Published on March 15, 2014
Strategies That Grow Dendrites Matt Meckley I.E.S.S Northern Guilford Middle School
Why Grow Dendrites? • Studies prove that when students do meaningful work that can relate to their individual learning style, they retain that information better. • Students need ways to show creativity and be an individual in their classroom, especially in middle school. These strategies allow students to express their own personalities while nurturing their curiosity and thirst for knowledge.
Strategy 1 Drawing and Artwork • We all have that student who will do nothing in class but doodle in their notebook, why fight it? • Drawing and artwork can be tailored to fit any lesson and content. Allowing students to take something from their brain and put it on paper or build a product helps make connections in the brain which lead to better retention. • Some examples are comic strips, book covers, progression of steps such as cell division, and brochures.
Strategy 1 Drawing and Artwork • One question that my students always ask me is “What if I am not a good artist”? • Tell students that you will never grade them based on their artistic ability and to not think of their artwork as good or bad. But are people able to understand what you are trying to demonstrate.
Strategy 2 “Field” Trips • When students are able to apply a concept to a real world topic outside of the confines of the classroom, it results in experiences that stick out in a student’s mind. • The word field is put in parenthesis because a lot of trips do not require a bus, bag lunch or extra chaperones. • A field trip can simply mean working out on the sidewalk of the school, going on a nature trail, or sitting on blankets in a field in front of the school.
“Field” Trips • I used field trips to allow students to work in small groups where they don’t need to worry about overcrowding in an area, as well as they don’t worry about another group “stealing” their ideas. • Field trips can also be a time for students to play a content based game or even complete a graphic organizer with the sounds of nature in the background.
Strategy 3 Games • There is no doubt that in all content areas memorization is a tool that can not be avoided. Games are helpful because they create a fun atmosphere and motivate students. • Games are great because they can be used during any part of a unit from pre-assessment to a summative assessment.
Games • Students love to be competitive. Games motivate students to learn the content in order for them to better their chances of winning. • Silent speedball is a great way to review with students. Have students make a circle around the room and toss a ball to a student. When that student catches the ball, ask a question about a topic discussed. If they get it wrong, have them sit down and write down the topic so they know to study that more. The last student standing wins! • Another way games can be used is to have students create their own game and rules. When students complete making their game, have them share with a group and let them play as a review.
Strategy 4 Graphic Organizers and Mind Maps • Graphic Organizers are the best way to make thoughts and learning concepts more visual. They help students make models in their mind that create connections and show relationships between ideas. • Mind Maps are ways to have students make their own connections and think abstractly about ideas and concepts.
Graphic Organizers and Mind Maps • Common graphic organizers are the KNL chart where students write out what the know already, what they need to know, and what they learned at the end. This works on activating prior knowledge as well as summarizing. • The best way to instruct students to create a mind map is to tell them to use as few words as possible, but use pictures instead to demonstrate an idea. Also, encourage students to make connections between ideas by using lines.
Strategy 5 Humor • Using humor lightens the atmosphere of the classroom as well as allows students a mental break from the day to day stress of being in middle school. • Humor can also be used in order to guide students to better understanding of content.
Humor • Have Students create their own “meme”, pun or joke based on a recent topic such as chemistry.
Strategy 6 Music • Music can be used in two ways. – Use it to set the pace and tone for that day (relaxation music to settle nerves or prepare for note taking, fast pace or strong beat to get the energy flowing in the room) – Use music to have students create songs or raps about the key parts of a concept. This allows students to review important aspects of a topic while making them think abstractly.
Music • I have a special playlist on my Ipod that I play for students before they take a test. A few songs include: – Remember the Name (Fort Minor) – Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer) – Don’t Stop Believing (Journey) – Three Little Birds (Bob Marley) – Bangarang (Skrillex) – Hall of Fame (The Script)
Strategy 7 Problem-Based Instruction Project-Based Instruction • At the beginning of a unit, give students a problem, world issue or project that needs to be addressed. • As instruction and lessons continue refer back to the problem or project. Students will gain more information that will help them solve the issue as the unit progresses. • Use student answers and projects as the final assessment of knowledge. Use a rubric to make sure students know what information needs to be in their presentation.
Problem-Based Instruction Project-Based Instruction • Projects are also a great anchoring activity. Have students work on their project in class whenever they finish something early and need something to do. • Give options for the products so each student can pick the one that fits their learning style the best.
Strategy 8 Drama • Students can work in small groups in order to create a play or skit that summarizes concepts covered in class. • Have students use props, costumes and sets in their presentations. • Students who are shy or not willing to act in front of their peers can be the narrator.
Drama • Students can record infomercials, put on a talk show, or have a news report. • Have students turn in a copy of their script to double check their understanding and write feedback to them.
Thank You • Go and grow those dendrites!
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