Are you ready to enjoy having more engaged students? Teach them these three things about how their brain works and they will feel more relaxed and be more willing to learn!
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Lesson 1: Relearning is Easier
We've all been there: frustrated because our students don't remember something we just taught them. But here's the deal: relearning something is easier than learning it for the first time.
Let's say you teach Algebra 1. You become frustrated when your students don't remember how to add or subtract fractions. If you teach Geometry, you don't understand why they can't remember how to solve a basic equation or find a supplementary angle. You know they've been doing this since middle school!
What you can tell yourself and your students is that relearning it is easier.
Have you ever heard a song you haven't thought of in years, but as soon as you hear the intro music, you can just sing along? That phenomenon occurs because the path in your brain has already been created. You might not remember it right away, but as soon as you get that trigger, you do!
Another way to think about it is to picture walking down a path in the woods for the first time. You're moving sticks and cutting deep brush to forge the path. You're working hard! When you go to walk that path again after some time has passed, you'll still have to remove items from your path, but it won't be nearly as difficult as it was the first time.
Lesson 2: Sleep on It
The second thing I love to teach my students about their brain is the power of "sleeping on it."
Have you ever had a class period where the fire bell rings in the middle or you had to go to an assembly? Those interruptions mean you can't bring your class to a conclusion. Kids are frustrated as they leave and come in the next day saying, “I didn't get it." It's a negative experience!
Teach your students that they can sleep on it. If they sleep on it, their brain builds those connections. When they build those connections, they retain information. So when they come in the next day, it will be easier to learn. There will be more understanding and the content will seem so much easier.
So when that fire drill goes off, you're rushing them all outside, and you don't get to finish your lesson, tell your students, "I know you're feeling a little confused, but you have an advantage over all my other classes. You get to sleep on this information and come back. Tomorrow it will feel so much easier!"
They love hearing that!
Lesson 3: Multitasking Is A Myth
Students need to hear -- over and over -- that multitasking is a myth. In fact, it is not even effective.
That's hard to tell a bunch of teachers, isn't it? Because we have to multitask. We have to deal with 30-plus personalities in our classroom, the phone ringing and the door, and the fire drill. There are times I hide, close the door, and get to work in an uninterrupted space because I need that.
Well, our kids need it, too.
They need to know that they can focus on one thing at a time. In fact, it's going to help them to understand and to retain the information if they're not being interrupted. When we ask them to put the cell phone away that they are hiding in their laps, they will be more apt to listen if they understand how their brain works. Asking to put the phone away isn't simply a method of control, it's a way to help them learn.
When we are interrupted, it takes 10-15 minutes to fully refocus. Multitasking robs you of your time.
A Recap of Concepts
Helping students understand how their brain works will reduce frustration!
1. Tell them relearning is easier.
Instead of saying, "You know you learned this last year, I know you can do it again," we can choose not to talk down to them. Instead, teach them that relearning is easier. They will feel more hopeful about the class.
2. Tell them to "sleep on it."
Tell them they can sleep on it! That way, when they are frustrated, they know it's going to be easier the next day. This understanding is going to help them to come in with a more positive attitude.
3. Tell them to focus on one thing at a time.
This isn't just going to help them in math class, it will help them in life. How many people do we know that are wasting their life away because they are distracted? We want to set our kids up not just for success in our classrooms, but for success in life. If we help understand how their brain works, we will get a lot of success.