On Monday, about 50 teachers spent their day off with Marcia Tate, internationally renowned teacher of teachers. Even if you do not know her name, you may know her by the series of books that she has authored, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites. Marcia is known around the world for her work connecting what we understand about the brain and how students learn to how teachers plan instruction. She calls it brain compatible instruction, and the strategies that she advocates are simple but powerful. If you don’t believe me, just ask the teachers who attended on Monday. She uses her own strategies when teaching teachers, which means if you have the pleasure of attending one of her workshops you will be active, entertained, and challenged. And you will learn.
Marcia Tate's 20 brain engaging strategies
Throughout the spring, we will be adding blogs and videos to the CAT’s Den resource site from teachers who are implementing these strategies in their classrooms. I have already planted the seed with the lovely group of teachers that shared a table with me on Monday; we must begin to share the great things happening in our classrooms. So, I challenge every teacher who attended this workshop to try one new thing you learned and share the results with the district. It isn’t enough to just go to a workshop, we must follow up with discussion and ideas about how these strategies are being implemented to make a difference for students!
What about those teachers who have never even heard of Marcia Tate? You are not off the hook. I am putting out a challenge today to all teachers. Take a look at this list. Surely you see at least one strategy that you can try even without any training??
In her workshop, Mrs. Tate also explains a simple formula, AS = age. Attention span equals age. If you are not breaking up, or chunking, your instructional time with students so that they are changing activities in a manner that is in line with their attention span, you are probably losing them at some point during your instruction. Don’t be fooled by a child who is sitting quietly, intently focused on every word you say. Do you really know what is going on in his or her head?
So the challenge to all teachers next week is to choose one day, and without necessarily changing the instructional activities you already have planned, just add one brain compatible strategy. For example, if you have planned a day that includes 20 minutes of lecture time, stop 5 or 10 minutes into the lecture and ask your students to draw a representation of one of the key points from the lecture. Then let them share their drawing with a partner and explain why they chose to represent the concept in that way. When teaching a math concept or formula, stop after giving your explanation and allow students to write a description of their understanding or create a metaphor to illustrate the concept. Then allow them to discuss what they have written. Instead of taking notes in an outline format, help the students use a graphic organizer to record key ideas about a particular topic.
You get the idea. Keep it simple. If all you do is break what was originally planned as one 30 minute segment of instruction into two 15 minute sections with a quick brain compatible activity in between, you will drastically increase your students’ chances of retaining that information.
So, the challenge has been sent. Every teacher adds one new strategy and student learning across the district will be improved tenfold. You can do it!