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


  1. A tool for being! Love it.

  2. Thank you for that simple statement! It is such a perfect way to describe Brain Books... Our students will appreciate it!