Educational Service (www.SuccessInTeaching.info)
© 2009 Issue #8 Ronald Fitzgerald, D.Ed.
Brain-friendly Classroom Tip #2
While the newsletter is copyrighted, any school district or school or college may copy this newsletter in full and without modification or deletion for distribution to teachers.
The GENERAL INDEX page on this web site also has a click-on service for any superintendent or principal that wants to have a copy of any future issue automatically emailed to his or her district for local copying and distribution.
Paying attention to the three related factors listed in Figure #27 to the left is critical because research shows that these factors influence learning dramatically. Let us examine each factor.
1. ATTENTION SPAN. Research has shown that the average person's attention span for receiving information in one way is roughly equal to his or her age plus 2 minutes up to a maximum of 30 minutes. There are exceptions and variations to this rule of thumb. However the rule is a valid generality for classroom teaching. If you are presenting information (lecture, video, etc.) to students who are around 15 years old, you should change the activity after 17 minutes or so(give or take 2 or 3 minutes). If you do not change the
activity, the minds of some students will wander. Do not let that happen in your learning environment.
2. THE B.E.M. RULE. Consider the implications of the research summarized in Figure #28. More learning occurs at the beginning and at the end of any one learning activity period than in the middle of that activity period. So, avoid long middles! This fact leads in the same direction as the attention span rule. Do not stay with one unchanging activity too long because you are stretching out the middle period of less learning. A major exception here would be project based learning in which there is a natural sequence of changing activities and movement at different stages of the project. However, the rule is especially important again when you are presenting information. Minds tend to wander during a long lecture or movie or video. Next, we shall review how to avoid that wandering.
If you want to observe the attention span and B.E.M. rules to promote maximum learning, use a technique called pulse learning. This teaching/learning technique is very powerful and effective. Study Figure #29 on the next page of this newsletter.
3. PULSE LEARNING. Consider the top diagram in Figure #29. Do NOT spend a full class period (45 to 90 minutes) on one unchanging activity, especially an information imparting activity. You are simply extending an unproductive middle as you violate the attention span and B.E.M. rules. Rather, DO move from one activity or pulse to another as shown in the bottom diagram. Each different learning activity or pulse has a shorter middle and you are increasing the number of productive beginnings and endings. Sample activities can be receiving information, applying information, reflecting on information or applications, rest or "brain" breaks, or even returning to a previous activity after a short change. Consider the examples below. Meanwhile ignore the word "hook" in the figure. We'll explain that in a future newsletter.
Here are just a few examples of good practice in pulse teaching:
Be sure you use your favorite pulse sequences to promote maximum learning in your classes!