Brain Compatible Teaching & Learning

For my first student teaching placement back in 1995 while attending Syracuse University I had the opportunity to work with an amazing middle school English Language Arts teacher, Mary McCrone.  Her classroom was warm and inviting, with desks set up in clusters and plants all around the room.  She brought in lamps and never used the glaring overhead florescent lights.  In the back of the room she had a rug with two large couches facing one another a person might think he or she was in someone’s living room rather than a classroom.  Chalk boards were covered with paper and classical music played softly throughout the day while students completed a do now or did independent writing. Mrs. McCrone would ring chimes to call the class to attention.

What I learned during that student teaching placement shaped the teacher that I am today.  Mrs. McCrone classroom followed an ITI methodology – Integrated Thematic Instruction, now known as the Highly Effective Teaching model.  ITI was developed by Susan Kovalik in 1984 and is based on brain compatible learning.  I went through Mrs. McCrone’s ITI training to understand and implement brain compatible learning during the time of my student placement.  Many of these elements I still use in my classroom today.

The 9 key elements of ITI method* include:

1. Absence of Threat

2. Meaningful Content

3. Enriched Environment

4. Movement to Enhance Learning

5. Choices

6. Adequate Time

7. Collaboration

8. Immediate Feedback

9. Mastery & Application

(*The Center for Effective Learning & International Center for Leadership in Education)

Over the next few weeks I will address each of these elements in a blog post and share what it looks like in action, in my classroom.  As summer approaches and teachers begin thinking about revising for next school year, creating a classroom where students achieve and cultivate a lifelong love of learning is a priority.  Think about how you can make your classroom and teaching more brain compatible.

Susan Kovalik stated, “It is essential to know how the brain learns if we want to produce students who are capable and competent in all of their subjects” (2008).  There are many websites and resources on what is brain compatible learning and how brain research can be integrated into the classroom, as well as how brain research relates to technology integration.

One of my favorite books about brain compatible learning is Eric Jensen’s Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2005, ASCD).

For a more resources and websites about brain compatible learning click here.

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