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Wish I Had Known About the Brain!

A couple of years in a row now my partners at other schools have begun the year teaching about the brain and mindsets. I was like, “Yeah, that sounds great.” BUT, I had already planned something else in my mind. They shared their lessons with me and they all revolved around this book…Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by  Deak Ph.D., JoAnn and Sarah Ackerley.

Here is a brief sketch of what I did with my students in 1st and 2nd grades this year. These were three 30 minute enrichment lessons. Most of this I cannot take credit for since I didn’t write the lessons, but I adapted them for my own use.

Day 1: I read the first few pages of the book and we learned the parts of the brain here as we touched the parts of the brain on our heads, we talked about each part’s function. We did a coloring sheet in which students colored parts of the brain like are on this page of the book (sorry, but I am not at liberty to share the coloring page).

We also sang with this Story Bots You Tube song.

Day 2: We read the next few pages of the book and reviewed the parts of the brain. We acted out different scenarios which were pre-prepared (I didn’t come up with them on the spot in other words). Students had to guess which parts of the brain they thought were being used to perform the actions that the children were doing.

Day 3: We read the last few pages of the book, and made neurons with our arms, palms, and fingers. We talked about how electrical impulses travel down the neurons to tell the body what to do. Then I talked to students about how mistakes are the biggest teacher (reiterating what the book says). I brought up the idea of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. I held a balloon and blew it up. I said this is like a growth mindset. I also held up a flat balloon and said this is a fixed mindset. Then I asked students what they could do to make it easier to blow up the balloon. I wanted them to tell me to stretch it (like their brain). From this point, I found a random fixed mindset/growth mindset poster on the internet and read it while holding the balloon. I had students check phrases they had said before on both the fixed and growth mindset side. This website has a good chart about characteristics of fixed and growth mindset patterns.

What I love when teaching about the brain and fixed/growth mindset is that in essence you are teaching children the power of choices to let their mind expand or stay stagnant. With my older students, I also discussed how when you let your mind go a certain direction over and over it makes a deeper pathway similar to when you walk on the grass a whole lot. I ask the students what helps the grass to stop being dead in the same spot. Students invariably are able to say that you stop walking on it and when the rain comes it grows back up. So it is with anyone’s brain. They stop thinking the worst and the grass grows back up. Their brain stops having that pathway.

I hope you get a chance to teach about the brain and mindsets in your classroom. You won’t regret it!

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