Morale Motivation

Teaching the Unteachable Students

May 5, 2017

“You are too stupid to learn this.”

“You are not college material.”

“You will never amount to anything in life.”

These comments were commonplace for me as a student.  I failed most tests and had to attend special education classes.  As typical with low achieving students, my behavior was less than stellar.  My desk was always beside the teacher’s desk. I was the student all teachers cringed when my name appeared on their class list.  I struggled all through school.

Years later, my mother saw my fifth-grade teacher out shopping.  After exchanging niceties, Mrs. Long asked about me (I am sure she thought I would be in jail or working a menial job.).  My mother said, “She is actually a fifth-grade teacher.”  The look of complete and utter shock and disbelief appeared on her face.  She, like others, wondered how did I make it this far.

My struggles were actually the catalyst for becoming a teacher and shaped my educator pedagogy.

One thing I did have going for me was a stubborn personality.  I was determined to become a teacher to help students like me.  Of course, in order to do that, I had to find a way to pass college.  I began trying to teach myself various ways to remember information.  I turned information into songs, stories, hand motions, acronyms, drawing pictures, and any other way of remembering the needed information.  Not only did those methods work, but also for the first time in my life, I was successful. I graduated with honors, and I went on to get my masters and doctorate degrees both with a 4.0 GPA.

As a teacher, I utilized the same strategies that worked for me and observed student achievement soar. After attending trainings and completing research on whole brain teaching, I realized that many of the strategies I used to achieve success for myself and my students were strikingly similar.  Whether you are an ahem “seasoned” teacher like myself or a novice teacher, these multisensory, multidiscipline, and whole brain teaching strategies work.  There are too many to describe in one blog post, so here are a few.  Stay tuned next month to receive more helpful tips.

  1. Utilize MULTIPLE Senses: Garner’s outdated practice of Multiple Intelligence has been refuted in the past few years. A person is not simply one type of learner.  For example, I am not merely a visual learner, but also a kinesthetic, spatial, musical, and verbal learner.  If teachers instruct students in only one modality, they have stifled other valuable pathways for learning to occur.  Instead, utilize multiple sensory activities and a variety of multiple intelligences.  Neurologist and middle school teacher, Judy Willis conducted numerous studies on the brain and the retrieval process.  Her research concluded when educators teach a subject through multiple experiences, it will activate numerous dendritic pathways for retrieval (Willis, 2007).  For example, when teaching students fractions, have them physically hop on a masking tape number line in your room, draw it, act it out—The denominator (in your best terminator voice) says I will break “YOU” up or “I ate the WHOLE thing”, the numerator says, I REPRESENT (like a rapper) the number of parts, raps, songs, hand motions, real-world applications, and the list goes on and on.  When I encounter a standard, one of the first things I do is write M.O.V.E.

M-Music-make up silly songs or jingles

O-Out of their Seats-simply using hand motions or acting it out

V-Verbals-synthesize the information in their own words-peer teach

E-Envision-Picture it to Remember it

Plan your lessons with those in mind to reach more students.

  1. Repeat to Remember– Brain research indicates that reviewing the same information sequentially for several days in a row will transfer information from short-term to long-term memory. Spiral or cumulative reviews daily is another way to retain information long-term.  Ask students to repeat directions or key information to you.  Chunk information into short five-minute intervals.  Then have students repeat or teach a partner the information as well.  This will serve two purposes.  One, it will have students repeating information and synthesizing it in their own words.  Second, it will provide a structured brain break that will better prepare their brains for the next interval of information.

Subscribe to Tenspire to make sure you do not miss Part 2 of “Whole Brain Teaching: Ten Strategies I Can Incorporate into my Teaching Today”.

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