Dial Up Magic in Teens for Diverse, Respectful Learning Communities

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Are we setting secondary school stages that dial up that magic our teens already possess? Do we facilitate secondary learning cultures that capture teens’ awesome brainpower for wonder, risk and innovation? If so, you’ve likely noticed how learner diversity delightfully bursts into every class and teens look forward to new learning discoveries. How does it happen?

Below are ten indicators that we’ve created adequate space at school for students’ brains to optimize those top standards we all crave and teens bring to class.

  1. Run from lectures. We now know that retention is about 5% or less from delivery of facts, while it is up to 95% with interactive learning. No need to waste valuable lectures though. Simply distribute those poignant points as student cheat sheets. Then introduce multiple intelligence task options so that students can choose active approaches to explore your lesson content, through their strengths. !tpt blog
  2. Name-call for meaning. Open each new class, by speaking students’ names with care. Guide them to research the meaning behind their names and that process raises their intrapersonal or innate intelligence while building a stronger and caring community. When students see how their names offer magical possibilities, they also learn how their peers’ names can pack a punch. Create a bulletin board that illustrates the meaning behind student names and expect new wonders unleashed in your next lesson. Are you aware, for instance – that to hear your name spoken respectfully, is to spike wellbeing in the area of the brain that operates personal self-awareness? Nice touch to start a new class?
  3. Mentor so that all teach and all learn. Here at the brain center – we call it mind-guiding as it draws on expert and novice insights to solve real world problems connected to your lessons. A bit like pair-sharing, it involves teachers, parents and experts – since all learn and all teach in this mutual mentoring approach. Have you ever tossed innovative ideas back and forth – much like an enjoyable game of catch moves the ball from one player to the next In similar ways, this unique form of mentoring ignites seasoned experts’ minds and at the same time inspires novice explorers, regardless of age, developmental level, or topics addressed.
  4. Negotiate tone with the entire class. At the beginning of each class my students collect their personal tone chart. On one side they read and select from our 5 negotiated tone criteria listed. On the flip side students record evidence of demonstrating that specific criteria. This process takes minutes only, yet it builds a strong community, helps students to take charge of their own progress, and helps me to keep attendance without a wasted minute.
  5. Co-lead with students as if each is a genius. When students co-lead they develop skills that reboot their brains for mental alertness and mind-bending discoveries. That’s why my students co-lead in every situation we can come up with – as a way to keep learning alive for all. For instance, with each learning task my students help me to identify 5 specific grading criteria. They love to speak up and feel heard, they use our shared criteria as a checklist to complete their tasks, and they rarely question grades when we set the criteria together. How could co-leading recharge your students’ mental batteries and at the same time support your learning goals?!TpT blog 2
  6. Celebrate with parents along the way. In my classes, it’s called a Celebration of Innovation led by students and attended by highly valued parents. How does it work? Imagine your students raving about their final exam – because it magically transformed itself into a celebration! Or visualize a Celebration of Innovation where students love to welcome their parents, and where enthusiastic caregivers come and actively participate.  Imagine the anxiety of final exams converted into exhilarating adrenaline of student-led learning that engaged the entire community! No wonder students and parents and teachers love this opportunity to showcase learners’ awesome brains together. Simply stated students propose an innovative solution to a problem raised in class, and then actively engage their parents to help them extend their innovative possibilities. It’s a challenge that has students facilitating a discourse in language and visuals that inspire and draw in parent ideas. See any learning support possibilities?
  7. Play! Play! Play! In addition to popular games such as jigsaw, gender circles and grammar baseball, I bring playful namungos into class to interact with students. In this blog post, see how my popular fictional namungo characters with real brain parts support many hidden and unused capabilities students already possess, but rarely use in class. You can also use TED talks, fun teaching videos, or student stories and artwork that demonstrates a playful way to reach your lesson goals. Here are several playful learning tasks my students especially enjoy to learn more with the playful brain in mind.
  8. Laugh at yourself so that students laugh too. Laughter can stoke aha moments in your classes, as well as lower harmful stressors. Research shows how even a smile, adds new zest for learning and life. Humor that all participants find funny will help to heal anxieties and erase fears that distract too many teens. How to bust out a grin to boost moods and amp up alertness? Start by laughing at your silly mistakes, your funny shape, or your lesson direction, and students gain confidence to laugh at their own foibles. I display a poster to remind students the value of humor, and we discuss the differences between humor and sarcasm which can work again their brains’ ability.! Brain-on-Laughter
  9. Root out, respect and learn from opposing views. Students love to learn more about topics that interest them – by looking at sides opposite their opinions. In contrast to gridlocked leaders who sulk when they lose, teens enjoy options on several sides of controversial issues. Take war and peace! In one class two teams re-enacted the civil war and Gettysburg Battles. Another team debated the topic Why start wars rather than build robust peace plans? They challenged the re-enactment teams with the question – What could your reenactment offer those interested in leading robust peace plans? What question might you ask today to ignite a new conversation that explores possibilities on the other side of popular thought or lesson points? How could your students learn to value opposing view without heated exchanges?
  10. Question with two feet. Students especially enjoy the opportunity to ask and be asked two-footed questions – and they can become far better than many adults at engaging others actively in responses to these brain based prompts! Find examples and explanations of my two-footed questions posted at John Hopkin’s School of Education site. Simply stated, one foot engages the topic and the second foot tags student interests.

You probably could suggest additional approaches that schools might incorporate to awaken more brainpower in teens this fall. Or perhaps you’ll try one or two suggestions here, and if so do let us know the results. Either way, may the new term be especially good to you and your secondary students as you forge new paths forward together with the brain in mind!

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset