Great Story - Brain-Based Teaching in Our Schools: A New Way to Reach Students

courtesy of Adam Shapiro,

Brain-Based Teaching in Our Schools: A New Way to Reach Students

By D’Jon McNair

It is my honor to serve as a special education teacher for fifth graders at Allatoona Elementary School in Acworth. My career has provided many rewards in understanding how to reach every student in a way that leads to successful learning in school and for life.

In earning my master’s degree in Brain-Based Teaching through Nova Southeastern University, I had the opportunity to expand my base of knowledge and learn a variety of teaching and learning strategies that benefit my students. At the foundation of this educational approach is the concept that many children become better students when they are taught how to learn. Teaching students to “think about their thinking” equips them with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom.

For example, one of my students has an emotional behavior disorder. He gets anxious and sometimes acts impulsively. As a result, he developed a reputation as a “problem student.” For this student to succeed, I had to teach him to master what we call “an internal locus of control”—to underscore that he is in charge of his learning and behavior.

My interactions with students are often as an instructional coach, to help implement a plan to meet their needs at school and in the community. This requires a caring attitude, clear intent, and meaningful instruction that students can apply in a variety of settings.

After several months of mentoring, this particular student learned to control his anger and self-expression by using a journal to record his thoughts and beliefs. He became a more self-motivated learner after being presented with learning opportunities that helped him successfully overcome some obstacles and frustrations. The old saying that “success begets success” is definitely true in my teaching experience. This student is doing much better. He still has some academic and personal challenges but is well on his way.

Another student struggled in school because of low motivation and effort. In a meeting with her other teachers, we agreed to focus on improving the skills she needed by providing classroom supports and encouraging her progress with verbal praise and the flexibility to choose some assignments. Giving students choices helps keep them engaged and allows them to pursue topics of personal interest.

I gave this student a self-monitoring folder with a daily work completion log to help her track her progress. On the outside of the folder was a sticker with the reminder, “The More You Do, The More You Can Do.” We met each morning before school to discuss her daily goals. I also shared some of my athletic and academic adversities and how I overcame them with persistence and effort. Using personal examples is another idea I learned while earning my graduate degree; it is a way to model the use of thinking and learning skills and to show the rewards of trying hard to achieve whatever you set out to do.

As we continued to work together, this student became more motivated to complete her daily assignments and would often request extended time to add more features and details to classroom projects. Ultimately, she achieved 100% of her critical objectives in reading and 80% of her annual goals in mathematics and writing. Just as importantly, her parents noticed a big decrease in her complaints about homework and school. They told me that she even seemed excited about going to school.

The brain is the most powerful tool we possess. Learning and thinking are some of our most important assets. It’s time we start fully harnessing human potential and the brain’s ability to keep learning and storing new information to help all students succeed. I’m glad to play my part and would be happy to discuss the concepts of learning how to learn and thinking about one’s thinking with other parents or teachers in our community.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you are having fantastic results. Congratulations! I applaud your dedication to your students. I'm also in the BrainSMART program and have been amazed at the results as well. Keep up the great work!