“The amygdala deals with our emotions, helps process our memories, and gets totally absorbed in managing our response to fear and stress. Combined, these are biggies, so the hippocampus and hypothalamus chime in with some assistance. The hippocampus handles factual information, while the hypothalamus monitors how your body is doing internally and directs the pituitary gland to release hormones on the basis of functions such as body temperature, appetite, and sexual functioning.
8. Novelty is another big hook. As information presentation blends between teachers or stays the same by one teacher, it becomes difficult to see patterns and students may tune out the “sameness”. But change it up a bit, introduce something radically different or in a radically different manner, and all of a sudden it is like a quick-pick-me-up in the middle of a lesson, a “brain snack”. Students refocus their attention, and it can even enliven your presentation and wake you up!
One way to incorporate novelty is to add some 9. Movement to reenergize the body and brain cells. Movement can shake the sillies out or wake up sluggish bodies and brains; it can be an antidote to the time of day or the climate.
Movement is also a close relative of 10. Exercise, and it has been shown that exercise is especially helpful in keeping our adult brains healthy, so remember to participate in that movement with your students (and they will probably consider your participation a bit novel!).
Novelty and movement can also effectively be used to assist kids with sharpening control of their executive function, which is managed by the frontal lobes in the neocortex. Executive function is how we control our attention, create plans, and carry out those plans. Too often in school, kids are required to “sit still” and “quiet down”, yet these are the very basics of being a kid! Consider harnessing that natural kid energy to help students manage their own functioning. Indeed, in a recent Newsweek article, Wray Herbert notes that an executive function curriculum has emerged to help students manage “effortful control and cognitive focus but also working memory and mental flexibility” the ability to adjust to change, to think outside the box. My next post will share some of the many resources I have found to be particularly useful, including the Learning & the Brain conference, which is a “must attend” if you can swing it!
Laurie Bartels writes the Neurons Firing blog to create for herself the “the graduate course” I’d love to take if it existed as a program”. She is the K‑8 Computer Coordinator and Technology Training Coordinator at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York. She is also the organizer of Digital Wave annual summer professional development, and a frequent attendee of Learning & The Brain conferences.