The Secret to Raising Smart Kids
1) Children need strong foundational cognitive skills
2) Build the brain capacity needed to build content.
3) A growth mindset is essential
4) If you thing you can you can, if you think you can’t you can’t (Henry Ford)
5) Learning from their mistakes and making thousands of mistakes.
6) Instruction can be broken up into time frames that are more manageable or just beyond
7) New content should be less than 50% of instruction time
Role of Neuroscience Technology
Foundational Cognitive Skills
If we really want to impact foundational cognitive skills students learning a new language, students in special education, and students from poverty, we’ve got to start with those . The ones that are here in this graphic memory, attention, processing, and sequencing, we have to build attention and memory skills in our students, so they’re better able to process the sounds of English and then organize the sounds within words and words within sentences. So, if we want better outcomes in our schools, we need to make sure that our students have a strong foundation, and the brain capacity needed to build those content area levels of proficiency.
Building Learning Capacity
You may be familiar with Dr. Eric Jensen, and one of the things he talks about frequently is the importance of building learning capacity so students can process and retain the information those content areas that they need to learn. I know schools are providing caring environments which is a big part of it, but what methods are we using now to really develop student’s cognitive skills, and to build that overall cognitive capacity. I think a lot of schools may not have things in place, to really help, So, let’s look at some things that we can do in the classroom to help with that.
This one may be a familiar
A Growth Mindset.
So, let’s do a kind of a quick review cover, but just to give people who may not be familiar with it, a basic understanding of what it’s about. So, a mindset, according to Carol Dweck who’s a researcher is the perception of how we look at ourselves. So, a good example in our students, would be that some believe that they are maybe intelligent or smart and others may view themselves as unintelligent and perhaps even call themselves dumb. Those would-be examples of different mindsets. So, Dweck did a study looking at seventh graders and determined that the students who believed that intelligence was malleable, which is a growth mindset those students earned higher math grades in the fall semester than those who believed that their intelligence was static or fixed. Even though the groups had the same math achievement test scores in the sixth-grade look at the difference, in this graph as they went from the Fall of seventh grade to Spring of eighth grade. So, four assessments and you can see that the students who believed that they couldn’t change their intelligence or their ability went down just slightly, but look at the students who believed they could, who believed that with additional effort that they could make a difference in their performance and their intelligence, sure enough they could.
Learning from their Mistakes
So, using data can be a really powerful tool for teachers to help develop a growth mindset in students, as students see that their hard work is making a difference and then you can show them data to show they’re making growth on their assessments or their class work whatever, it may be then their self-motivation and their growth mindset is going to increase. Now this is not to say that failure as the students are learning has to be avoided, that’s not the case we don’t want to just focus on student success. Failure to challenge is part of the learning process and they need to learn that that’s one of the key aspects of learning, if you look at some quotes from famous people who’ve been very successful they talk about learning from their mistakes and making thousands of mistakes. So, through failure students learn what doesn’t work or they decide on more efficient, effective methods and strategies that they can use to develop those content and language knowledge and skills. The more explicit we are in regarding the student’s growth over time the more likely they’re going to connect to their work and effort that they’re putting in to success and achievement.
Language holds great power.
So, let’s look at some examples of what that sounds like. So, when students have been successful, instead of saying something like a good job, nice work, or excellent which I think all of us do with our children at school as well as at home. Think about things like your hard work is paying off, or you kept going even when the going got tough or it got challenging. It helps students when they’re struggling to think about things differently. When changing our language alone doesn’t immediately change students’ mindset, you have to remember that language holds great power. So, words can help build students’ confidence and encourage them to keep going and persevere and to think differently about their success and their failure. That’s another important aspect. So, instead of saying work harder or keep trying, help them to delve into it what’s proving difficult or let me try explaining it a different way. Let them understand that not everybody understands things the same way and that that you also expect them to make mistakes, that’s just part of learning, So, we can be intentional and strategic in our use of language to help students develop a growth mindset and I would venture to guess it’s going to have an impact on their self-esteem as well.
So, another way to encourage growth mindset in struggling learners and even second language learners is to help them build stamina, through the instructional periods. To do that by chunking information for specific amounts of time, for example, students who are easily frustrated may need shorter time spans at first to be able to really digest the complex concepts and instruction. So, instruction can be broken up into time frames that are more manageable or just beyond what the students are able to handle in order to help them build up stamina over time. So, if students have difficulty after 10 minutes of instruction maybe we need to just push the instruction for 12 minutes when they get pretty comfortable with that, bump it up to 15 to 20, and so. Communicating to students ahead of time that the work they’re about to encounter is hard, it’s complex can also be helpful. So, they understand it’s going to take effort on their part, it’s going to take significant focus for a certain amount of time to be successful with that information. Sometimes the complexity of a particular instruction or task is better handled in what we could say as short bursts, especially at first until students build more stamina and by making these changes explicit to students over time, letting them know what’s happening. You can help them to see the growth they’re making in terms of stamina during instruction.
New content should be less than 50% of instruction time
Now we also have from again Dr. Eric Jensen the concept of never giving more than half of our instructional time to the delivery of new content.
So, when you have a lesson and you’re introducing new material think about that strategically so no more than half of your time is given to that new information because students need at least half of the learning time to process that new information and to connect it to previous learning. If you do that they’re going to understand and remember it longer and I really as a teacher I enjoy. I got a kick out of the phrase “you can teach faster, but, students will just forget faster” and how many of us have been in that situation, where we think we’ve done a great lesson, we’ve covered all the modalities we’ve done everything we knew to do, send them home and they come back the next day and it’s as if we never said a word about that information before. So, we’ve really got to consider how much can they take in at one given time. Thinking back about the chunking too for some of the students and really helping them apply that new learning to previous learning and developing a growth mindset as well.
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