Digital Doors was created as a place for me to blog and share resources that I think would be helpful for teachers integrating technology in meaningful ways in their classroom. My goal would be to write a blog post a week, but with my busy schedule, that doesn't happen. I write when I can and rely on nifty tools to help me share what I am finding when I don't have time to write.

Monday, July 28, 2008

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Brain Rules: Chpt. 1 Exercise

For years I have been very interested in learning more about how the brain works and what this means to me as a teacher. How can I use what I know about how the brain works to design lessons that best meet the needs of my students and foster real learning. John Medina has a new book out called Brain Rules. He has spelling out 12 principles or brain rules that will help us understand how best to use our brain power. He points to the school and business world and shows how a lot of the way things are done is very counterintuitive to the way our brains work. The first chapter is about exercise. Medina shares lots of research that proves that exercise improves brain function. Basically, exercise, even just a little, improves brain function and can prolong life. Exercise can actually reverse the effects of aging and change mental acuity. Exercise can be used to treat depression, Alzheimers and more. Just a 20 minute walk 5 times a week can decrease your chance of having a stroke by 57%. I think that we all know and can agree that exercise is great and we should all be doing it. It makes us feel better, it improves our health and it helps us be more alert and creative. What does this mean for us as teachers? I think that our biggest issue is that due to a never ending loading of our school schedules, physical activity has been limited in our schools. We as teachers need to realize the importance of incorporating exercise into our daily school schedule. We also have to think of some innovative ways to do this since our time is so limited. How can we incorporate physical activity into our daily academic routines? Medina suggest having all of the students walk on treadmills as you teach math. This doesn't seem very practical for a number of reasons but might work if we had unlimited resources and space.

* I used to start each school day by going on a quick "Power Walk" with my students. (kindergarten). As we walked, we sang songs, counted, did math, played I Spy, etc. I found that my students were able to come in and get right to work and focus. The Power Walk has not fit into my schedule for years. But I could really see the benefits for all when it did.
* There are all kinds of review games etc. that you can play with your students which incorporate both thinking and exercise.
* Our elementary school students only get 30 minutes of PE a week. The also have 30 minutes of recess a day. In order to encourage more physical activity, our PE teacher requires students to exercise outside of class at least 30 minutes 3 times a week. Students are required to get their planners signed saying what they did and for how long. This isn't a perfect solution, but I like the idea that students are encouraged to choose what type of exercise they want to do in their own time. This can build a lifelong habit.
* I like that idea of having kids lead 2 minutes of exercise at the beginning of each class.
* I purchased 8 mp3 players through a grant. Would be kind of cool to create a podcast about something we are learning in class and have students take the podcasts for a walk and then come back and share what they learned. I am doing a similar thing for myself. I listen to podcasts and audio books (Like Brain Rules) while I walk my dog Roswell.

Would love to hear other ways to incorporate learning and exercise. Pin It Now!

1 comment:

brain exercises said...

Great information. Thank you. We are only just learning how important it is to take care of our brains.

Anyone interested in this topic should see Susanne Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl's study on Improving Fluid Intelligence by Training Working Memory (PNAS April 2008) which recorded increases in mental agility (fluid intelligence) of more than 40% with less than 20 days of focused brain training.

I was so impressed that I contacted the research team and developed a software program using the same method. I've been using the training myself, of course, and the results are far from subtle. I can now tackle, and complete!, the Saturday crossword puzzle, for instance, when before I used to get stuck on Thursday.

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