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Amber Gee Summer 2010. The ABCs of Brain-Based Learning. ED 837: Brain-Based Learning. A BOUT Thinking. The last of the four corners, this corner has everything to do with how one is metacognitive , or evaluates their own thinking.

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amber gee summer 2010
Amber Gee

Summer 2010

The ABCs of Brain-Based Learning

ED 837: Brain-Based Learning

a bout thinking
ABOUT Thinking

The last of the four corners, this corner has everything to do with how one is metacognitive, or evaluates their own thinking.

The Brain-Compatible Principles that support this corner are as follows:

Three of Cambourne’s Conditions of Learning - Approximations, Response, and Responsibility - fall mainly in this corner.

  • The Search for Meaning is Innate
  • The Search for Meaning Occurs Through Patterning
  • Learning Always Involves Conscious and Unconscious Processes
b rain geography
Brain Geography

From the top down, the brain is divided into three distinct sections.

The brain is also divided into left and right hemispheres by an exchange pathway known as the corpus collosum, which helps both hemispheres work in tandem to process input.

The HOPES Brain Tutorial

Explore the human brain and its parts.

Click HERE for a song about the parts of the brain.

  • Neocortex (thinking brain) – where higher-level thinking happens
  • Limbic area (feeling brain) – where human emotions are processed
  • Brain stem (instinctual or reptilian brain) – controls survival impulses
c ambourne s conditions of learning
Cambourne’s Conditions of Learning

Brian Cambourne’s Conditions of Learning were developed based on his studies of literacy development in children. It just so happens that they link beautifully to the constructivist approach to learning supported by brain-based research.

  • Immersion
  • Demonstration
  • Engagement
  • Expectations
  • Responsibility
  • Employment
  • Approximation
  • Response
d ynamic vs traditional assessments
Dynamic vs Traditional Assessments

Dynamic Assessments


e nvironment emotions expectations climate
Environment, Emotions, Expectations =Climate

Environment – safe, positive

Emotions – low threat coupled with appropriate challenge

Expectations – clearly stated

What makes for positive and inviting classroom climate?


The first of the four corners, this corner has to do with the climate created in the classroom. Teacher expectations, student emotions, and classroom environment all comprise this corner.

The Brain-Compatible Principles that support this corner are as follows:

Two of Cambourne’s Conditions of Learning - Immersion and Expectation - fall mainly in this corner.

  • Learning is Enhanced by Challenge and Inhibited by Threat
  • Emotions Are Critical to Patterning
  • Learning Involves Both Focused Attention and Peripheral Perception
g raphic organizers
Graphic Organizers
  • Graphic organizers help make the abstract more concrete by displaying thoughts in a visible fashion.
  • Students should be taught to select the organizer that most meets their needs.
h eredity vs environments is it nature or nurture
Heredity vs Environments: Is it nature or nurture?
  • It’s 50/50, so both!
  • A rich environment that is full of opportunities for experiential learning (especially during windows of opportunity when neural plasticity is at a high), where learners maintain a hydrated and balanced diet, has just as much to do with intelligence as one’s DNA makeup.
j oking humor s effect on the brain
Joking: Humor’s Effect on the Brain

Gelotology - the physiological study of laughter

  • The frontal lobe controls emotional responses, but the production of laughter involves multiple areas of the brain.
  • A negatively charged wave actually ripples through the cerebral cortex.
  • As a result of laughter, cortisol is reduced, immune system cells are bolstered, blood pressure is lowered, and endorphins are released among a whole host of other things.
  • The left side of the cortex analyzes the words and structure of jokes.
  • The brain’s frontal lobe becomes very active.
  • The right hemisphere of the cortex intellectually analyzes the joke so one can “get” it.
  • Brainwave activity spreads to the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe.
  • Stimulation of the motor sections evoked physical responses to the joke.
k eeping students engaged
Keeping Students Engaged

How? Use Marcia Tate’s 20 Strategies that Engage the Brain!


Use Humor


Use Visuals

Use Graphic Organizers

Use Mnemonic Devices


Tell Stories

Role Play

Teach Reciprocally

Learn Cooperatively

Take Fieldtrips

Get Moving

Use Manipulatives

Utilize Music

Play Games


Project-Based Instruction

Initiate Work Study

Incorporate Figurative Language

Use Technology

l earning in smart groups
Learning in Smart Groups

Topic: Nouns

Word Smart – Spin the spinners to select a noun from each of the four categories (person, place, thing, or idea) and write a short fiction story using those nouns.

Math Smart – Come up with three different nouns (from three of the four categories of nouns) to use in the creation of a real-life word problem requiring long division. Exchange problems with a group member and solve.

Picture Smart – Read a page of your choice out of your Harcourt story. Collaboratively web the different people, places, things, and ideas you found.

Body Smart – Select four nouns (one for each category) that you can act out in a game of charades with your team.

Music Smart – Choose four “idea” nouns and find music (or music clips) that you feel express those ideas.

Group Smart – Use the wiki to develop a group presentation that you will use to teach the class about the types of nouns. You must provide examples and use images.

Self Smart – Look through your journal paying close attention to the nouns you’ve used in the past. Which nouns do you most frequently use? Are they people, places, things, ideas, or a mix? How can you extend your use of nouns to make your writing more interesting? Take one of your journal entries and rewrite it using more specific or more interesting nouns. Add detail!

Nature Smart – Sit outside for 10 minutes and journal about what nouns you “see”. Be sure to include nouns from all four categories. You will have to think outside the box! Collect items, use pictures to represent what you saw in the form of a collage.

m icroskills and macroskills
Microskills and Macroskills



  • Specific skills in multiple areas
  • These help students become proficient in concepts, some of which will be mastered
  • Skills can be classified as individual or sets
  • Simple tasks
  • Not individual skills but sets of microskills
  • Can never truly be mastered
  • Habits of Mind
  • Complex tasks
  • Sets of skills
  • Used to help students learn knowledge and performance-type skills
  • Require scaffolding
  • Example: Collaboration Skills
  • Encourage others
  • Clarify ideas
  • Develop guidelines
  • Example: Industrial Arts
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Carpentry
n eurons
  • Neurons are cells that send and receive chemical “messages”.
  • Branched dendrites receive signals, send them through the cell body, and pass them along the axon.
  • From the axon, signals are sent through synapses and are received on a neighboring dendrite.
  • The transmission speed of information is directly related to the size of the axon. Because human axons are quite small, myelin sheaths are necessary for proper functioning. They act as insulators, providing even faster transmission of information.
  • Studies have shown that different forms of repeated practice actually thicken the myelin sheath. This means that practice makes retrieval of knowledge faster!


The second of the four corners, this corner has everything to do with the learning of essential skills.

The Brain-Compatible Principles that support this corner are as follows:

One of Cambourne’s Conditions of Learning - Demonstration - falls mainly in this corner.

  • The Brain Has a Spatial Memory System and a Set of Systems for Rote Learning
  • The Brain Processes Parts and Wholes Simultaneously
p osner and keele basic apprentice
Posner and Keele: Basic/Apprentice

Developmental Path of Skill and Content Training

q uestioning strategies
Questioning Strategies

When trying to develop higher-thinking skills in students, LeAnn Nickelsen suggest three main questioning strategies:

  • D.E.E.P (Domains for Elaborate and Effective Processing)
    • There are four domains: Awareness, Analysis to Synthesis, Application, and Assimilation.
  • Six Hat Thinking
      • WHITE – Facts
      • RED – Feelings
      • YELLOW – Positive things
      • GRAY – Disadvantages or problems
      • GREEN – New, creative ideas
      • BLUE – Summary
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation
r eflection making meaning
Reflection: Making Meaning

Educators help students learn to think about their thinking by making engaging lessons that are personally relevant, enabling students to construct their own knowledge, teaching for deep understanding, and helping them generalize information.

s tructures for cooperative learning
Structures for Cooperative Learning

Some of my favorite structures/activities from Kagan’s Cooperative Learning Structures book:


Guess-the-Fib Flashcard Game

TeamBoggle Turn-4-Review


Find-Someone-Who Two-Box Induction

Inside-Outside Circle Blind Hand


Blackboard Share Talking Chips

Three Step Interview Match Mine

u nderstanding how transfer is fostered
Understanding How Transfer is Fostered

Transfer is fostered by using strategies that challenge the learner to apply knowledge in different contexts.

Cognitive Mediation

EX: Modeling theme, guiding students through identifying several themes in movies, getting students to think of other areas where they could find the idea of ‘theme’. PERSONAL RELEVANCE

EX: Asking students to predict during a text walk, to talk about their predictions during and after reading, to evaluate if their predictions were accurate, and to explain why they were or were not. KNOWLEDGE CONSTRUTION

Metacognitive Reflection

Direct Application

EX: After a lesson regarding idioms, students begin to recognize idioms in writing and speech, and they begin to use them in their everyday conversations. DEEP UNDERSTANDING

Levels of Transfer: GENERALIZATION

1) Ollie overlooks obvious opportunities.

2) Dan duplicates – doesn’t deepen.

3) Rachel replicates regularly.

4) Ian integrates interesting information.

5) Marsha maps multiple meanings.

6) India innovates intrinsically.

v ermillion why asolescents see red so quickly
Vermillion: Why Asolescents See Red so Quickly
  • The limbic area of the brain has control over emotion, and this area typically develops between ages 10-12.
  • The frontal lobe controls rational thinking, but does not fully develop until around 22-24 years of age.
  • Therefore, in adolescents, their emotional responses (driven by work of the amygdala) are not completely checked by their rational thinking because the orbitofrontal cortex hasn’t yet matured.
  • What does this mean? Emotional processes occur before cognitive ones, so kids tend to react before thinking.
w ith

The third of the four corners, this corner has everything to do with the construction of learning through engagement and experiential learning.

The Brain-Compatible Principles that support this corner are as follows:

Three of Cambourne’s Conditions of Learning - Engagement and Employment - fall mainly in this corner.

  • Learning Engages the Entire Physiology
  • The Brain is a Parallel Processor
  • Learning is Embedded in Natural and Social Settings
  • Each Brain is Unique
e x periential learning through integration
EXperiential Learning through Integration

Below are five types of integrated applications that help learners connect content to real-life and examples of each:

  • Performance Tasks - Create a car using the materials given. The object is to use what you know about force and motion in order to construct a vehicle that will travel as far as possible.
  • Thematic Units - In learning about the Ocean, we will be reading various books and magazines, mapping the ocean floor, researching an ocean animal, writing a report, creating a newscast regarding current ocean-related events, measure wavelengths, etc…
  • Problem-Based Learning - Tackle the oil spill problem in the Gulf. Research and gather data. Decide on the best method of cleaning up the spill. Present.
  • Projects/Service Learning - Create a flip book of the layers of the ocean.
  • Case Studies - Study scenarios relating to learning a foreign language in elementary school.
memor y



















Short-term Memory Buffers






Working Memory




Loss through displacement

Loss through decay


Stimuli gets dropped from the ARM if it doesn’t have meaning. If there is an emotional tie to the information, then the it transfers into short-term memory. Minimally important things like phone numbers are stored in the memory buffers and drop out after 15-30 seconds unless enough attention is paid to them. Attention is what moves information into the working memory system. If the information is rehearsed, then it moves into the long-term memory system; otherwise, it is displaced. Oftentimes items in long-term memory are somewhat forgotten, but pulling them back into working memory and applying a little rehearsal, brings back the memory!

csiks z entmihaly advanced master
CsiksZentmihaly,: Advanced/Master

Flow. What is it? Your…


“A” Game!


Peak Performance

Flow is a state in which one is completely immersed in and enjoying the task at hand. It’s that “nothing can stop me” feeling that one tries to repeatedly recapture.

  • This occurs when students’ brains are stimulated by a rich environment in which learning becomes both a sensory and an intellectual experience.
  • Through new experiences, dendrites branch and connect to one another.
  • Through repeated experiences, the myelin sheath covering the axon thickens. This is thought to decrease the time it takes to recall information.
  • Modeling changes the brain. New learning is either connected to past knowledge through the branching of existing dendrites, or , if no past experience exists, then the brain creates new dendrites.
  • Engagement happens when students decide to make a personal investment in their learning through active participation.
  • Since the brain processes with all four lobes, each student’s experience will form connections that are unique. This is why no two brains will ever be the same.
  • When educators set realistic expectations they’re helping to create a positive and safe classroom environment.
  • In safe environments, the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, fuels a sense of well-being, which enables learners to attend better and, ultimately, learn and remember more information.
  • Differentiation provides choice for students and affords them the opportunity to make decisions regarding their learning. This personal investment leads to higher levels of engagement and learning.
  • Students need time to use what they’ve learned in order to make sense of what they think they know. Both teacher-led and student-led discussions, as well as opportunities for reflection and application, are vital in the assimilation of new information.
  • When students engage in the processes listed above, they are able to construct knowledge from those experiences.
  • Since past experiences uniquely shape each learners brain, each brain processes information differently; therefore, what one student readily understands, another cannot.
  • As students wrestle with concepts and skills, they will invariably fall short of mastery. Classroom environments where mistakes are expected and accepted, where feedback and guidance are continuously provided, and where challenge is part of learning, support individual growth.
  • When a student responds—either verbally, physically, mentally, emotionally—to external stimuli, his or her brain’s nerve cells are interpreting and passing signals (via hundreds of neurotransmitters) to one another. As these signals simultaneously travel to various parts of the brain, they “jump” the synaptic gap between dendrites. The potential is for billions of electrical circuits to be running at once. The connections that are made as a result of both student and teacher responses are what create meaning.