Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

October 12 Motivation

Monthly Ed Tip for October 2012

Part Two: Helpful Insights for Teachers and Parents to Improve Students’ Learning by Utilizing Brain Science in the Classroom

Donna E. Walker Tileston: Author of over 20 books including What Every Teacher Should Know About Diverse Learners, Ten Best Teaching Practices, Closing the RTI Gap: Why Poverty and Cultures Counts

Children today have changed dramatically-not just in the way they dress and the music they listen to-but in the neurological wiring as well. This generation is the first generation –due to their vast knowledge of technology-to be leading their teachers into the changes of the 21st century rather than the teacher leading.


In the United States, our schools have been built on a model inherited from our northern European ancestors in which cognitive skills are taught first. All other populations of the world believe in creating a relationship first, substance second.


Most of today teachers were trained to teach to the cognitive system of the brain. The truth is the role of education has changed, but unfortunately, many educators have not. According to research by Marzone (2001) learning does not begin with the cognitive system but rather, it begins in the self-system.


Tileston calls this the “Do I wanna?’ system because it is through this system that we decide very quickly whether we are going to pay attention, whether we are going to engage in the learning, or simply dismiss it as not important.

Bad and Good news: Have you ever lamented over the fact that your students seem unmotivated? I have some bad news and good news. The bad news is that we cannot motivate our students; no one can motivate you but you. The good news is that while we cannot motivate our students, there are processes that we can use that will cause motivation to happen naturally. Researchers know something from neuroscience research that teachers can do with students to trigger natural mechanism that makes them curious. Motivation relates to the drive to do something. A teacher goal is to guide students to use the innate drive that we all have for intrinsic motivation.


Below Tileston shares some her insights


a. In my classroom, it is okay not to know the answer, but it is not okay not to try


b. The attention span for high school students (listens to you) is 10 minutes. For elementary students, it is their age. It is the brain’s body clock that causes you to fade in and out at lectures and it can’t be changed


c. Students don’t have a lot of choices to make as adults do, but they do have a choice of paying attention in class


d. 87% of students in a classroom don’t learn by hearing. Lectures are used in secondary schools. What percentage of your students are you teaching to? Our classrooms must be more visual and kinesthetic


e. Adults read in a “Z” pattern, and children read in a “F” pattern


f. What can we do to help them refocus? Use colors. Students pay the most attention to red, bright pink (females), Bright green, and orange. What color do they look at the least? Black print on white paper. In the research, they had to be told to directly look at it


g. There are many differences in the brains of young children. They have never lived in a world without technology. They are used to be constantly motivated by colors, motion, pictures, and flashes


h. The brain decides in 15 seconds if material is worth paying attention to


i. In elementary school, a student coming from poverty has one-fourth the vocabulary of a normal child and in high school, one-half the vocabulary of a normal student. If you are not making AYP, concentrate on vocabulary


j. One of the hardest things for the brain to do is to learn processing skills. To help children with processing problems, give them more time


k. To lessen the fear of math, teach them the vocabulary of math and standardized scores will increase


l. The classroom should be a no pressure zone.


m. The gatekeeper to motivation for students from poverty is self-efficacy (the capacity for producing a good product), not self-esteem.


n. In the last century, we wanted to feel good about ourselves. So what did we do? We watered everything down. No child deserves to have an inferior education.


o. How does society define smart people? People who have good ideas and follow through on them. Not just ability and ideas, but getting things done


p. Poor criticism: You’re doing wonderful. Better; I like the way you’re taking notes, but if you just wrote the main ideas, it would improve your learning. Give an example of how to incorporate praise with directed instruction. Tell the student something specific to improve learning. Tell the student what they are doing correct and what they need to improve their learning. This results in a 38% improvement in learning.


q. Rewards train the mind not to never intrinsic motivation and not rewiring the brain. If I do something positive, I get something for it. What does it say about parents who use treats to get their children to behave or do well in school? But you must gradually remove the reward system. Must be done over a 21-day period. Must teach students that effort is more important than rewards. Effort is what will make a difference throughout their lives. If you raise the floor, you must raise the ceiling.


r. Declarative and procedural knowledge should be taught differently because they are stored in different part of the brain. One is more difficult to teach than the other.


s. Declarative memory is the facts, vocabulary, and factual information. Effective techniques to help students improve remembering declarative information include the use of graphic organizers, and adding movement and emotion to the learning experience. This will help sent the information to a different part of the brain, the part of the brain that looks at context rather than content and the facts. For the brain, context is easier to recall and retain.


t. Feedback: Game designers give feedback every 6 seconds. In an hour class, feedback should be given 7 times. The brain likes games because of incremental challenges, one of the best challenges for the brain. Push the envelope a little bit, but not so much that you frustrate the child, but nor that the child is bored out of their minds. Push the envelope with low stress.


u. Metacognition processes, give the students enough time to think and process the information, to learn the process


v. Researchers know things 5 years before the classroom teacher


w. Remember 85% of standards-based testing centers on vocabulary



“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.