Sunday, August 12, 2012

{Guest Post} A Student's Perspective on Brain Books

What are my favorite things about Brain Books you ask???  I could explain many, many things about them but how about we save time and I just tell you my Top 5 favorite things about them!!
1-      It helps me organize my information and thoughts.  Kind of like a filing cabinet except more portable. Plus, the brain books carry much more information than that old filing cabinet. You should really try to use these because they are really great with organizing information and thoughts as well as reminders.
2-      It helps me get important things out of my mind.  Whenever I have something in my mind that I just need to get out so I can stop thinking about it, my Brain Book can help.  I write that certain thing down and then I don’t worry about it as much!!  It may be important and I don’t want to lose it!
3-      I can do whatever I want with it:  Decorate it, put in personal thoughts, tab it, and pretty much anything else.  Although, responsibility is key in Brain Books and you need to make sure you use it appropriately to help your learning.  Not many people besides yourself can tell you what to put into it.  You can put whatever you need to in any place you want to, because it is yours.  Not mine, not your teacher’s…. YOURS!!!  You own it and you are free with it!!!
4-      It helps me record lots of important information, like graphs, stories, and even photos!  Any of the activities we do in class I can easily glue in my Brain Book to help my memory.  We all have important information that we need to remember and a Brain Book is the answer.
5-      Most of all:  Brain Books are organized by you.  Information can be organized in a way that makes sense to your brain.  You can duct tape new composition books to the original one as you need to.  You can also put tabs into it so you can find things lickity-split!
In conclusion, Brain Books can be used for school and business, and by adults and kids.  Make a Brain Book for yourself today!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Introducing Brain Books to Students

As Brain Books are a fundamental part of our student-centered classroom, we introduce them right away on the first day of school.  For the resource to be utilized to its fullest potential, it is extremely important for our students to have an understanding of who they are as a learner.  So we actually start with creating a Brain Profile.  During the first few days of school we take several surveys to help us discover a little about ourselves as learners, always keeping the purpose of Brain Books as a dynamic part of each conversation.  Even our returning students retake these assessments, as it is our philosophy that it isn’t just about zoning in on our strengths as learners, but rather understanding the different learning styles/intelligences to become a more balanced learner/individual.  Over time the results of these types of surveys may change, so current data is always important.  When our awareness is heightened regarding all the ways to acquire knowledge and reach our personal goals, we can be more successful since every learning experience through life is different.  It isn’t just about feeding our students with information, but rather teaching them a multitude of ways to be effective, independent, responsible learners.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Brain Books: Everything but the Kitchen Sink

So you may be wondering, what all goes into a Brain Book anyway? To that wewould reply: almost EVERYTHING we do finds its way intothe Brain Books of our students. In the past Celina and I had both used journals,logs, folders, workbooks and teacher created notebooks for students, and likeCelina said it often became an organizational nightmare when a student wastrying to access the item he or she needed among the many!  So much of the work was created and directedby us, the teachers, and often we were the ones running around trying to findthat one copy or item that a student needed for a lesson.

With Brain Books our students gather all of the elements that they WANT to keep in one specific place.   Theycollect information they want to remember and add to their Brain Books piecesthat show their personal interests and needs. Celina and I believe when information is stuck intheir Brain Books, coupled with the constant daily access/review of this resource, student ownership intensifies.  Brain Books reside as an essential part of learningwithin our classroom.  Here are sample lists of ways students utilize this resource, along with items that end up finding their way into our students' Brain Books:

In Literacy students:
·        Generate summaries, story maps, and questionsabout what they are reading.
·        Create character trait maps and illustrations ofcharacters
·        Record interesting words and phrases
·        Plan out oral presentations, and public serviceannouncements.
·        Research and collect facts, anecdotes and connectionsto other content areas
·        Investigate elements of genre, gatheringessential category markers
·        Frame words in chunks for vocabulary developmentand spelling
·        Design rough draft of stories and collect futurewriting ideas
·        Collaborate with partners in Venn Diagrams andother graphic organizers that they either glue in or draw themselves.
·        Reinforce spelling words, conventions andediting elements through word work activities

In Math students:
·        Calculate problems, explain their thinking andshow their work
·        Develop alternative methods to solving problems
·        Formulate patterns, number sequences and equations
·        Create graphs and charts to collect and reflecton data
·        Draw and define important vocabulary andmathematical terms
·        Model their thinking in concrete and abstractways
·        Prove their attainment of learning goals

In Science and Social Studiesstudents:
·        Generate science experiments using thescientific process
·        Collect and record data
·        Draw and label illustrations of concepts, mapsand content rich vocabulary
·        Write hypotheses statements and conclusions
·        Summarized information from Brain Pop clips,maps and charts
·       Collect health information, including creating sample food pyramids and listing appropriate food choices
·       Illustrate the bones, muscles and tendons of the human body

In the Arts students:
·        Interpret different works of art and recordtheir thinking
·        Plan, sketch, and practice elements of design
·        Create sample compositions in music and record the musical notes
·        Highlight important vocabulary

In the area of assessment students:
·        Maintain target walls and goal sheets
·        Collect evidence of meeting and exceeding goalsand targets
·        Cut and paste samples from assessments in areaswhere they need further study
·        Showcase their learning and reflect on how theyhave made growth
·        Generate test taking strategies and ideas forreducing test pressure
·        Conference with teachers and note resources touse to meet goals

What wealso found too through our Brain Breakfast and Brain Snack activities was that our students usedtheir Brain Books to become highly reflective, creative and innovative thinkers. 
  • They collected pieces about their learningstyles, multiple intelligences and Blooms Taxonomy to help them in accessingnew information and sharing what they were learning. 
  • They doodled and came up with new ideas onusing color and shading, drawing to explain a concept and even to illustrateabstract thinking. 
  • They collectedmotivational quotes and connected them to their own daily practice. 
  • They planned future projects, kept lists of ideasand used their Brain Books to share thinking of which they were especiallyproud.  
  • They collaborated with peers byoften sharing their own thinking, ideas, writing, pictures and collections ofpersonally meaningful items, often working in partnership to push their viewpointsand development.
But what made the most distinctive impressionon Celina and I was that they wrote their personal goals, dreams and aspirationswithin the pages.  They created newpieces of art and poetry, added pictures of people and events that weresignificant in their lives and connected their learning through a highly metacognitiveprocess.  They truly made their BrainBooks a reflection of themselves as learners and individuals.  Our students surpassed any vision or idea we couldhave had for Brain Books as a tool for learning and turned them into a tool forbeing
~ Ann