Experience sharing on brain-based teaching strategies implementation

15 Jul

Education Professional Development Program:

Master in Brain-Based and Thinking-Based Education (Level-1)

Why did I join this program?

      Simple. People should never stop learning, especially teachers. How can we encourage our students to learn if we are so conceited to think that we have no rooms for improvement? Regarding teaching as my profession and vocation, investing my time and money on understanding learning and the brain is absolutely worthwhile.

What have I gained from the Program?

      I am the kind of teacher who tends to share too much ideas or information with the students as I used to think : MY STUFF is very important! You get to remember these and those! Although I did have group activities in my lessons from time to time, still a lot of time is spent on presenting information to students rather than have them processing and using the information. Another problem I was facing is I couldn’t get everyone engaged in my lesson. The brightest ones always wanted to answer all the questions (They were like ‘pick me, pick me’ with their hands raised high in the sky!) and there were the passive ones either daydreaming or waiting for the answers. If I deliberately picked the passive ones, the brightest ones would become frustrated (You can so tell it from their dramatic face expressions!) while the passive ones would be scared and couldn’t utter a word/ answer so softly that no one could hear!

Then when my tutor, Ricky, taught us different tools for engagement, I was so thrilled as these were exactly what I needed most! After the three-day training program in summer, I tried strategies like sequential questioning techniques, 100% engaging questioning techniques and simple and effective Think-Pair-Share in my P.1 and P.6 lessons. My students loved my new changes and participated a lot more than before. I therefore convinced to join this one-year program.

Now I can skillfully use the suitable brain-compatible strategies (I have learnt 26 of them so far) in my class to motivate my students to learn more effectively. I found that even before the program, many of the teachers and I were using some of the strategies already. However, without the scientific knowledge about the brain, we have no ideas why those strategies work and how can we maximize their effectiveness in different situations. I also realized that group work doesn’t equal to cooperative learning. Real cooperative learning is well planned and structured (refer to P.I.E.S., the basic principles of cooperative learning and the 11 steps of conducting cooperative learning activity)! No wonder why teachers may have doubts trying cooperative learning in class as what they did and failed might just be solely unstructured group work !

As the English panel member, I become more confident in observing my colleagues’ lessons as I am able to point out why some teaching strategies work better than others. I hope that my feedback and discussion with colleagues is more specific, e.g. rather than saying ‘I think…’, ‘I observed…’ is objective and based on facts. I really love to share what I have learnt with my colleagues and hope that they will be interested in taking this program as well.

Brain-based teaching strategies and skills sharing

(Lesson 1)

Level: P.6 English

Topic: Forming relative clauses

Sharing focus: a . Allowing students to make use of their previous knowledge on relative

               pronouns to explore ways to form relative clauses.

             b. Providing a safe, fun and positive learning environment for students to work

               with one another.

Teaching materials: Powerpoint, task sheet

Time limit: 45 mins



Time: Learning/Teaching activities/ content: Brain-based elements:
1 min Get ready for the lessonŸ  Put other things in the drawer

Ÿ  Sit straight and look at the teacher

Ÿ  PrimingŸ  Change states
10 mins Quick review on previous knowledge and get engagedŸ  Sharing a weird dream with students (a short passage with pictures)

Ÿ  Tell students that some words are in different colour. Ask them to think what these words refer to.

Ÿ  Students think alone and share with friends. Then teacher quickly ask three students for each question.

Ÿ  Give their friends a five if they get the correct answers

Ÿ  Increase dopamineŸ  Frontal lobe development

Ÿ  Simple & effective think-pair-share

Ÿ  Sequential questioning

Ÿ  Pre-exposure

Ÿ  Routine & rituals

5 mins Analyse the use of relative pronouns ‘who’ and ‘which’ from the previous examplesŸ  Ask students to analyse in which situation that ‘who’/ ‘which’ will be used in the relative clauses

Ÿ  30 secs are given for them to think alone and write down their answers on the note book

Ÿ  To confirm their answers, they will take turn to share their answer with their partner. If they get similar answer, give their partner a five

Ÿ  Sharing and checking answers

Ÿ  Frontal lobe developmentŸ  Simple & effective think-pair-share

Ÿ  Celebration

Ÿ  Five effective modes of giving directions

Ÿ  Ensure learner safety

Ÿ  Positive relationship

1 min Get a new partner for the new activity Ÿ  Framing: why get to a new seat and choose a new partner

Ÿ  Choose a new partner and get a new seat for the later activity

Ÿ  MovementŸ  Framing

Ÿ  Priming

Ÿ  Regulate brain chemicals

Ÿ  Change states

Ÿ  social engager

30 mins Practising the forming of relative clausesŸ  Making use of the Powerpoint (sentences and pictures), students will get to from different relative clauses

Ÿ  The pictures and sentences used are chosen carefully by teachers, e.g. people or things that students will get interested in

Ÿ  Students wrote sentences in their notebook and take turns to share with their partners

Ÿ  Teachers get feedback from students by sequencing questioning techniques

Ÿ  When there are more than one answers, students will come out and write down different versions of sentences on the blackboard

Ÿ  Rather than judging the answers by the teacher, students vote for the correct sentences and give reasons to their answers

Ÿ  Invite students to revise and edit the sentences provided by others

Ÿ  Celebrate each student’s attempt

Ÿ  VisualŸ  Frontal lobe development

Ÿ  Physical response

Ÿ  Ensure learner safety

Ÿ  100% engagement questioning technique

Ÿ  Sequential questioning technique

Ÿ  Celebration

Ÿ  Positive relationship

Ÿ  Positive keywords

Ÿ  Feedback

Ÿ  Trial and error

8 mins ConsolidationŸ  students move back to their own seat

Ÿ  Take a deep breathe to refresh themselves

Ÿ  Fill in a from to review what they have learnt

Ÿ  Check their partner’s table by drawing a smiley face next to the correct answer and write the correct answer for their partner if they get it wrong

Ÿ  See how many students get the correct answer and why some of them get it wrong

Ÿ  Give extra feedback to students if necessary

Ÿ  MovementŸ  Change states

Ÿ  Regulate brain chemicals

Ÿ  Memory pathways

Ÿ  Frontal lobe activation


I have overestimated my students on their abilities of forming the correct relative clauses, but I didn’t rush through that part. I spent quite some time allowing them to write their own version of answers without judging them and allowed different students to express their views. At last, I found that it was mostly my fault as somehow I misled them that the relative pronoun is put in the middle of the sentence. Yet the more accurate saying is that the pronoun is put right after the noun and the most precious moment is that it was my student who came up with this conclusion. I planned to add an information gap game in the lesson, however, referring to the principle of ‘respecting the gradient’, I should not try to push my students when they are not ready.

10 mins Information Gap Game for practicing what they have learnt Ÿ  Tell students that they are going to play a game with their partner.

Ÿ  Partner A/B will receive a different set of task sheet

Ÿ  They will have to finish their own part first and take turn to describe the pictures in their own paper so to help their partner to fill in their task sheet

Ÿ  They need to listen carefully to their partners as they will read once only

Ÿ  Sharing answers with the class and celebrate by giving a five to their partners

I left the game to the next lesson and was glad to find that almost all of them get the correct answers and they were even able to point out the challenging parts in the game and how to improve their performance.

Besides, I have learned to provide a safer environment for my students, e.g. for more difficult questions, I should have allowed them to talk to their partners first before I ask them to answer in front of the class. There is another alterative method I can use for consolidation. Instead of providing a short note for students, they can be asked to summarize the main point learnt in the lesson on the note book, then share with different partners and revise their own point later on.

To conclude, getting students to share ideas freely and confidently as well as celebrating each other’s good performance wholeheartedly cannot be achieved in just one day (especially for higher form students). They may think what you ask them to do make them look like a fool in front of their peers! Therefore positive framing (explaining why you would like them to do so), priming (preparing them to do so) and continual use of these brain-compatible strategies in lessons are the keys to success.



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