10 Effective Principles/Strategies

I am so excited to see several of my readers interested in brain-based learning.  Some are even attending workshops and seminars this summer on this very subject.  I am eager to hear all about their trainings!

Please remember, I am in no way an expert on this subject.  This topic is just something that I have done some research on, implemented in my classroom, and have a passion for.  

All good educators want the best for their students, want them to be on task and involved in their learning, and have some enthusiasm about their own education.  I know I do.  However, on task and involved, doesn't necessarily mean sitting hands folded on their desk staring at the teacher.  How about "Susie Q" who sits on the front row, sits still, and looks straight ahead, however her mind is wandering off into space.  She "looks" like she is listening...but was she really???  How about "Little Johnny" that seems to be "out there" somewhere, that is fidgeting or making some sort of movements...so you decide to call on  him, and not only does he have the correct answer, but he can tell you everything you just said!?!  

First, let's pose the question...What is brain-based learning?  Basically it is strategies that engage the learner in the way that our brain works.  Just like anything else, you have your skeptics.  You might wonder if this is reputable.  In what research I have done, I found that Harvard University has a master's and doctoral degree in this field.  Eric Jensen is one of the "big names" that you will find when searching this topic.  He states that there are "macro strategies" and "micro strategies".  Micro strategies are very situation specific.  An example that he gives for a "micro strategy" is to give only one direction at a time so the brain can process the location, the action, and the qualities of the action.  The ten strategies that he has presented are "micro strategies" that he calls the "biggies" that reap huge rewards.  So, let's look at those now, which I will basically summarize, and add "my two cents", as well.
1.  Physical Activity:  Not one do children need physical education and recess, but classroom movement, as well.  Offer a variety of physical activities at the beginning of school.  Then, offer choice.  There are many ways that I get my kids moving DURING my lessons, but I'll do another post about that.

2.  Grouping:  Establish targeted, planned, diverse social groupings with mentoring, teams, and buddy systems for the most part.  Random social groupings shouldn't be offered more than 10-20 % of the day.  I group my students in teams.  I make sure that my resource students have a stronger student in their group, as well as, students with good behavior as role models for those with poor behavior skills.

3.  Our Brain:  The brain changes every day.  In fact, students' brains are changing as the attend school.  This is huge to me...we have the power to influence those little brains through thinking-skills, reading, arts...

4.  Stress:  Chronic stress is not only an issue for teachers, but for students as well!  We need to teach our students better coping skills and increase student perception of choice.  When they have a better sense of control over their life, the stress lowers.  

5.  Differentiation:  Well, most of us do that anyway.  However, Eric Jensen, says that making differences should be the rule, not the exception.  He strongly emphasizes that 90% of human brains are atypical, damaged, or in some way not healthy.  WOW!  That's kinda hard for me to grasp.  Anyway, we should celebrate diversity!

Ok...we are halfway through Eric Jensen's 10 principles/strategies.  
Are you still with me?  lol  

I think it's time for a Brain Break!

Stand up.  Let's do toe touches.  Here's how we will do it...you will cross your right hand over and touch your left toes, then cross your left hand over and touch your right toes.  Each time you touch your left toes, you count the number, and when you touch your right toes, you will say in order the first five principles/strategies we just learned.  Ok?  Here we go...

Touch your left toes:  say "1"
Touch your right toes: say "Physical Activity"

Touch your left toes:  say "2"
Touch your right toes: say "Grouping" 

Touch your left toes:  say "3"
Touch your right toes: say "Our Brain"

Touch your left toes:  say "4"
Touch your right toes: say "Stress"

Touch your left toes:  say "5"
Touch your right toes: say "Differentiation"

GOOD JOB!  Give yourself a hug!

 I hope you are ready to move on because I REALLY believe in this next one, and have seen it in my classroom!

6.  Chunks:  Teach in smaller "chunks".  Too much content taught in a small amount of time can't be processed...so they don't learn.  If there isn't much prior knowledge of the subject being taught and it is complex content, then the chunk of time needs to be shorter.  However, the greater prior knowledge they have and the less complex it is, the chunks can be longer.  
**I will be doing a post on this in much more detail and share things that I do in my classroom for this, so be watching for that in a post SOON!**   

7.  The Arts: The role that "arts" play in schools.  Certain arts boost attention, working memory, and visual spatial skills.  Dance, theater, and drama boost social skills, empathy, timing, patience, and verbal memory.  I believe in this wholeheartedly!  I feel that art and music are SO important in our schools!  I also agree when he says that they need more than just one of those classes each week.  We can incorporate those into many of our lessons in our own classrooms.

8.  Emotions:  Many kids aren't taught some of the emotions [that aren't already built in] at home.  We need to teach kids patience, attention, empathy, cooperation, honor, forgiveness!

9.  Disorders:  Brain-based disorders is number nine.  Jensen states that all teachers [not just special ed] learn the latest in dealing with brain-based disorders such as Asperger's, dyslexia, autism, and learning delays.

10.  Memory:  Teachers should review content halfway between the original learning and the test.  Jensen's example is if the content is taught on Monday and will be tested on Friday, the review should be on Wednesday, not Thursday, like many teachers [previously including me] do.  Also, it is thought to be more beneficial to review a previous lesson at the end of your present lesson, not before it.

Ok.  So there you have it...Eric Jensen's ten principles/strategies  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these.  Many of them make great sense to me, and some of them I have had great success with in my own classroom.

In my next post, I'll address "chunk teaching" as in number 6! 


  1. wow! Fascinating information!! After 26 years of teaching, I can say that I have incorporated many of these strategies and have seen positive results.

    1. I thought some of my readers would see that they have been doing many of these things already.

  2. Very Cool! I love brain breaks! And I love how this research supports things we do in our classrooms like daily five (#6 chunking learning in small groups) and differentiation. Thanks for sharing!

    Teachin' Little Texans

    1. I will be doing Daily 5 for the first time this coming year. When I was reading the book, I was thinking, "oh, this goes with my brain-based teaching". I'm so thrilled!

  3. Isn't it amazing that so much of the things teachers knew were good for learning, now research proves these things are effective! (Like Physical Activity and the Arts!)

    Sally from Elementary Matters


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