Teacher talk

Learning and the Brain

Last week, I attended a great conference on Building Better Math Brains, sponsored by Learning and the Brain and put on by John Almarode from James Madison University (@JMUTeacherED).  I had heard him speak before so I knew it would be a good day (so I brought four of my colleagues with me).  A few of my takeaways include:

  • Make my learning intentions explicit to my students, every day.
  • Don’t let my students give the illusion of competence.  Push them to explain what they know regularly.  John suggested playing a math-y version of Taboo or $10,000 Pyramid, where you try to make your partner guess certain math words that you are studying.
  • In his opinion, background knowledge is the most helpful thing we can provide to our students.  That is the best thing that will help kids survive the bad teaching that they will have in college.
  • I need to give more frequent feedback opportunities to my students – even plan them first – so I can hold myself to my plans.  Students need many opportunities to make their thinking visible.
  • Note-taking is least effective when students do it on their own; skeleton notes are best.
  • Consider the idea of “pressing” for 3-5 minutes then releasing (as you think about how you teach).  Focused and diffuse thinking are two very different things.

As I ponder these ideas in the final weeks of the school year, it makes me want to make some plans for next year.  Stay posted for additional thoughts on that front!  Lastly, the other idea floating in my mind is a Tweet from Glenn Waddell:

I also liked measuring the amount of time I spoke v learners spoke in class. Any ratio T/S >.5 felt like failure.


I do a lot of talking.  I don’t even like to hear myself talk.  How can I hold myself accountable to at least attempt to make the teacher-to-student ratio be .5 or less?


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