Building Healthy, Happy Student Brains:
Increasing Achievement

How do educators face the challenging task of raising test scores and improving overall student achievement?

In the fascinating book, “Teaching with the Brain in Mind”, Eric Jensen supports what many educators have known innately for years. The secret to creating active, happy students who flourish in the classroom is not to pile on monotonous worksheets, nor to lecture continually in sterile environments while students remain passive. He reveals that there is important new brain research whose application could be revolutionary to teaching and learning. Fascinating neuro-scientific discoveries have provided us with exciting new insights about how the brain functions and how learning best occurs. Through the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scientists have gained new ways to understand and see inside the brain while its owner is alive.

What does this research tell us?

It is vital for teachers to build healthy student brains! The scientific data now supports Jensen’s premise that the key to creating smarter and more capable kids is to grow more synaptic connections among their brain cells, and not to lose the existing ones.

How are these brain synaptic connections formed and maintained? By:

1. Enriching the academic environment through the creation of:

  • Extensive use of student choice in every arena of the classroom especially curriculum and methodology
  • Relevant and engaging learning with opportunities for challenging academic and personal interactions
  • Novelty
  • Employing props, costumes, noisemakers, bells, games & integration of the arts
  • Moving from the traditional classroom setting to the hall or commons, or changing the configuration of student desks for special activities

2. Creating positive emotions through building:

  • Meaningful relationships
  • Using celebrations, drama, peer support, discussions, teacher interest and affection for students
  • A sense of community
  • Using rituals, positive greetings, handshakes, hugs, sharing time, music, celebrations.

Teachers who help their students feel good about learning through classroom success, friendships, and celebrations are doing the very things the student brain craves.” E. Jensen

3. Eliminating threat

Jensen states, “The evidence is pervasive: Certain traumas literally rewire the brain.” The resulting change in brain chemistry alters brain transmitters in a powerful way, most of which interfere profoundly with learning.

This new information supports what many educators have believed intuitively, spiritually, and philosophically for years. Creating an environment where students feel afraid is totally counterproductive to learning!

What are some ways to decrease threat in the classroom? Allow students to have transition time in order to shift gears from the outside world, eliminate teacher judgments, finger pointing, humiliation, detention and embarrassment. Solve problems cooperatively.

“Threat activates defense mechanisms that are great for survival but lousy for learning!” E. Jensen

4. Eliminating boredom

Just as research has discovered that enrichment, novelty and variety grow better brains, it has also been proven that barren classrooms with one-way lecture deter brain development and even cause a weakening of the neurons.

“Boredom is more than annoying to teens, it may be thinning their brains! ” E. Jensen

Would you like to raise test scores and increase the achievement of your students? Build strong, thick brain neurons! For more information, I recommend: “ Teaching with the Brain in Mind” by Eric Jensen, Published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, Virginia. 1998

This is what Fear Free classrooms are all about!

Leave a Comment