EDGE network discussion page called, How the
Brain Learns http://edge.ascd.org/_How-the-Brain-Learns/group/110564/127586.html

               Free On-line Articles, Psychology Today Posts, Videos,
                  Edutopia links, and On-line Discussion Groups

Dr Judy Willis Edutopia Webinar: http://www.edutopia.org/webinar-discussion-

Edutopia’s “Big Thinkers in Education”: 1-hour interviews with 16 people of interest
to educators including Howard Gardner, Sir Kenneth Robinson, Arne Duncan, Jane
Godall, T. Berry Brazelton, Linda Darling-Hammond….and coming in March, me.

                             ASCD interviews and videos

Interview about Research-Based Strategies To Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a
Neurologist/Classroom Teacher, ASCD 2006. Free Study guide at

Interview about differentiation Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion
Classroom (2007)

Interview about Teaching the Brain to Read

Video interview about Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student
Attitudes and Get Results, ASCD 2010 ASCD author interviews

        Articles & Blogs (partial list of those with links here or through the
                           www.RADTeach.com website

ASCD author EDGE page link:
&b or below http://bit.ly/aqDjQp

Psychology Today online miniarticles links:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/radical-teaching. Example of a post is: Want
Children to “Pay Attention”? Make Their Brains Curious! available at

Top 10 Memory Tips (PDF) at http://bit.ly/7ZpBz2
 Then go to "download this media"
at the top

How Your Child Learns Best (PDF) at http://bit.ly/8GKfW5 and click "download 
media" at the top.

ASCD Whole Child 4-part Series about Creativity, the Arts, and the Brain October
2010 http://bit.ly/dokkzK

 Rubrics as a Doorway to Achievable Challenge 
 New Horizons for Learning,
Journal of Graduate School of Education, Johns Hopkins University. Fall 2010

Harvard Educational Letter Spring 2010: Interview about collaborative learning
benefits. http://bit.ly/9UcFia

“Dr Judy Willis and Goldie Hawn are Building Better Brains by Bringing
Neuroscience into Classrooms”. Neurology Now: Publication of the American
Academy of Neurology March/April 2010 - Volume 6 - Issue 2 - p 14–17.


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