Begin with the Brain: Orchestrating the Learner-Centered Classroom
Publication Year: 2010
Subject: Brain-friendly Teaching & Learning
“Describes activities at a level of detail that will allow teachers to immediately try them out in their own classrooms. If more classrooms reflected these ideas and used these strategies, education would not only be more effective and powerful, it would be a far more joyful experience for our students.”
—Barbara Clark, Professor Emeritus
California State University, Los Angeles
“Teachers who intend to make a marked difference in their students' learning and lives will profit from reading this book. Not only will they find the material useful, they will be gratified and strengthened in their commitment.”
—Leah Welte, Teacher
Alpine School District, American Fork, UT
Create a high-achieving, joyful learning environment informed by brain-based research!
In this thoroughly updated bestseller, seasoned educator Martha Kaufeldt helps teachers understand and apply current findings in ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Introduction: Brain-Compatible Learning and Learner-Centered Education
- Chapter 1: Begin with the Brain: Interpreting Neuroscience Research
- Three Key Elements of Brain-Compatible Teaching and Learning
- 1. Less Stress: Create a Safe and Secure Climate and Environment to Reduce Perceived Threat and Danger
- 2. Do the Real Thing! Provide Meaningful Multisensory Experiences in an Enriched Environment
- 3. Use It or Lose It! Actively Process New Concepts in a Variety of Ways to Assure Long-Term Retention
- From Fear to Flow: Maximizing the Brain's Capabilities
- Chapter 2: Welcome Home: Designing the Learning Environment
- Can We Do It?
- Sense of Security from Physical Harm
- The Basics: Lighting, Noise, and Air Quality
- Chapter 3: Meeting Students' Basic Needs: Building the Foundation for Learning
- Basic Human Needs
- Chapter 4: Routines and Procedures: Organizing Systems for Orderliness
- Your Assumptions Drive Your Classroom Systems
- Classroom Standards and Courtesies
- Creating Classroom Management Patterns
- Designing Procedures
- Chapter 5: Building Community and Managing Conflicts: Orchestrating Positive Social Interactions
- Welcome Aboard
- Teacher Relationships
- Teaching Prosocial Behaviors
- Types of Groups
- Managing Conflicts and Solving Problems
- Preventive Strategies
- Resolution Strategies
- Chapter 6: Making a Connection: Building Curiosity and Ensuring Engagement
- Piquing Curiosity
- Chapter 7: Meaningful Experiences: Creating 21st-Century Citizens
- Authentic Tasks
- Places to Start
- Handling Bigger Responsibilities
- Decision-Making Possibilities
- Kids' Social Action
- Chapter 8: Student Choice in a Learner-Centered Classroom: Orchestrating Opportunities
- The Choice Challenge
- Beginning Choice
- Guiding Students' Choices
- Chapter 9: Setting Goals and Using Feedback to Reach Success: Self-Assessment and Learning Celebrations
- Setting and Achieving Goals
- Understanding Your Learning Preferences
- Authentic Achievement
- Learning Celebrations
[Page ii]This book is dedicated to my husband, Rick Burros, stepson, Greg Burros, and my sons Kurt and Kris Kaufeldt.
Thank you for your love and support as I do the work I am passionate about with other educators.
Copyright © 2010 by Corwin
All rights reserved. When forms and sample documents are included, their use is authorized only by educators, local school sites, and / or noncommercial or nonprofit entities that have purchased the book. Except for that usage, no part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Begin with the brain: orchestrating the learner-centered classroom/editor, Martha Kaufeldt. — 2nd ed.
Revised ed. of: Begin with the brain/Martha Kaufeldt.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4129-7157-7 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-4129-7158-4 (pbk.)
1. Learning, Psychology of. 2. Learning–Physiological aspects. 3. Brain. 4. Classroom environment. I. Kaufeldt, Martha, 1954- II. Kaufeldt, Martha, 1954- Begin with the brain. III. Title.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
09 10 11 12 13 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Acquisitions Editor: Carol Chambers Collins
Associate Editor: Julie McNall
Editorial Assistants: Brett Ory and Allison Scott
Illustrators: Mike Ericson and Judith Burros
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Copy Editor: Adam Dunham
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Proofreader: Dennis W. Webb
Cover Designer: Scott Van Atta
Over a decade has passed since I began writing the first edition of Begin With the Brain: Orchestrating the Learner-Centered Classroom. At the time, I had just left my classroom teaching position and was launching my next career in professional development and teacher training.
We were in the midst of the so-called Decade of the Brain; the field of cognitive neuroscience was growing rapidly, and research studies were uncovering exciting new information about the human brain, much of it of profound interest to teachers. Some critics, however, felt that it was too early to base educational practice on the initial findings of cognitive neuroscience, and a few even suggested that teachers really weren't qualified to integrate the findings into classroom practice.
As a teacher working on the “front lines,” I felt differently; for some years, I had been seeking out the research on my own, analyzing my own current practices and then creating new strategies based on what seemed to me to be commonsense adaptations of the best current research. Because of the positive results I'd achieved with my own students during these years of “action research,” I became more and more certain that my experiences and strategies could provide valuable information to other educators. Since I'd already been integrating early brain research and practical teaching and learning strategies for years, I was proud to be part of the first generation of what was beginning to be known as the brain-based education movement. Today, I prefer to use the term brain-compatible. As Pat Wolfe and others have pointed out, the phrase brain-based implies the existence of other educational methods—such as liver-based or intestine-based!
[Page viii]In this revised and expanded edition of the original book, I continue to encourage and celebrate all of the commonsense strategies that can enhance a classroom environment, engage students, and promote meaningful learning. The reasons these techniques are successful, I believe, is that they reflect what science and recent research have concluded regarding the conditions for how human brains learn best and most efficiently. I want to take this opportunity to encourage educators to constantly reevaluate their current practices and see for themselves whether they are aligned with what we currently know about how our brains learn and remember. I would also urge teachers to modify the strategies they are using now to reflect the latest insights on how a student's brain might better be stimulated and engaged.
I realize that educators may never become “brain experts.” I do maintain, however, that classroom teachers will continue to conduct valuable action research as they implement brain-compatible techniques—just as I did when I was a classroom teacher and continue to do when I work with adult learners.
Teaching, of course, is not a science, but an art. This new edition of Begin With the Brain is offered in support of the following proposition:
To maximize education, the art of teaching should be compatible with how brains learn.
When I wrote this book, I was overwhelmed by the realization of how as a teacher I have synthesized information and ideas from such a wide variety of people and sources. Throughout my career, I have had incredible associations and wonderful opportunities to work with gifted educators and researchers. As I attempted to compile and publish my strategies for success in the classroom, I was able to reflect on the various workshops, trainings, collaborations, and mentors from whom I have benefited.
In the area of brain research and learning theory, the following people have been instrumental in influencing me through their writings and in many cases their personal connections: Thomas Armstrong, Pat Belvel, Tony Buzan, Geoffrey and Renate Caine, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Linda Darling-Hammond, Marion Diamond, David Elkind, Howard Gardner, Jeanne Gibbs, William Glasser, Daniel Goleman, Leslie Hart, Jane Healy, Eric Jensen, Spencer Kagan, Susan Kovalik, Alfie Kohn, Joseph LeDoux, Larry Lowery, Jane Nelsen, Candace Pert, Frank Smith, David Sousa, Robert Sylwester, Pat Wolfe, and Harry Wong. I encourage every educator to become a life-long learner and investigate this growing field of knowledge.
As I added relevant cognitive neuroscience updates to this edition, I needed an expert to review and clarify some of the recent brain research. I was able to count on my friend and mentor for many years, Bob Sylwester, professor emeritus, author, speaker, and one of the most generous human beings on the planet, to offer his wise insights and deep knowledge on brainy stuff.
[Page x]Over the years, there have been dozens of colleagues and friends who have been mentors and associates on a wide variety of projects. Robert Ellingsen, my dear friend and partner teacher at Monarch School, deserves special recognition as a collaborator, sounding board, innovator, tireless cohort, and absolutely dedicated educator!
Throughout this book, I refer frequently to Monarch Community School. It was during my tenure there that I learned, applied, tested, improved, and tweaked many of the tools I initially explored in this book. In the last 10 years, I have primarily been working as a teacher trainer and staff developer. To keep myself alert and aware of the current teaching profession, I have rotated into the classroom as a guest teacher or long-term substitute when I can. I have also taught summer school classes when I had newer strategies I wanted to implement and revise. I suspect I always learn far more from the students than they learn from me.
The first edition of this book was launched with the vision of Joey Tanner, former publisher at Zephyr Press, and the constant support, assistance, and encouragement of Veronica Durie, the managing editor. This second edition is now realized with the help of Carol Collins, Senior Editor, Brett Ory, and many others at Corwin Press.
A special thanks goes to LuLane Harrison, my trusty assistant for over 10 years, who always keeps things together when I am traveling and is my sounding board and friend.
I have been a member of the Burros family for eight years and continue to be amazed at the creative talents that so many of them possess. When I needed help the most, my new nephew-in-law Brandon Toropov, a brilliant author and editor, guided me through the last rewrite with his great insight and suggestions. My new sister-in-law, Judith Burros, an incredible artist in a variety of media, tackled the job of drawing me some brainy illustrations that beautifully add to this second edition. My husband, Rick Burros, kept me going with laughter and his sage advice when I was the most frustrated: “Cut it loose!”
[Page xi]Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:
Janice Bradley, PhD
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM
Barbara Clark, EdD
California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
5th Grade Regular Education Inclusion Teacher
Henry B. Burkland Intermediate School
CEO, Brain Stems Ltd
Tauranga, New Zealand
Bess Scott, PhD
Director of Elementary Education
Lincoln Public Schools
Alpine School District
American Fork, UT
About the Author
Epilogue: Develop Your “Teaching Compass”[Page 227]
The complex art of teaching is much more than content knowledge and instructional methodology. Each day in a classroom involves observation, conversation, reflection, improvisation, and innovation. There are always multiple “adjustment opportunities” within each lesson. The ability to anticipate what the next interaction should be for each student is a gift for some teachers, but it is an acquired skill that many of us must develop.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards lists five core principals that teachers should know and be able to do. The first standard is simply stated: “Teachers are committed to students and their learning.” The standard states that teachers:
Adapted from National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2002.
- Act on the belief that all students can learn;
- Treat students equitably, recognizing the individual differences that distinguish one student from another and taking account of these differences in their practice;
- Adjust their practice based on observation and knowledge of their students' interests, abilities, skills, knowledge, family circumstances, and peer relationships;
- Understand how students develop and learn;
- Incorporate the prevailing theories of cognition and intelligence in their practice;
- Are aware of the influence of context and culture on behavior; [Page 228]
- Develop students' cognitive capacity and their respect for learning; and
- Foster students' self-esteem, motivation, character, and civic responsibility.
To manifest this standard in practice is a huge undertaking that requires teachers to have a guiding pedagogy. I call this your teaching compass. A compass is a consistent and true indicator of physical direction. It provides information so that you can calculate decisions about what direction you should take. Not only will a dynamic teacher have a tackle box of strategies to draw from, she will also have a belief system about children and learning that informs and guides her daily instructional decisions. As situations emerge in the classroom, your personal teaching compass can help you find your way through.
Begin with the brain. Understanding how brains learn, react under stress, and respond to experiences can help you develop your teaching compass. When each adjustment opportunity presents itself, I recommend that you turn to your growing knowledge about the brain and the field of cognitive neuroscience. By knowing about instructional practices designed to be most compatible with how children's brains learn naturally and most efficiently, you will be able to determine what strategy or process will be the best direction to take. As you design lessons, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will this strategy be too intimidating for this learner (i.e., be perceived as a threat)?
- Have I included clear procedures, so that the learner knows the expected behaviors?
- Does the classroom environment promote learning, exploration, and reflection?
- Does the classroom climate feel safe and secure?
- Have the students' basic needs been met?
- Would this learner benefit from some movement opportunities?
- Is the classroom a joyful place to be? Have we laughed recently? [Page 229]
- How might I modify, adapt, or extend this lesson to better suit this student's current capabilities?
- Are there opportunities for student choice?
- Will students be able to get immediate feedback as they learn?
What will your classroom be like a year from now? Where are you headed? What additional knowledge will you use as your teaching compass? As a life-long learner, examine your current practices and repertoire and seek to expand your knowledge and understanding about brain-compatible teaching and learning. I wish you well on your journey.[Page 230]
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The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”