I am so excited to join this fabulous book study! We are reading and responding to the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate. I was drawn to the book because this is my first year using Whole Brain Teaching. The book seems to align to the Whole Brain Teaching philosophy.
A dendrite is the part of the nerve cell that transfers information to other parts of the nerve cell. The more dendrites that are made, the faster information will travel and the more information that can be stored. (Thanks to my nurse husband for explaining this to me!) Let's just be real, worksheets don't grow the brain. Worksheets are quick and easy, but don't allow students the opportunity to grow their dendrites!
This book includes 20 different strategies to engage the brain. Today, I am looking at the first two strategies.
The first strategy is about brainstorming and discussion. The chapter opens with this quote, "They can't talk in class. They can't talk in the hall. They can't talk in the hallway. They can't talk at all!" GULP! That is so true of our schools! Tate goes on to talk about the fact that when you talk, you take in oxygen. The oxygen is necessary for brain development. How many of use have students in our class that are breathing, but just barely?
In previous years, I would have been a big offender of not letting students talk. This year, I have been using the Whole Brain Teaching strategies in my classroom. I use the Teach/Ok strategy at least 4-5 times per every lesson. I give the students lots of opportunities to talk and share. I have actually found that this leads to less of the disruptive talking at inappropriate times. It has also increased student comprehension and understanding.
I am in love with my morning work procedure. Students have a math activity to complete. After 5-10 minutes, I ask students to teach their strategies to their partner. It is so amazing to listen to them as they teach! I rarely have to go over our bell work as a whole group, because partners have caught errors and taught the correct strategies already. I also allow students lots of time to talk and share during reading and math small groups. Sometimes students are asked to work and share with their partner, while other times they are sharing with the group. Writing is another fantastic time for sharing. We use the Lucy Calkins units of study. Our lessons often start with the opportunity for students to orally rehearse their stories with their partner. Then, I end our writing time with an opportunity to share something they wrote with their partner. Students love this. It really validates their writing if they know someone is hearing it.
I still have room to grow. I am the first to admit that I am OCD. I need silence in order to think and process my thoughts. Some of my students are the same way. Others need noise! I need to loosen up just a tad on my small group volume. I have been known to say "Stop giggling!" when students were playing math games. Not cool! Having fun while working on math is a GOOD thing. I need to remind myself of this! Another area that I would like to improve upon is my lesson closings. I love when we take the time to share with our partner about what we learned. Sadly, time often gets away from me and this step is skipped. I will work on it!
The second strategy that Tate introduces is drawing and artwork. Using art increases a student's creativity. Art can be used to help increase comprehension and engagement.
The biggest way that I include art in my every day lessons is through the use of interactive notebooks. We use them in math, reading and social studies. They give students the opportunity to cut, sort and glue. This engages the brain and helps students to retain more of the information that they are learning.
I have also started using math menu boards for my enrich students. These projects allow them to create games, posters and videos to show their understanding of a particular topic.
I often spend time on Fridays doing science and social studies themed art projects. We display them on our walls and have a special open house for parents to come and enjoy.
I like to do math crafts. However, I am the first to admit they they are only squeezed in occasionally! My favorite craft is my area and perimeter robot craft.
I have some room to grow in this area as well. I want to make more time for my kids to illustrate their writing. I have not been good about this! NEED MORE TIME!!! I also love one of the ideas that Tate gave. She suggested hanging butcher paper along one wall and setting out markers. As students come in the room, they can illustrate and example to show something they learned from the previous day. This sounds like a fabulous warm up! I must institute this activity at least once per week!
Stay tuned for the next two chapters! I would love it if you ordered the book and read along with me. You won't be disappointed.