Brain based Learning …what’s that?Are you a brain based teacher.. ?

The human brain consists of special cells called neurons, which are composed of several parts, including brain fibers known as dendrites. As you learn, these brain fibers grow. The fibers connect your brain cells to one another at contact points called synapses. The larger your brain fibers grow, and the more brain cells they connect, the more information can be stored in your brain.Brain Based Learning theory is based on the structure and function of the brain.As long as the brain is not prohibited, learning will occur.
Brain Based Learning theory is based on the structure and functions of the brain.lets try and understanding  how learning happens by understanding the brain first.

1. The brain is a social organ: Our brains require stimulation and connection to survive and thrive. A brain without connection to other brains and without sufficient challenge will shrink and eventually die, moreover, the modern human brain’s primary environment is our matrix of social relationships. As a result, close relationships promote positive emotions, neuroplasticity, and learning. That’s why it pays for teachers to create positive social experiences in the classroom.

2. We have two brains:The cerebral hemispheres have differentiated from one another and developed specialized functions and skills. In general, the left hemisphere has taken the lead on language processing, linear thinking, and pro-social functioning while the right hemisphere specializes in visual-spatial processing, strong emotions, and private experience.Most tasks, though, involve contributions from both hemispheres. So, it is important to understand how to engage both in the classroom context.

3. Early learning is powerful: Much of our most important emotional and interpersonal learning occurs during our first few years of life.Early experiences shape structures in ways that have a lifelong impact on three of our most vital areas of learning: attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem. These three spheres of learning establish our abilities to connect with others, cope with stress, and feel that we have value.

4. Conscious awareness and unconscious processing occur at different speeds, often simultaneously.

5. The mind, brain, and body are interwoven: Physical activity exerts a stimulating influence on the entire brain that keeps it functioning at an optimal level. Exercise has been shown to stimulate the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus and to pump more oxygen through the brain, stimulating capillary growth and frontal-lobe plasticity. Proper nutrition and adequate sleep are also essential to learning. Although the brain is only a fraction of our body’s weight, it consumes approximately 20 percent of our energy, which makes good nutrition a critical component of learning. Sleep boosts cognitive performance and augments learning while sleep deprivation limits our ability to sustain vigilance and attention.

6. The brain has a short attention span and needs repetition and multiple-channel processing for deeper learning to occur: Curiosity, the urge to explore and urge to look for novelty plays an important role in survival. We are rewarded for curiosity by dopamine and opioids (feel-good chemicals in the brain), which are stimulated in the face of something new. Because our brains evolved to remain vigilant to a constantly changing environment, we learn better in brief intervals.

7. Fear and stress impair learning: Evolution has shaped our brains to err on the side of caution and to trigger fear whenever it might be remotely useful. Fear makes us less intelligent because amygdala activation—which occurs as part of the fear response—interferes with prefrontal functioning. Fear also shuts down exploration, makes our thinking more rigid, and drives “neophobia,” the fear of anything new.Stressful situations trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which interferes with neural growth. Prolonged stress impairs our ability to learn and maintain physical health.

9. Learning is enhanced by emphasizing the big picture—and then allowing students to discover the details for themselves.

When problems are represented at higher levels of abstraction, learning can be integrated into larger schemas that enhance memory, learning, and cognitive flexibility. Starting with major concepts and repeatedly returning to them during a lecture enhances understanding and memory, a phenomenon that increases when students create their own categories and strategies of organizing information. Chunking material into meaningful segments makes it easier to remember, and improves test performance while increasing prefrontal activity during encoding.

TEN BRAIN BASED TEACHING & LEARNING STRATEGIES
1.  Talking is important for  learning !  Research has taught us that people don’t learn much from sitting and listening.  Sure, they need to listen a bit, but they need the opportunity to talk!  The talking internalizes what they’ve learned. Who doesnt like to get some attention and a chance to talk , the children  love this, and it works!
2.  Emotions rule …. all the time!  If you think about the strong memories you have from your past, I’ll bet they are closely related to strong emotional experiences, both positive or negative:  your wedding, your child being born, a death… strong emotions.  This works with children, too!  Hopefully, your teaching won’t bring out too many negative emotions, but there are ways to get to the positive ones!
3.  Visuals are important!  Vision is the strongest of the senses.  Talking alone isn’t enough.  Make sure the children have plenty to look at in addition to what you say.  Use posters, drawings, videos, pictures, and even some guided imagery with the children to help them learn.

4.  Chunking is the only way !  The typical attention span is the child’s age plus or minus a couple of minutes.  That means young children  can’t attend past 5 – 10  minutes.  Again, proof that typical “lecture” type teaching just doesn’t work.  That means they need a chunk of information, then an opportunity to process that in some way.  Here’s where “turn and talk” works, as well as an opportunity to write, draw, or even move.

5.  Movement makes it easier to retain !  Combining movement with the learning almost guarantees stronger learning.  Here are some ideas:  Counting by tens while doing jumping jacks, touch three desks while naming the three flowers etc

6.  Sometimes Shake it up!  If you do exactly the same thing, exactly the same way, it becomes boring and the brain tunes out.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things about sticking with a routine, but once in a while you need to shake it up!  Have a backwards day, turning the whole schedule around (within reason, of course!)  change the seating arrangement, do one part of the day completely different.  We need this in our own lives, too, don’t we?

7.  The brain needs oxygen, go outside !  They say 20% of all the oxygen used in the body is used by the brain.  That means we need to get the kids up out of their seats regularly and moving!

8.  Make connections , Relate it !  Connections are important for the brain.  It can’t hold random information, it needs to connect to something else that’s already there.  Did you ever hear a kid say, “I remember that because I know….”  You can make connections through your own experience and stories.

9.  Feedback is essential to keep our lesson on track !  Practice doesn’t make anything better unless the practice is accurate.  Children need to hear they are on the right track. I use a colour code to let the children know if they are on track.
10.  Music is magical!    There are many studies on music and learning.  Use happy music first thing in the morning.  That way the children enter feeling good.

The Canadian Children’s Museum, Ottawa…After ten long years! Wish I was travelling again with my little kids!

The Canadian Children’s Museum in the Museum of Natural History , Ottawa, beautiful memories and my visit …once again after ten years ! My recent trip to Canada  and United States can be called “A Museum Holiday .” ..as I went Museum crazy on this trip and loved it! image

It was my first visit to The Canadian Children’s Museum in 2006 that fuelled my interest in museums.An interest which has stayed on.The  interactive and experiential learning  was evident in my kids happy faces back then. They learnt about various cultures, people and diverse lands in this world through play and fun experiences in the Museum. The children stamped their passports before entering the various installations of different countries and explored and did many country specific activities before moving on to the next installation. It was an absolute treat to visit this museum then and now again in 2016.The packed museum was full of children who didn’t seem to want to leave back then or now and nor did I!…and why ? .The pictures say it all.

Some lovely features of the Museum :

1. The Museum lets the children travel the world, enriching their lives and broadening their experience by exploring other cultures through exhibitions, props, costumes and hands-on artifacts, including an extraordinary assortment of toys and games.

2. Children can find experiences that engage their interests, increase their skills and knowledge, and help them achieve development milestones. They can clamber aboard an extravagantly decorated Pakistani bus and a three-wheeled auto rickshaw from Thailand. Or step inside a Bedouin tent and homes from India, Indonesia and Mexico.Or wear the Arabian robes and sit in the tents in a desert or climb on the camel’s back.

3. The Museum’s diversity and richness engage children of all ages, allowing them to explore and learn through play at their own pace. It’s a fun, memorable first step in a child’s understanding of the arts, culture and history.

4. The Children’s Museum has been developed around a central theme — The Great Adventure — and gives younger visitors an opportunity to travel the world. Over 30 permanent exhibit spaces have been designed as a series of contextual environments situated along a random circulation route.

5. The Museum has been welcoming over eight million children and their families since 1989, with average annual attendance of 500,000 and caters to children up to the age of 16 years.

Wishing such Museums are built in India soon too.Sadly the younger generations have kids who no longer play outside and have few stimulating environments like these in our country. Instead many families do their weekly family outings in various Malls that have mushroomed everywhere!

Hoping  Museum Visiting overtakes Mallidaying ( new term for holidaying in malls) in our country too. Waiting for real estate giants and business men to get interested in investing not just in the Entertainment parks and toy stores but also in building such lovely Museums  ! Meanwhile do include Museum visits on your trips abroad. There are textile museums, transport museums, shoe museums , natural history museums , science museums, art and design museums etc etc everywhere in the world! Amaze your children with the beautiful infrastructure, fun learning spaces and developmentally appropriate stimulating environments created in these Museums.

Watch this space for an account of the Next Museum featured here ..

Guggenheim Museum, New York !

( Thanking my husband …..for without his support and love I wouldn’t have travelled to places like these in this world !  Also Thanking Ramesh Uncle for taking me to this museum in 2006 & in 2016.) 

 

Awesome Power of Story Telling …yet again & Me loving my role as a Story Teller !

8th September 2016-International Literacy Day

Pratham Books One Day One Book Initiative!

3200-storytelling-sessions3000-champions25-languages

WWhat a beautiful day as always with Children so eager to learn. Counting my blessings  as always for the opportunities I have to connect through stories. Am surprised by the Awesome Power of Story Telling every time I tell a Good Story! Arefa Tehsin’s “The Elephant Bird ” was indeed a good story! Loved the participation, smiles and involvement of the children of Gopal Saraswati School , Noida. The eyes widening as the story unfolded, the fun faces, the excitement in the voices of the children kept the Story Teller in me wanting to go on and on.It is amazing to see the impact story telling has on people.  The power a story teller holds on his or her audience is so huge that anything can be taught or conveyed in these moments of connection. Wishing and hoping teachers in the schools I tell stories in are able to recognise this power and make use of it and make a boring class into a fun teachable moment.

Next steps and learnings…..

1. Go back to the  school and take the teachers through nuances and tricks of good story telling . Keep connecting with them on regular basis.

2. To drive into them , that this power to tell stories can be used in everyday life at school, by every subject teacher  and for anything, any lesson, any content, any concept!

3. Involve the children in story telling and starting story telling hours in all the schools for under privileged children we work for.

4. To finally start a Story Telling Group ..with people who believe in this Awesome Power of Story Telling.

Wish me luck ….as it’s high time that I consolidate my learnings from years of connecting with kids and teachers and magicians called story tellers here in India and some who I recently met in Toronto.

Signing off  with a promise to myself to do more and more  ! image