Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Worksheets Don't Build Dendrites!

I am back from a jam packed week spent at UCLA participating in Diving Deep into the Common Core sponsored by CTA's IPD department.  (Acronyms...ugh.. California Teachers Association's Instruction & Professional Development Department!! How is that for a mouthful!)

The keynote was Dr. Marcia Tate, from the Worksheets Don't Build Dendrites books.  She was FABULOUS!  Motivating, loud, positive, energetic, engaging, and on point!!  Many of her 20 Instructional Strategies for Teaching the Common Core Standards were not knew to me, but as a 16 year educator, I recognize that we all need a little bit of reminders, improvements, and exposure to strategies that are tried and true and fit any learner at any age.  Enter Dr. Marcia Tate!  

One of her strategies that I intend on working on right away is the increased incorporation of music in my classroom.  I always use music, but honestly, more for brain breaks where we might stand and dance our jiggles away to a YouTube hit like the Sid Shuffle or my students loved Adventure to Fitness last year.  Great for indoor PE on super hot or rainy days. 

1. Research still shows that things stick to the human brain when WRITING them down, not typing them as on an iPad or computer.  Being in a 1:1 classroom this year, I recognize to maintain important student learning tools like their Math and Language Arts Toolboxes because my students write down notes, examples, and it is very interactive.  This resource is something they often referred back to and while their iPads will eventually go home, their toolboxes can be put in to use immediately.  It was great to hear a few adults sitting around my table comment the next morning that they went back to their rooms and wrote their notes down because they had typed them in a note app on their ipads but really wanted to remember to use them so they went and wrote them down and how they could clearly hear the whole presentation in their heads when they were writing them!! 

2. Your first opportunity daily to interact with your students is to meet them at the door and greet them by name. Nothing new here, but a poignant reminder of just how important those relationships we build with our students become.  Studies have shown that schools who use this method with incorporating a student greeting their classmates daily with their teacher have reduced bullying.  It is hard to bully someone when they welcomed you to class earlier in the day and commented on how your new shirt looked really cool.  

3. The brain never forgets what it sings! Marcia shared a great app Songify that turns lyrics into a song for you. She also shared Warren Phillips, a science teacher, who sings academic content to his students in hit songs. Marcia shared that 30% of your day should have music involved in your classroom in one way or another.  Several teachers at my table disagreed saying they use it more than that and what a difference their class has become.  I am going to test this out for myself! 

4. Brain Breaks.. turn the class clown into the official joke reader or riddle teller.  We all have one, sometimes more than one.  Marcia shared stories of how empowering students who are often the one who needs the attention from his/her classmates provides them with the needed push to become more academic.  Don't forget to have their jokes or riddles pre-approved by you for content and appropriateness but I see this happening.  One of her stories featured around a student from her hometown who was in trouble daily for making comments when he shouldn't. In high school he was so used to being in trouble, he would just check in at the office daily. The principal wagged his finger in the kid's face one day and said paraphrasing here, "Ain't no one paying you to be funny."   Years later the kid returned to encourage other kids at his alma mater to listen and learn while they are in school.  And the kid told the teacher, "Now they are paying me to be funny."  Who was the kid?  Chris Tucker    You may have the next Chris Tucker in your room.  Give that kid a well-defined role.  

5. Don't be the teacher in Ferris Bueller!  We all laughed at that movie, but we don't want to become the teacher who stands at the front of the room saying "Anyone? Anyone?" and then answering for the students. Be the teacher who builds dendrites! Especially in this generation of students who never move and spend most of their time on social media and as a result are losing their interpersonal and social skills. 

6. The value of placing knowledge in students' procedural memory by using movement and mnemonic devices. SMILE... my personal favorite! Show Me I'm Loved Everday! I absolutely do love my students, all of them, even the rowdy ones and the ones who don't want to be loved.  I need to remind them daily just how much! 

If you ever get the opportunity to build your dendrites by attending an event with Marcia Tate, go!! You will leave re-energized and ready for an amazing school year! In 2 short weeks, I will be putting her 20 strategies and my 6 favorite tips in action!! How is your school year going so far? Are you building dendrites? 

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