Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is Your Classroom Brain Friendly?

Brain-Friendly Environment

Environments are the medium in which we live. We can feel them every day, all day long. At school, only the quality of the teacher is a greater determinant of student success than the environment. -E. Jensen

Resource: Environments for Learning by Eric Jensen

Safety First:
• Adopt a zero tolerance policy towards bullying.
• Make the room inviting to students: use music, flowers, warm colors and affirming posters.
• Maintain a caring attitude that accepts diversity.
• Role model positive ways to deal with temporary setbacks.

Prime Students for Learning:
• Plant seeds of learning with pre-exposure.
• Hang up peripherals (posters, pictures, drawings, symbols) two-four weeks before you begin teaching a unit.
• Many teachers do this by having a ‘coming soon’ bulletin board.

Reduce Clutter:
• Make sure your classroom is physically neat before each learning session.
• Take care that ample classroom space is allotted for necessary storage.
• Use appropriate wall space to organize material on bulletin boards.
• At least one time per month, take an honest stock of your classroom; freshen displays and discard materials no longer in use.

• The brain responds exceptionally well to learning environments with high levels of individualized instruction, constructive feedback, small-group interaction, and high expectations.
– Regularly incorporate small-group learning activities.
– Experiment with seating and desk arrangements.
– Consider an occasional change of location to teach a concept.

Music and Learning:
• When children are talking, predictable music without words is best.
• Typically use music no more than 5 to 20% of your class period.
• Use a variety of music types.
– To calm students down, choose a slow song – slightly slower than the normal heartbeat.
– To motivate students, choose a fast beat selection (120-140 beats per minute).
– To enhance productivity, choose selections that mirror the normal heart rate (60-70 beats per minute) and are highly predictable and in a major key.

• When relaxation is required, keep temperature in the upper range of the comfort zone (70-72 degrees).
• When alertness is desired, keep temperature in the lower range of the comfort zone (68-70 degrees).

• Maintain a constant, adequate level of bright lighting (at least 2,000 lux).
• Indirect but bright natural lighting is best.
• Deviate from the norm and take students outside for occasional learning sessions. Not only will they be exposed to more sunlight and fresh air; their brains will be stimulated by the novelty of learning in a new and different environment.

• Research suggests that peppermint, basil, lemon, cinnamon, and rosemary enhance mental alertness while lavender, chamomile, orange, and rose calm nerves and encourage relaxation.
• Be sensitive to others’ complaints about bothersome smells. Unpleasant odors are known to inhibit learning.

Environments for Learning by Eric Jensen

Differentiated Seating Chart

  • First, distinguish the readiness levels of your students: early readiness (ER), readiness (R), advanced readiness (AR). Early readiness is below grade level, readiness is on grade level and advanced readiness is above grade level.
  • Next, create groups of four [see chart above]. If you prefer students facing forward, simply create a base group of four. Then, have students practice moving desks from partners to groups. This can be done in a matter of seconds.
  • Look at the seating chart above. When students work with shoulder partners, the learning gap is considered because advanced readiness learners are NOT paired with early readiness learners. When students work with face partners, advanced readiness learners are NOT paired with early readiness learners.
  • You’ll also notice that each group of four is assigned a number from 1-4. When using tiered assignments, the teacher can easily ask students to move to the four corners of the room – number ones in one corner, twos in another, etc. Students’ readiness levels are already considered and assignments can easily be disseminated.
  • Seating charts are generally kept for four-six weeks. Be sure that you don’t always have #1s as early readiness students when making new groups or students will figure out your system.
  • After you determine where you’re going to place readiness levels, it’s easier to differentiate for behavior too. Notice the pictures in the diagram – class clowns are separated, etc.

Appointment Calendars - Differentiated Partner Work

Appointment Calendars

By keeping appointment calendars, teachers can easily instruct students to work in partners with minimal management required. Students do not meet at specified times, it's simply an organizational tool. At any time during the day, the teacher may instruct for students to work with their 8 o'clock appointments.

Make one copy of the daily appointment calendar for each student in your class. Have students stand up, take their appointment calendars and find other students with whom to make appointments. Explain that each time an appointment is made, the student should write the appropriate name in the agreed-upon time. The calendars must agree. If Johnny is my(student in class) 8:00 appointment, I(student in class) must be his 8:00 appointment.

Students are responsible for keeping up with their appointment calendars, but the teacher may want to make a copy to be on the safe side.

It’s easy to differentiate the appointment calendars by only allowing student to self-select a specific number of appointments. The rest are made by the teacher. Students only have names written by their appointments but the teacher has a ‘key’ as to how the partners were made [see example below].

Appointments are made gradually throughout the year. The teacher may instruct students to self-select 8, 10, 12 and 2 o’clock appointments. This gives the teacher a ‘skeleton’ from which to work. As the teacher becomes acquainted with learning profiles, additional appointments will be made by the teacher. The teacher may simply instruct the class to write down 9:00 appointments by telling (or displaying on the SMARTBoard) who the partners are. When doing this, the teacher does not specify that 9:00 partners are peer tutors.

With a differentiated seating chart and differentiated appointment calendars, think of the flexible grouping arrangement possibilities. If the teacher calls for 3:00 appointments to work together, he automatically knows that he needs to work with the four-six early readiness students.

Appointment Calendar
Possible Teacher’s Key

8:00: Student Selected Partner (Heterogeneous)
9:00: Peer Tutor (ER paired with R; R paired with AR)
10:00: Student Selected Partner (Heterogeneous)
11:00: Similar Abilities Paired Together (ER paired with ER, R with R, AR with AR – Homogeneous)
12:00: Student Selected Partner (Heterogeneous)
1:00: Similar Abilities Paired Together (Homogeneous)
2:00: Student Selected Partner (Heterogeneous)
3:00: Math (Homogeneous – Similar Abilities Paired)
4:00: Reading (Homogeneous – Similar Abilities Paired)
5:00: Science Peer Tutor
6:00: Similar Abilities Paired Together (Homogeneous)
7:00 Student Selected Partner (Heterogeneous)

Appointment Calendar for Susie Q.
8:00: Johnny
9:00: Jennifer
10:00: Matthew
11:00: Harrison
12:00: Sandra
1:00: Kevin
2:00: Cindy
3:00: Kurt
4:00: Sean
5:00: Faith
6:00 Brad
7:00 Kate

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Barbara's 4th Grade Science Post

Fourth grade science teachers at Century have been working on developing instructional activities to address the targeted learner objectives for their force and motion unit [see the form below, Force and Motion Deconstructed GLEs]. The two activities below are excellent science labs designed to have the students explore the concepts incrementally and in depth. The stations in the static electricity lab allow students to talk over their ideas with their teammates and the repeated questions provide students with opportunity to see patterns and relationships. Notice how the questions begin with descriptions of what they saw, and then the questions at the end allow them to begin drawing conclusions.

Another significant point to notice is that the activities are very focused on exactly what the targeted learning goals are. The verbs of the GLEs match the verbs of the activity. Finally, it’s important to remember that these are instructional exploration activities, not quizzes, and teachers don’t need to collect and grade them, but instead should use them for discussion.

Force and Motion Deconstructed GLEs for 4th Grade (2)

Newton Experiment

Static Electricty Stations (2)