Respecting the Brain.

10 Jul

What do we know about the brain and how does what we know (or think we know) drive how we teach. John Medina and his book Brain Rules breaks the latest brain research into 12 principles/rules. His book is a great read and it is supported by companion DVD. Much of the video content on the DVD is shared on his website On this site you can access information/activities to support all 12 principles/rules by selection the icon at the top of the media window.

Check out this news report that does a great job of summarizing the book.


Posted by on July 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


18 responses to “Respecting the Brain.

  1. Kimberly Evans

    July 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I enjoyed the broadcast video interview on Respecting the Brain. I wholeheartedly agreed with the author whose name I have forgotten. It makes so much sense. My son, James, is ADHD and contantly walks in circles when he is deep in thought and discussion. I’ve seen a lot of my students who use the yoga balls where they can slightly bounce perform better in concentration. Two of the 5th grade classes in my school only have yoga balls for the students.

    He stress on exercise and sleep struck home as well. Since I’ve been in school I have not slept as well or really exercised at all. On top of that I was on some strong medications for migraines that gave me brain fog. I haven’t felt like myself. I just got into a eating program to lessen my migraines and started going back to yoga. I’ve been sleeping much better the last two weeks and I know once I am done with grad school it will be easier to get a decent amount of sleep. I look forward to having my brain back. I have felt my creative juices lagging.

    I shared the video on my twitter account and I want to share it with my school throug email. I don’t know how many teacher are viewing their email through summer, but hope to get their thoughts.

  2. kindergartentofirst

    July 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Being a clutz at heart, the opening of this video scared me a little bit! The joke in my family is that walking is a sport for me, I’m not able to do anything while focusing on walking! So, I’m sure I could not manage to walk on a treadmill and type on a keyboard! However, I enjoyed learning about the brain rules and brain myths!

    Every brain is wired differently (#3) backs up my experiences with my own children and my students~ everyone is intelligent in some way, the challenge is to find the way that students learn! I totally agree that sleep well, think well (#7) and the need to exercise are good for your brain. As Kimberly mentioned in her post, I am looking forward to “following” these rules once grad school is over. The use of repetition in learning is a practice that I used in my kindergarten classroom last year when teaching my students sight words. I would introduce a word and have the kids spell it, jump it, yell it, whisper it, sing it, etc.

    While I’m not ready to replace my desk with a treadmill, I do think that John Medina has some great ideas (using more than 10% of his brain!) and I am putting this book on my “wish list” in my Kindle for some post-graduate school reading.

  3. Cindy

    July 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I have to agree when I saw the first part where he was walking on a treadmill while typing on a computer I thought “I would not be able to do that without possibly injuring myself and/or the laptop.” I do think his philosophy about the connection between exercise and the brain is well documented. While I don’t know that treadmills in the class room is the best solution I do think schools have taken away a lot of recess and activities at the school that let the students expend energy. My elementary students only had one recess during the day just after lunch-does anyone else have a different set-up? I think two short recesses in mid-morning and mid-afternoon would benefit both teacher and student. I know, I know there is not enough time!

    I sometimes feel that we have lots of well supported data and conclusions but are not very good as a society about how to implement them. I think the difficult part about teaching is that there are many parts about educating a student that are truly out of the teachers hand. For example, from the video he states that the best thing a parent can do is to provide the right home environment for a student, but as a teacher and society I do not think that is something that can be legislated.

    While it is not perfect I do think that there are some programs that do support this philosophy already being implemented. There are programs at school for students who may not be getting meals at home and other programs to help students who may need structure after school. So while there are some safety nets in place I do think that sometimes the school system is limited in helping students who may need it most.

  4. samjackndan

    July 11, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    My undergrad major was Sociology, so I found the comments on nature v. nurture really interesting. This has been a debate for so long; I like the analogy that Dr. Medina uses to illustrate the relevance of both. It is also illuminating that the greatest predictor of academic success is an emotionally stable home. We focus so much on test scores, homework, SOLs, etc. that we often forget the social and family issues that impact learning. The best advice I ever got from a supervisor was to always remember that as teachers, we need to look at each child in the context of his/her whole life, not just their time at school. I have seen the best students collapse under the weight of family issues. We may not be able to fix these issues, but we need to always consider what a child is enduring before we think his drop in scores needs remediation, Child Study, and IEPs, etc. etc.

    My favorite brain rule is #7. Getting support for sleeping to learn is a gift! I now understand why being a night owl can actually be a good thing. I can really tell that my teens seem to get their second wind at about 10 pm each night, even though I have chastised them for not being in bed. They are motivated and energized, and they recall info so much better the next day if they have studied a bit later at night. For me however, it is a different story. When I was an undergrad and all of 18, my all-nighters were extremely effective. This is not the case, however, now that I am pushing 100. Although I am still a night owl, I need a lot more time to recuperate from late night study sessions.

    Which leads me to accept that I need to embrace rule #1 as well, and appreciate how much exercise is essential in our lives. I did find that when I was student teaching in kindergarten, I stayed in the class most of the day. Even though I was up and down on the floor with the kids, and we danced a lot, it was quick bursts of energy followed by a lot of sitting. When I worked with the 5th grade, however, just walking them to various specials each day added a ton of steps to my pedometer. I actually felt refreshed and energetic at the end of the day, even though I had moved around so much more. I think I was more productive at night too, and rested better. So as much as I fight it, exercise wins again. Now you can add learning to all its benefits. Drats.

  5. kindergartenteacher629

    July 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I agree with Cindy that students should get more time outside than they currently do. At the school where I did my student teaching, they were barely outside for half an hour each day, and there are some days when kids just need to expend more energy outside than being inside. It makes such a difference in their energy levels. I’ve noticed the same for me when I do yoga, as Kim has been doing. I haven’t been to yoga in about 4 weeks and I hate that I haven’t been able to exercise. Now that school is finishing, I’m also looking forward to getting back into my exercise routine. I’m also looking forward to sleeping more soundly and find that having a well-balanced life contributes so much to my overall well-being. It is the same for our students, so I can definitely understand Dr. Medina’s point about harnessing kids’ intelligence by ensuring that there is harmony at home.

    I found it interesting when he talked about how some people’s brains peak at certain hours. I’ve always been a night owl and hate getting up early, jarred by the sound of a beeping alarm clock. It’s usually at night when I’ve finished many of my school projects and now I can see why. I guess I’d never really thought about the link between the brain and how it optimally functions at certain times better than for others. I also found it interesting that it’s a myth that we only use 10% of our brains, especially since somebody at my job mentioned that today! We are all unique and different and it is definitely something to take into consideration as we work with our students to ensure that they learn at the best level that they can for themselves.

  6. jrex2

    July 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    We use more than 10 percent of our brains?! I don’t know where I heard it, but I’ve been a believer in that myth for a long time! I found it really interesting that the greatest predictor for academic success is emotional stability in the home. As a teacher, I can’t control what goes on at home, but I hope to help create a loving, kind, supportive, respectful, and encouraging atmosphere in the classroom. Teachers have so much to accomplish in such a short day. It can be difficult to stop and really listen to an individual student or respond to a question that is “off-task”. We miss so many teachable moments.

    I also found it interesting that exercise is great for our brains. I know it’s good for the rest the body, so I guess I should have assumed it was good for our brains too. I’d like to hear more about his thoughts on the classroom set up not being the ideal learning environment. It makes me laugh thinking about a class of first graders on treadmills. I don’t think kids get outside nearly enough during the school day. I know a third grade teacher who does 10-15 minute exercises/stretches with her students at least once a day. Sometimes this takes place in her own classroom and sometimes she takes her students outside for a walk. She explained to me how much more productive she found her students.

    • Anonymous

      July 14, 2011 at 11:07 am

      The significance of a stable emotional environment in the home as the primary indicator of academic achievement was a surprise to me as well. Although, upon reflection, it makes sense that a consistent stable environment would be more influential than forcing knowledge at a young age. I had a neighbor who had hired a French tutor for her daughter and was teaching her the birds of prey. Her daughter was barely three.
      I love what you said about making the classroom a warm and loving environment. If the classroom could be a refuge then kids from unstable home environments could mentally make a long-lasting, positive connection to learning.
      – Shabrayle

  7. crholt

    July 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I thought it was very intersting. I am intrigued by the brain anyway, my next career path :). I thought it was interesting to learn that the brain needs sleep to learn; we aren’t resting our bodies we are letting our brain work overnight. Additionally, that the brain needs exercise. I’d love to see that study.

    As I think about my daughter, and the teenage brain, it makes total sense what John Medina is saying. She is a night owl, but she always has been. Given the choice she would stay up late and take late classes if she could.

    It would be an intersting classroom and office space if tread mills were brought in. Could you image the expense?

    • Karen

      July 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      A lot of offices are building in gyms now, so people can work out on their lunch breaks. Or heck, look at google–work when you feel like you’re productive, and nourish your body/mind otherways when you hit a road block. Their office is filled with pool tables and treadmills and employees’ dogs, etc. It makes the time they do spend working a zillion times more productive though, which justifies any costs of the “toys”.

      It’s an interesting idea at the adult level that has seen a lot of success with motivated, driven employees. I don’t know what it would look like in a classroom of un-interested kiddos though. (Or even with adults at a company with less driven employees).

  8. hansenme

    July 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I found this video very interesting! Everything Dr. Medina said was very interesting and made me think! One thing I really agreed with was the fact that students needs to get up and moving to be engaged. Although I do not agree with the treadmills in the classroom, I do believe that the students need to get up! They need to be engaged physically and mentally!

    I also agreed with the statement he made about teaching in 2-D! It is BORING! We are a generation now that everything is hands-on and 3-D! I have noticed that a majority of students learn better this way! Again, we need to engage our students and not bore them.

    Most importantly, we need sleep. I was not aware that when we sleep we are actually replaying what we learned. Not only do we need sleep for energy, but for our memory as well! Trust me, I will be getting more sleep from now on!

  9. hac9q

    July 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Although getting enough exercise is important to retaining knowledge, I don’t think it is practical to have treadmills in the classroom or office. However, I have seen the the large exercise balls work wonders for students who have trouble staying awake in class. Just the right amount of instability to wake up their brains. I am in the process of setting up my classroom know, and I am creating several different seating options in the hopes that my students will find what works best for them.

    Also, I found Dr. Medina’s comment about our brain paying the most attention to moving 3-dimensional objects interesting. I move around a lot when I teach because I get bored just staying in one place. I wonder if my movement is helping my students focus and learn more?

    • Karen

      July 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      Oooh, I like the idea of students being able to self select the environment that works best for them. I wonder what age that would start to be successful? Or if I’m possibly not giving my middle schoolers enough credit?

  10. d0ughb0y

    July 15, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Repeat to remember. I think he brings up a great argument that exercise will help your brain. Your brain is like a muscle. Repetition will help shape your body with strong muscles. I also like how he mentioned “you need to sleep to educate yourself”…I need to do that!

  11. futurepedagologist

    July 15, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Initially, I was very curious about the preference for 3-D representations, but then I thought about it and it makes sense that we would naturally prefer models that reflected real life. I’m not sure how I could incorporate this in a language arts class; however, incorporating exercise is feasible. It might be interesting to enlist students in a “study”, allowing some students to pace back and forth while reading to see if that increases retention and understanding.

  12. lori8740

    July 15, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Listening to Dr. Medina I realized I had noticed many of these things in myself, my children, and my students: Sleep is important, being smarter than average as a young child doesn’t necessarily mean you will always be one of the smartest, some people do better at night and others in the morning, children need to move and have recess.

    I always had a bedtime for my children. Of course, I did it so they could get enough rest and I could have restful evenings! When they were in elementary school they would complain because several of their friends did not have as early a bedtime. I would tell them that they needed to be rested in order to do their very best learning. I really did not know that the brain is learning while at rest It does make sense, though. How many times have you gone to bed with a problem or trying to work out a lesson and wake up in the morning with ideas? I know a lot of my professional writing came to me when I first woke up. On good days I could grab a pen and notebook from next to my bed. On bad days I was in the shower and had to try to remember it!

    I am more of a night owl than my husband. He loves getting up early and being at the gym by 5 a.m. Left to my own schedule I find I go to bed at 2 and sleep until about 8. After 6 hours of sleep I am ready for anything. During school, though, I need to get up at 5. It doesn’t seem to matter if I go to bed at 9 and get 8 hours of sleep every night or go to bed at 11 and get 6 hours of sleep I still feel exhausted. When I was in college I discovered my best sleeping came between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. If I had been smart I would have applied to the elementary school right in my neighborhood so I could leave the house at 8:30 instead of 7:30!

    Movement and exercise is important for the brain, too. I often interrupt class when I see my students getting fidgety and have a student lead us in stretching. Not as good as recess, but it gets them refocused. The funny thing is, growing up I did not have recess. You would think that the ’60s and ’70s would have been the height of recess, but I can only remember going outside for recess in kindergarten and at the very end of the school year. I know my memory is pretty good on this because our school was one floor and every classroom had a door leading outside. I remember thinking that we never used those doors except for recess — and that was so rare. We did not call it recess — we called it going outside to play. I grew up thinking recess only existed in the books I read!

    One thing I did find that also works is to let students decide how they want to work at their desks. Some students in my 4th grade student teaching class almost never sat at their desks. They stood or sat on the floor right near their desks. My cooperative teacher allowed his class that flexibility, and it really did seem to make a difference.

  13. LBG

    July 15, 2011 at 10:43 am

    So, going a little different direction than talking about what I liked/didn’t like about this information, I’m intrigued by something else. Tonight is our last graduate school course, and for the last 2 years I feel like we have discussed, read, and watched a TON of things that tell us how the way we are educating our students is wrong. How what we set up in the classroom is wrong. How we talk to them is wrong. How the work we give them is wrong. How testing is wrong. I understand the theory of teaching people how NOT to do something, but as I embark on my career, I’m feeling like everything in education is wrong and needs to be fixed. Anyone else out there feeling the same way???

  14. kmatson5

    July 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    It is interesting that many of Dr. Medina’s brain rules are things that moms have advocated intuitively for a long time.I know I am always urgin my kids to get a good night’s sleep and to be physically active. It is nice to have research to back-up much of what has been common sense.

    As teachers-to-be there is lots here that reinforces what we have been taught. For example:
    Each student is an individual – brain rule # 3, Every brain is wired differently
    Students need to be engaged to learn – brain rule #4, We don’t pay attention to boring things
    Address multiple intelligences – brain rule #9 Stimulate more of the senses, etc.

    I really liked the link between exercise and the brain. Rule #1 relates to brain rule #8 that statest that stressed minds don’t learn the same way. Personally, I have found the link between exercise and stress reduction to be a strong one.

    So convicted am I that I’m going to go work-out. I was planning to catch up on desk work today but it will have to wait….


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