Recently we've been learning more about the brain, how it stores information, and how it functions. As teachers, we need to keep track of these advances so we can help them learn better.
First of all, what is the reticular activating system and what does it actually do? Well this system is found at the base of the brain by the top of the spine and sends information upwards.
This is where thoughts, internal feelings, and outside influences meet. In other words, it works to filter internal thoughts and external information that bombards us. It decides what we are aware of and what we ignore.
So it likes surprises and new things or things we are interested which is why we drift off during long boring lectures or cannot concentrate when we are hungry or thirsty. So if you want to keep the attention of your students, you need to tap into both the creative and logical parts of the brain.
Some of the suggestions made to help create lessons where students learn rather than tune out are as follows:
1. Help students remember the material by connecting the critical information to positive emotional experiences in the classroom.
2. Begin the lesson with the large concept, invite predictions, KWL, graphic organizers as a way to preview and give an overview of the lesson.
3. Try to set it up so students are not dividing their attention. Allow pauses so students can focus on taking down notes. Contrary to the multitasking myth, students should only be doing one activity at a time.
4. Students focus better if they know there is a follow up activity such as a think-pair-share.
5. Do crazy things like sing, speak in a different voice, or hang a dollar bill to provide the surprise the brain likes.
6. Pause to build anticipation before you say something important.
7. Use color for fun and differentiation. If you write the most important point in one color and key points in a second color, it can increase recall.
8. Ask questions which make them think a bit such as do you want one half of quarter of a hamburger or a quarter of a half of a hamburger. Explain your answer.
9. Every 15 minutes or so add in some physical activity such as have them get something, change your position in the room, so they have to move.
10. Change the arrangement of the room every so often or change the seating, or bulletin boards so that there is a bit of surprise.
11. Use your students names in problems to personalize them.
The above suggestions can help students stay focused on the lessons so as to learn better rather than fading out and focusing on other things. Let me know what you think!