I'm into a fascinating read--Mind, Brain, and Education--and I have all these ideas swirling around in my head for what I can do in the classroom to more fully engage the students in the concepts. The author of the chapter I just finished suggests helping students understand how their brains work when it comes to learning, so they realize they truly do have control over how well they learn something. For many years now, I've been trying to get through to students that they are the ones in control, but that's all I ever said. Now I have solid information by credible neuroscientists to back up what I'm saying. It's like I've found the lost piece of the puzzle, and I can't wait to put it into its spot.
For instance, did you know there's a part of the brain that's called the reticular activating system (RAS) that acts as a sort of gate-keeper, and when input registers, if that input creates stress or fear, the input goes to the lower brain, the flight/fight/freeze part of the brain? When this happens, learning can't take place. On the other hand, if the input is stress free, fear free, the RAS lets it pass into the higher brain, where learning occurs. While I've always worked to create a stree-free, fear-free environment in the classroom, I now realize I can do even more to help students not feel stressed or fearful, simply because I understand better how the brain functions. Sometimes it's not that students don't want to learn the concepts, it's that they flat out can't due to how the RAS is responding to what they are physically feeling. Their brain is actually protecting them from what it perceives as a threat. While the RAS is responsible for lots of other brain functions, the student/learning aspect is what I find most fascinating at this point.
While I was reading, I jotted down several ideas for helping students learn the concepts in such a way that they'll feel less threatened, maybe even find enjoyable. The author, too, offered lots of ideas along the way for helping students engage through curiosity, and I'm going to try a couple of her suggestions. While it's Friday and I normally am so ready for the weekend, after reading just the short amount I have in this book and getting some new ways to offer the information to students, I'm really looking forward to Monday, trying out a couple of ideas to see what happens.