Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Brain Rules

This summer I read several books on education. Why? Because I enjoy keeping current. At least that’s what I tell my wife when she asks me. And I do enjoy keeping current. I also just enjoy seeing classroom practice through someone else’s eyes. This professional reading for fun is a habit that started for me way back in 1989 when I attended my first summer invitational institute for the Sun Belt Writing Project. So much of what is good about my teaching comes from my almost 20 year association with Sun Belt.

This summer one of the books I read that just blew me away was Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. At first it might seem an unlikely pick for an English teacher. After all, what do I know about neuroscience? What does the way the brain works have to do with me?

As a teacher, the way the brain works should have a lot to do with the way I teach. After all, as I learn better how the brain works, I can make adjustments to my teaching in order to take full advantage of the knowledge. Here are the 12 rules:

Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.
Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

While some of the above rules may seem to be intuitive, each is treated with scientific rigor. He has had the time and the expertise to research these matters and come up with some evidence of their effectiveness. I usually fuzz out on specifics and can only remember that I heard it somewhere. Not the most convincing of arguments. At the same time, Medina does not claim to have all the answers and throughout the book sets up intriguing questions for further research.

Medina has turned Brain Rules into a multimedia experience. He has a website with short videos on the major concepts of the rules and a blog. I have subscribed to the blog and look at the videos and other extra info on the website frequently. I especially like the tutorials on each of the rules. They are entertaining as well as informative.

Whether or not I will make use of all the incredible information in the book is, of course, the question. In order to try I am trying to get a Professional Reading Group going this year. I have already received a preliminary okay on it from the school level. Now we are just waiting to hear from the central office level. The hitch to cover is that I am trying to get this group professional development credit for reading the book and discussing it.

Here’s hoping that the book will do me and, more importantly, my students, some good.

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