The area I found the most compelling this week was the reading on the adolescent brain in Brain Matters by Patricia Wolfe. Reading about the prefrontal cortex and how the executive function skills are targeted during this time. Wolfe tells us “these functions are practically a laundry list of characteristics that adolescents often lack.” (Wolfe p. 86) Many times students are brought to guidance team because they lack these skills. I know that each teacher implicitly teaches them and yet we have many who do not gain these skills before middle school when they are absolutely needed for success. My question as a 3rd grade teacher is what can I do, if anything, to help my students to solidify these skills before they hit the adolescent brain years? I stress, structure and routine in my classroom to help them do this, but I wish there was more that I could do to prepare them.
As a former 5th grade teacher I do know that kids this age thrive in a structured, challenging, and constantly evolving environment where they have some control and say in what and how they are learning. As we have learned in our ECTC class this is where technology can really play a great role. Wolfe also suggests this, “Teachers should consider ways to integrate teens’ ability to use technology in the classroom”. (Wolfe p. 91) Perhaps this is the answer to my question, using a technology resource such as Haiku to aid my students in their executive functioning skills could help to make these skills more enjoyable and easier to manage to the ever-changing adolescent brain.
The neuromyths quiz and lecture information also played a great deal into my studies this week. I scored a 21/32 on the neuromyths quiz. Clearly, I have a long way to go to research and dispel these myths. Dr. Williams had a great summation of all the work in the Brain Based Debate, “We need to dig into research and go with what we know as educators before we buy new products”. The readings in The Brain and Learning were fascinating to me on this topic. (Jossey-Bass, 2008) I had never realized the vast influence that the neurosciences and the psychological sciences have had on our learning and the societal views of the brain. The readings gave great insight into the fact that “…brain-based educators’ recipe for school and classroom change is well grounded in this behavioral research…but to claim that these are brain-based findings is misleading”. (Jossey-Bass, p. 52) I have never thought of it this way! Of course we here the term, “behavioral sciences”, but to see it compared to the true neurosciences was fascinating and illuminating to my own buy in to these neuromyths. Jossey-Bass goes on to state, “Psychologists were interested in our mental functions and capacities-how we learn, remember, and think. Neuroscientsts were interested in how the brain develops and functions.” (Jossey-Bass, p,52) To put it in terms of Microsoft land, there are the software people and the hardware people and the two don’t meet.
An interesting TED video I found on the adolescent brain: