Down Time


Where are you in the recess challenge? Scholastic writes a great review of issues and a history.

Before a decision is made, see this NPR program on recess and the brain.

As a teacher, I see how breaks in the day and lessons help kids relax enough to let what they’ve learned sink in and to free the mind to focus again.

Here’s a story in The Atlantic that explains the effects of frequent and free play recesses.

Now, what is your idea about recess and how does your school match the research?

Thinking: It’s Emotional #ETMOOC

I’ve met some fantastic and caring people in this first week of  #ETMOOC .

I’ve already posted about how Ben Wilkoff has guided me.

I’ve also met Lorraine Boulos, a fellow middle school teacher. We’ve discussed so much about inquiry based learning and blogging, and feel a common bond in how we enjoy teaching students through inquiry and despite the pressures of testing.

That conversation infers building relationships with students and nurturing their passions — what they want to learn so they can learn what we’re required to teach.

That then led me to choosing the bit info about cognition and emotion which Linda Permik wrote about in her post Setting Sail Master of My Own Ship. She embedded a thoughtful video by Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang on the topic. In order to build relationships, in order to engage students in learning, their emotional needs must be addressed — “real thinking is never divorced from emotion.” Be sure to watch the video (about 10 min). So, how do we deal with students who shut down in frustration? How do we deal with standardized tests? The suggestion is to design a context so students are engaged from the ground up and “discover on their own what you want them to learn.” That provides the hook for continuing the other lessons needed. I think Lorraine has a head start on that context design through inquiry based learning.

Linda asks questions also, two of which are:

  • “What implications does the emotion-cognition connection have for learners in our formal learning institutions?
  • How do we as instructors support the emotional engagement that leads to positive learning outcomes?”

Be sure to connect with these two if you are interested in inquiry and emotion. Perhaps that topic is worthy of it’s own “Google Circle” discussion topic and possible action. I hope to continue the conversation with them — won’t you join us?

I wonder:

How do you help students with learning to keep their emotional thinking open to learning?

Do you have samples of inquiry based learning?

Do you blog with your class (through inquiry? to build community?)


Fire It Up!


So what does this “cloud” of social networking within which our students continuously engage demand for my lessons?

Lessons must Fire It Up!




Students live in a world of instant gratification, engaged by peer to peer technology with phones, online games and chats. Their world fills with the fun this “instancy” and engagement provides; they are constantly stimulated in ways that create more neural pathways more quickly than ever did ours.

These are the children who come to us; we must accept that we must change. “It’s up to us to adjust to those patterns and pathways,” explains Brad Fountain in Understanding Your Students’ iBrains . We cannot even envision our students’ abilities, yet we must provide for them. And from Brad’s presentation I heard how students expect relevance, instant gratification, engagement, and fun. Because their social networking and multi-tasking allows them to participate in many activities at once, making frequent choices of interest to them, their patterns of learning expect the same from us. Therefore, I devised an acronym for my new curriculum planning: Fire It Up!

I must create a Fun and Instant lesson: frequent acknowledgment (gratification). It’s Relevance stems from student interest or interactive choices. The choices, discussion, and technological aspects Engage the students. Various Integrated Tasks with choices and interaction create Ubiquitous Pathways to learn curricular content.

The “ten minute” rule is crucial — but for some students it’s ten seconds! What question can I ask or video/image to display will capture the imagination and engagement of students so they focus and forge into the learning tasks? It reminds me of the years-past recommendation in science to create a disconnect with the expected outcome as a precursor to the lesson. The “novel” engagement that nabs the mind.

Students brains are different than ours. I relearned this today. How?

First, since I engage myself in some of the networks to which my students subscribe, including Twitter , I learned about today’s DEN (Discovery Education Network) Virtual Conference. I linked from Twitter to a signup page, signed up, checked email for registration info, clicked the link, and started the conference. Amazing.

I participated in:

Raise Your Hand if You’re a Rock Star (partial)
Steve Dembo

No Mind Left Behind: Using Media to Reach Your Students
Jannita Demian and Matt Monjan

Understanding Your Students’ iBrains
Brad Fountain

From Understanding Your Students’ iBrains with Brad Fountain, I learned again that student’s brains learn differently than ours; they demand fun, instant gratification, relevance, and engagement. Therefore, I must Fire It Up! Thanks, Brad.

And students, what should WE do to Fire It Up? Let’s power up the neurons!


Photo Credits:

Neurons in the brain
Credit: Dr Jonathan Clarke. Wellcome Images

Creative Commons