Creating an Effective Learning Environment

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Seven Power Tips for Creating an Effective Learning Environment

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Students of all ages participate more actively and retain lessons more readily when they feel safe, supported and engaged.  Use these strategies, based on current brain- based learning research, to enhance your ability to engage, motivate, and instill a desire to learn in all your students.

1. Touch Their Emotions:  The ability to remember something is largely dependent on its emotional content.  You remember what you care about.  You remember when you feel something.  Emotions like surprise, curiosity, fun, and the good feeling that comes when you solve a puzzle, or know something someone else doesn’t, helps you learn and remember.  Brains are tuned to pay attention to the biochemistry of emotion, so even if the feeling is nothing more than a little humor, surprise, or interest do something to elicit some feeling.

2. Make It Visual:  Images are more memorable than words alone and make learning more effective.  Pictures are important because your brain is tuned for visuals, not text.  Pictures really are worth more than a thousand words!

3. Brains Like Novelty:  Brains have evolved to notice and pay attention to things that are out of the ordinary.  Your students will notice and remember what they are learning if it is occasionally presented in a strange, eye catching, or unexpected way.

4. We Are All Social Beings:  There is solid evidence to support the notion that working cooperatively can enhance learning.  Cooperative work has helped civilizations survive for thousands of years, and it works in any classroom, too.  During each class provide for some part of learning time to be in pairs, and small groups or teams.  Also the face-to- face interaction you have with each student impacts the social-emotional brain.  Personally greeting each student upon arrival, and smiling, helping, and reinforcing all help to encourage the social brain to learn.

5. Brains Need a Break:  The human brain is poor at nonstop attention.  It needs time for processing and rest after learning.  When kids are actively involved in the learning something new, their brains need time to absorb or imprint the learning, especially if the information is being “taught” to them rather than through “experiential” learning.  Regular breaks are important. For young children breaks need to be taken about every 10 minutes.  For older students breaks should be taken about every 15-20 minutes.  Provide an opportunity for students to reflect or to do something active like standing or stretching.

6. Stress Shuts Down Learning:  Chronic stress impairs thinking, memory, creativity, the ability to solve complex problems, and impairs the immune system.  Stress has powerful negative effects on achievement in all areas of life.  By creating a stress free environment you go a long way in helping your students learn and remember better. 

One way to address stress is to lessen the fear of failure.  Help increase your student’s willingness to risk by explaining that part of the learning process involves making mistakes.  It is through trying, and being willing to make mistakes that we learn.

Also, ask your students what would make learning easier and more enjoyable for them.  Incorporate any suggestions that are possible.  This will connect right into the need for all people to have control and choice in their lives.  Having control and choice lowers stress and triggers the release of positive brain chemicals conducive to learning. 

7. Provide Multiple Learning Experiences:  Learning the same thing in many ways creates the most neural pathways.  The more ways you can help your students learn the better.  Incorporate a variety of multiple intelligences and learning styles approaches to learning.  Use involving games, discussions, videos, computers, music, art, and use color, sound, and movement.   


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