Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It by Eric Jensen

6. Instructional Light and Magic

  • In the final chapter, Eric takes us through a class offered by a veteran teacher who embodies most of the key principals in the book. Principals should try to identify their top teachers and hire substitutes so that other teachers can watch them in action. He includes the planning prior to class that includes collecting data about the students, creating a positive physical environment, and getting in a positive frame of mind. The teacher, Mr. Hawkins, uses positive bumper music selected by students at the beginning and end of each class and uses these times to provide emotional support.
  • Students work in teams during the entire class with some minor competitive aspects. Roles in each team are rotated and students are responsible for as many tasks as possible. He tries to use fun physical activities that get students out of their seats every 12 to 15 minutes. This can include student-lead dance steps and deep breathing. He includes emotional stories when possible and encourages the process of making and correcting mistakes. Class starts with teams working on short review questions. He gives quizzes at the same time twice a week as repeated testing on the same content produces better learning. He gives a list of optional short homework questions and lets students get started during that last few minutes of class. During this time he provides individual help. There is no penalty for not doing homework. With more teachers like Mr. Hawkins, a school will probably have teachers asking “What miracles can I create today? rather than “How long until retirement?”
  • Eric is has taught at all levels, from elementary school through university. In 1981, he cofounded the United States’ first and largest brain-compatible learning program, now with more than 50,000 graduates. He has since written Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Brain-Based Learning, Enriching the Brain, and 25 other books on learning and the brain. A member of the Society for Neuroscience and the New York Academy of Sciences, he founded the Learning Brain EXPO and has trained educators and trainers worldwide for 25 years. For more information, contact Diane Jensen at diane@jlcbrain.com. In-depth training on achievement and engagement with students from poverty can be found at Poverty Success.
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