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.

Here are some of our favorite surveys we have used in the past:
We compile information from these surveys into personalized Brain Profiles (see above)by the 2nd week of school and then distribute to our students, which they can immediately place in their Brain Books!  Most students prefer to place it on the inside front cover, or within the first few pages, to be easily referenced.  We spend time a lot of time celebrating the diversity in our learning environment from this aspect of individuality. We also use this information to group students with similar strengths together during our community building activities.

Once Learning Styles/Intelligences/Personality Traits have been identified:
  • Continue to teach, model, and talk about what each style/intelligence/trait means. We use a PowerPoint with visuals to begin this process. This vocabulary should become a part of the daily discussion with students.
  • Show students several samples of a Brain Book, including your own (If you are just beginning to use Brain Books, it is OK!  Explain that you will embark on this journey together!).  Discuss purpose and relevance of this personalized notebook for each individual student.  Explain that this ONE resource will replace the need for SEVERAL notebooks, workbooks/worksheets, and journals within the classroom. (…allow time for applause)
  • Show and discuss the visual above (Using the Brain Book for Multiple Intelligences & Learning Styles). Have students compare their Brain Profile (top 3 strengths) to the chart.  What would help them as a learner in the classroom?  How could they use their Brain Book to best support them as a learner and thinker?  Later on in the school year conversations can be held about the learning styles and multiple intelligences that present challenges to them personally.  Students can ponder goals that would assist them in creating awareness regarding these areas to help them as a learner. 
  • Show students various examples of pages within each of the sample books (...again if you are lacking the resources to do so, create some mock pages to model). Ask students to share and discuss what they notice. Ask them to think of how particular examples/artifacts may help them during learning time. For example: how may creating a list help someone during a Science lesson, but maybe a web would help a different student during the same lesson…  
  • Discuss with students why it is important to understand Brain Book strategies that best fit their style.  Explain that the Brain Book’s purpose is to be a resource that fosters their personal learning style.  Clarify that it is not intended to be a tool that pulls them off topic!
  • Share with students various supplies that MAY assist their particular learning style, again not intended to be a distraction.  Items may include: paper tabs & ribbon tabs (can be stapled or taped), sticky notes, highlighters, markers, crayons/colored pencils, glue/scissors, etc.
  • Allow students to brainstorm and discuss all the possible ways their Brain Book could be organized (contents, goals, concepts learned, months, etc.).  They will come up with ideas you may have never considered, which is perfect! 
  • Provide students time to explore their book and begin the organization process.  Allow them opportunities to ponder, discuss, collaborate, and reflect.  Let them experiment!
  • Set the expectation that their Brain Books should be in the classroom everyday; if they choose to take it home (which hopefully occurs often) it needs to return daily.  On occasion when a Brain Book does not make its way back to school, allow the student to conduct business as they normally would.  This thinking can be glued into their book the following day.  As we start the day and end the day with ours in hand, as well as keep it at our side throughout the entire day, it is very easy to dearly miss your Brain Book.  Out of our 50 students last year, only 1 Brain Book was misplaced (but actually found during the end of the year pack-up)!!  Students truly LOVE their Brain Books and value the thinking that goes into them.
  • Allow students opportunities, about once a month, to do a Brain Book clean-up.  They can remove information that is not needed, relocate information, re-tab sections, take out pages that were used for sketch/practice, or review and highlight information.  When students determine they need additional space they can simply duct-tape on a new notebook.
We also incorporate frequent written reflection through this process.  Encourage students to document their insights, as well as collaborate and share ideas with their peers.  Brain Books have a huge potential to become a meaningful resource within your classroom, as they have within ours.

~Celina and Ann

Other links for Brain Books:

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