Several exercises that use simple movements to stimulate brain function can be incorporated into any classroom. Said exercises are easy-to-do, and involve developmental movements that wake up the brain. Educator Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of learning through movement and the creator of a program entitled Brain Gym, believes the movements he’s pioneered stimulate the mind so that the child has access to all dimensions of the brain.
To boost brain power in your own classroom, try an exercise known as “cross crawls.” Place your right hand across the body to your left knee as you raise it, and do the same thing for the left hand on the right knee (just as if you were marching). Do this for 2-3 minutes. To add to the exercise, have students recite the correct spelling to their weekly words as they continually do a cross crawl motion. In tying academic content to the exercise, students are coordinating the right and left brain, invigorating the mind and promoting a higher level of engagement. Activities such as these are best spread out over the course of the school day, just as we do with our daily meals.
However, if you’re looking for an alternative way to boost student brain power, look no further than whole brain teaching and learning, a program that outlines seven key components to effective, brain-based instruction. The initial component of whole brain teaching is the concept of “Class, Yes,” by which teachers are gaining student attention by merely calling on their class for a response. To follow, teachers reiterate key concepts of a lesson, by having students give them “hands and eyes” or “mirror” the teacher’s gestures and words. From this, the students are then asked to teach a partner about the concept just taught by the teacher. The students would then switch roles, and a new “teacher” takes the stage for the instruction. Through such instruction, the teacher is delivering chunked portions of content to assure that the information is transferred into one’s declarative, or long-term, memory. For more information regarding whole-brain teaching and learning, visit http://www.wholebrainteaching.com/.
Whether using brain-based teaching and learning, or simply taking a break throughout the course of the school day, it is vital that we address the unique learning needs of our students. Consider the impact brain-based techniques could have on your classroom and help to build a climate and culture in which dendrites continue to grow.
By: Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES