Based on the research of Dr. Marcia Tate’s “Don't Grow Dendrites” series, AVID Instruction, and Dr. Robert Marzano’s “Highly Engaged Classoom”

Students in today's classrooms learn very differently than the way most of the people teaching them were taught. Students today need and want to be actively engaged for effective learning to take place. The fundamental shift has to be from a focus on teaching and what is the teacher doing to a focus on student learning and the impact each activity and action in the classroom has on student learning. One of the best solutions to classroom management problems is to have a classroom where students are engaged, one of the best ways to reduce tardies and students skipping class is to have a classroom where students want to come to learn, and one of the best ways to increase student achievement and reduce discipline is to have a classroom that’s fun. Wouldn’t everyone learn more if instruction was both rigorous and relevant, including an element of fun and enjoyment with learning? Everyday students and teachers should be greeted, should hear something positive, and laugh and/or smile. Research tells us that it takes 47 facial muscles to frown and only 13 to smile, laughing reduces endorphins and chemicals in the body that reduce stress, your body can’t tell the difference in genuine laughter and fake laughter so either way it helps reduce stress, and reducing stress not only helps you to live longer but also makes a learning environment more effective.

Students in today's classrooms learn very differently than the way most of the people teaching them were taught. Students today need and want to be actively engaged for effective learning to take place. The fundamental shift has to be from a focus on teaching and what is the teacher doing to a focus on student learning and the impact each activity and action in the classroom has on student learning. For many decades, observations and the assessment of school classrooms were on the actions of the teacher: “The Sage on The Stage” with long lectures and possibly note taking. Brain research contradicts this approach as being the most effective. Research tells us that the person doing the work is the one doing the learning. In many classrooms that person doing all of the work is the teacher, it shouldn’t be. If we are still doing lecture and having students take copious notes, which muscles are we really exercising? and what’s the impact on student learning? Contrary to what people think, the brain can’t really multi-task either, so we can’t 100% concentrate on listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time. A more effective way to do this activity would be to listen intently for short periods (1-2 mins.) and then do a quick write to process and review what was just said. Then the student and/or teacher needs to review or use that content one more time before the brain will comprehend and retain because three is the minimum number of times something must be taught before brain research tells us the brain will retain. Doing those things and in those ways are grounded in brain research and the way that all brains learn more efficiently. 21st Century Learners’ greatest retention rates come from reciprocal teaching, collaboration and classroom talk, creation and project-based tasks, inquiry and problem-based approaches, learning by doing….activities where they are actively engaged.

Brain-Based Learning

The science of learning supports student engagement as one of the most critical components of meaningful and lasting learning for students. Research-based, best-practice instructional strategies not only engage students, but also make students an active stakeholder in their learning. Effective lessons are built with aligned curriculum and a purposeful design of high student engagement. The instructional focus of each and every lesson should be on designing engaging instructional activities.

Use Strategies That Yield the Top Results with Comprehension and Retention

Today's students want and need to be active learners and active participants in learning. The "sit and get" practices yield a retention rate significantly lower than the practices that include classroom talk, collaboration, discussion, practice by doing, reciprocal teaching, questioning for critical thinking, creating a product, project-based learning, and strategies involving inquiry.

Why is multiple intelligence theory, cumulative reviews, differentiation, multiple exposures, and spiraled reviews so important? Brain research says that we must hear or be exposed to new content a minimum of three times for comprehension and retention. Brain research also supports specific practices that yield the highest gains in both comprehension and retention.

Brain-based research is component of the science of learning that expound upon the way students are actively engaged with meaning and retention of content. There are 20 cross-curricular strategies that take advantage of the way all brains learn best. These strategies increase student achievement, decrease behavior problems, and make teaching and learning fun. These include:

20 Cross-Curricular Strategies That Take Advantage of the Way All Brains Learn Best

Brainstorming and Discussion: We remember what we talk about with others.

Drawing and Artwork: Drawing helps students encode new content for later recall.

Field Trips: We remember where we go in the real world.

Games: When playing a game, the stress level goes down and the retention rate goes up.

Graphic Organizers, Semantic Maps, and Word Webs: Having students design a mind map addresses both hemispheres of the brain.

Humor: He who laughs most, learns best. – John Cleese

Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs, and Models: There is a strong correlation between what our hands hold and what our minds comprehend.

Metaphors, Analogies, and Similes: Take what is unfamiliar to students and connect it to what is familiar and they will get it.

Mnemonic Devices: Acronyms and acrostics enable students to memorize lists of items.

Movement: Anything the brain learns while the body is in motion is long remembered.

Music, Rhythm, Rhyme, and Rap: Nursery rhymes and song lyrics learned while we are children are easily remembered as adults.

Project-Based and Problem-Based learning: When students are completing real-world projects or solving real-world problems, comprehension is facilitated.

Reciprocal Teaching and Cooperative Learning: We remember 90% of what we teach to someone else.

Roleplay: Involve me, I understand. Chinese Proverb

Storytelling: The brain remembers stories because they are connected together with a beginning, middle, and end.

Technology: Technology is a workplace competency which enables students to be college – or career – ready.

Visualization and Guided Imagery: Everything happens twice: once in the mind and once in reality. – Stephen Covey

Visuals: Show me, I remember. – Chinese Proverb

Work-Study and Apprenticeships: On the job training helps the content make sense.

Writing and Journals: The brain remembers what we write in long hand better than what we type on a computer.

Research demonstrates that schools with high levels of music and arts are also the most academically successful. Why?....Because those schools engage both hemispheres of the brain in learning, decades of brain research and data on student performance fully supports this approach. The pressing questions is….why don’t all classrooms in all schools do that? Learning isn’t complicated, but it’s both an art and a science. Great teachers know how to use both the art and science of teaching and learning to make learning rigorous, relevant, and most importantly FUN! It’s not a revolutionary concept, but it works!

The #1 Reason Students Drop-Out: Boredom resulting from ineffective, antiquated teaching strategies

“When I die I hope it occurs during a lecture because the transition from life to death will be so slight that I will hardly notice it.” …Mark Twain

Don't Grow Dendrites Series

This is a great series of books on Student Engagement, based on brain research on how all brains learn and retain in the most effective manner. Dr. Tate's website is Below are links to her research on student engagement: