I Can’t Remember!

Recent brain research provides evidence that the brain, once thought to be rigid, has the ability to be molded, oddly enough,…through PRACTICE! No wonder the old adage “practice makes you perfect” has held credence for so many years!

Those of us who are sometimes “absent-minded” can actually mold our brains to become “present-minded” (if I may use the term loosely!) and all we have to do is practice using our working memory skills. The sites below may provide an avenue to understand why working memory is important in learning and ways to improve it.

Working Memory and Academic Skills

Why Increasing Working Memory Helps Your Child at School

Five Tips to Improve Working Memory

(Disclaimer: A few recent studies have shown that practice alone may not make you perfect. According to one study, other factors affecting your “perfection” include innate ability and intelligence.)

That pesky weather…

…did it again!

The good news is that you haven’t missed HIP/HOP night here at Byrd.  We have rescheduled the big event for Tuesday, April 1.  That is NO APRIL FOOLS’ DAY JOKE!

HIP/HOP sign-in will be at 5:45 with the sessions starting at 6:00.  The 4th and 5th grade Science Fair will follow at 6:30.

Can you REMEMBER all that?  If not, see you in my session!

Gearing up for HIP/HOP night at Byrd!

Mark your calendars!  So much is happening here at Byrd on Tuesday, March 18th, that I wanted you to know well in advance to save the date so you don’t miss it.

Soon you will receive a letter announcing our second HIP/HOP night.  I will be presenting a session titled, “I Have to REMEMBER All That?!” on improving memory.  So much information is being taught to the children right now, especially since we have missed time due to those snow days, that it might seem overwhelming.  There are ways to make this easier for your children/our students — and YOU!  Here’s your chance to come learn a few great tricks for improving memory!

HIP/HOP sign-in will be at 5:45, sessions starting at 6:00.  The 4th and 5th grade Science Fair will be at 6:30 and our regular PTA meeting starts at 7:00.

Communicating with S-A-T

Not me, you say. There is no SAT given in elementary school.

For now, let’s think about how we communicate — teacher to teacher, teacher to student, student to teacher, parent to child, child to parent.  There are many styles of communication ranging from mild to extreme.  Demanding or threatening messages are not often appropriate.  Implying or hoping don’t often achieve results.  That leaves us with S-A-T or suggesting, asking and telling.  Yes, Eric Jensen, my favorite brain researcher, offers up this wisdom in his book Brain Compatible Strategies.

Check out his suggestions that work for most of the communication pairings above:

  • Suggest to the person you are speaking to that they are perfectly capable of performing a task, will learn it very easily and will find the learning personally valuable.
  • Suggest that learners further explore a topic on their own time in greater detail, so they have the freedom to follow the path that most interests them.
  • Ask learners to do things that they would want to do anyway to give the a sense of control and choice within the learning environment (or at home).
  • Tell your learners to do things when you are short on time, but always explain why the outcome of the task is important to you and applies to them.

Think about S-A-T this way and its many implications for interactions with people throughout your day.

It’s a new year — have some fun!

Happy New Year!

Although our first week back at school has been a chilly one, we are warmed up at Byrd and have learning in high gear!  Why now have some fun with your children at home, playing games.  Yes, there is so much to learn from playing games.

Last week I read an awesome article in the Wall Street Journal (1/5/14) by Demetria Gallegos.  She said the following, which I thought was powerful:

“…in our family, games aren’t just games.  They’re a whole lot more.”

The author pointed out many benefits of playing games that are great life lessons.  Have a look at her main points:

  • It has taught them to be great actors.
  • It has improved their vocabulary.
  • They have gained presentation skills and grace under fire.
  • It has taught them to be great guessers.
  • It has taught them critical thinking.
  • It has taught them patience and sportsmanship.
  • It has unleashed their imagination.
  • Most important, it has taught them to not fear failure.
All that from a game?  Yes!  Let’s look at those for a minute.  If you’re playng cards and you don’t want to let on what you have, you don’t let on through your face.  Knowing words is important to do well in games like Scrabble.  Quick thinking, “thinking on your feet,” is important for charades or Pictionary. Making great predicitons and inferences, those educated guesses, are important for trivia games or Clue. Process of elimination is important as well.  Solving puzzles definitely requires brain power.  Everyone can’t win all the time, so learning to both win and lose gracefully are great skills.  Creative play is especially wonderful to observe with children.  It isn’t always about a computer or board game.  Life is all about risks.  We are faced with this all the time.  It’s not a big deal to try and fail.  You’ve learned something.
Now, go play a game with someone and think about all the great things you learn while having fun together!

Got stress?

Well, we had a fabulously successful November with the Byrd Farmers’ Market and Grandparents’ Day, enjoyed a Thanksgiving break from school, and before we know it, the December holidays will be upon us!

With all the excitement of things, instruction goes on and expectations remain.  Currently, we are doing MAP testing, assessing growth of our students since September.  It’s very exciting to be able to measure growth in this way and find out students’ strengths and needs as we move forward in the school year.  December 20th is the last day for marking period 2 grades. Time is flying, and there is much to learn between now and then.

Brain research tells us that a little stress is good for us all.  It makes us alert and able to meet challenges.  Too much stress is not good. Make a plan ( I love a “To Do” list!), take one day at a time, and try to avoid stress which causes anxiety and hurts our ability to learn.


“Gimme a Break!”

Have you ever heard the students say that before?  Well, research shows that our brains need breaks to synthesize new information and our bodies need to move.  What can we do about that in the classroom?  Plenty!

Byrd teachers have had past opportunities to learn “3-Minute Motivators” for just this purpose.  It has been a challenge for all of us to get back into the swing of things after winter break.  Perhaps you could include some quick brain or activity breaks into your schedule next week.

Everyone knows I follow the work of Dr. Spencer Kagan.  Yesterday, 1/10/13, I received a Kagan Publishing and Professional Development e-mail with a bonus “Kagan Classroom Tip” at the bottom.  Check it out below and give it a try. If you are interested in other “3-Minute Motivators,” stop by to see me.  I’d love to share!

“As students work together to overcome this challenge, they bond, creating a safe learning environment.

Pretzel, Unpretzel

  1. Players form groups of about a dozen each.
  2. A pair of players from each group, the Unpretzelers, turn their backs on the rest of the group, the Pretzel Players.
  3. The Pretzel Players choose one player to be the Pretzel Maker. The Pretzel Maker directs the Pretzel Players all to hold hands in a circle.
  4. The Pretzel Maker directs the Pretzel Players to twist about, step over arms, and duck under each other’s arms to form a human pretzel.
  5. When the group is well pretzeled, they call over the Unpretzelers. The Unpretzelers have not seen how the Pretzel got pretzeled but must direct the players out of the pretzel while the Pretzel Players continue to hold hands.

For a full book of these fun activities, make sure to check out Kagan’s Silly Sports and Goofy Games!




My favorite “brain guy” must be working in Goochland!

It was with great excitement that I read Eric Jensen’s September 2012 Brighter Brain Bulletin.  In fact, I had the feeling that he was somehow talking about Byrd Elementary School.  This recent post was all about engagement  and relationships.  Those were two topics of conversation at our faculty meeting this past Tuesday.

In a nutshell, Jensen talked about how student effort is impacted by stress of many kinds.  Stress impacts our students in varied ways.  You might see it in a display of anger or as helplessness.  Attentional control is impacted as well.  Even one’s working memory is reduced when stress takes over.

What can we, as teachers, do?  Jensen suggests we engage our children and provide trusting relationships.  He goes on to say that showing caring, having trusting relationships wtih teachers and other adults, and providing engaging experiences for them will in turn boost student achievement.

We’re on the same page. The Byrd family is working on these things.

Visit Eric Jensen’s webpage to read more or even sign up to receive the Brighter Brain Bulletin in your inbox.