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what works for me! Michael & Jane share their parenting and teaching strategies

kid’s special grid game inside!

eMagazine This month we consider the definition of brain compatible learning and what a brain compatible learning environment could look like | +65 8201 6545 contact us now:

igniting young minds We are an educational organisation committed to working with educators and parents to maximise the development of the unique capabilities and talents of young people. Our learning specialists have designed a range of services and resources for teachers, teacher assistants, parents and students.

We use brain compatible learning strategies in our workshops for educators and education sessions for parents. visit our website and check out our workshops

Our webinars and online professional development opportunities commence in 2013.

this month at optimise learning...

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an emagazine for educators and parents Optimise Learning has been a project in the making for several years now. After many months of planning and developing, I am filled with excitement and nervous anticipation as we launch an educational service that is designed to be both relevant and supportive for the educators and parents of young people. At Optimise Learning we understand that every child is born with an innate capacity to learn, and that it is the guidance and experiences provided by parents and teachers that have the greatest influence on a child’s learning. Our products and services are based on educational research, the findings of neuroscience and are designed to improve learning outcomes for students. As a veteran professional development participant, yes I have attended many workshops over the years; I eagerly anticipate such events. Whilst many have provided me with a valuable educational experience that translated into improved learning outcomes for my students, I have also attended a number of workshops where the best thing about the experience was the food and the opportunity to meet other teachers!

welcome to the optimie emagazine

hello and welcome to the first edition of optimise learning:

For me, a successful professional learning experience is one that is based on educational research and provides teachers with a range of practical strategies they can take back to their classrooms to effectively advance their student’s learning. Conversations I have had with my peers indicate that many feel the same way. One colleague recently made this interesting point: “Teachers are so busy, that it is a big deal to attend a PD in your own time or during the school day. If it is not practical or relevant to my students, I’d rather not attend.” Workshops conducted by Optimise Learning are based on educational research and are highly practical. We believe that this is so important! We hope you enjoy the first edition of the Optimise Learning eMagazine. Each month we will publish a range of articles and excerpts designed to inspire and empower you as you support the educational journey of the young people in your life. Thanks for your feedback about our new website. We love that you’re celebrating the potential of the young people in your life with us. Until next time, keep igniting the young minds in your life


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As a teacher of many years of experience I am constantly reminded of the challenges faced by teachers each and every day as they strive to provide each of their students with the optimal environment and the most effective experiences to advance their learning.

edchat: join the forum

edchat: share your thoughts with us!

Research consistently shows that in a school setting it is teachers that have the most influence on student learning. Teachers could be described as a student’s and therefore a school’s most valuable resource. Do schools look after their most valuable resource? My research indicates that most teachers would say no. A typical day at school for a classroom teacher can involve parent meetings, yard supervision duty, teacher team meetings, facilitation of interest based classes and lesson preparation. Each of these events usually occur before school, after school or during lunchtimes. Then of course teachers spend the rest of the school day managing the learning of each of their students who present with individual talents, difficulties, behaviours and their own preferred learning style. Responding to and catering for the learning needs of each student is not easy, but is so important. All day, every day teachers are juggling several balls in the air at the same time. My conversations with teachers reveal that many feel isolated and stretched too thinly as they attempt to manage the day to day tasks involved in classroom teaching. My sense is that many teachers, particularly teachers new to the profession may not feel well supported. It seems that whilst teachers love teaching, their ever increasing workload is taking a toll. Teaching young people is a privileged profession and such an important job. Whilst teaching can be most rewarding, at times it can feel overwhelming. How do you manage your time? Do you have any time management tips or strategies you would like to share with us? We would love to hear from you at

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ideas for teachers and parents to try When I read the feedback sheets that people complete at the end of my workshops, I notice that many comment on how much they enjoyed the opportunity to share ideas with others. This page intends to give teachers and parents an online forum to do just that – share their ideas. Each month we will feature a reader on our ‘this works for me’ page. Contact us at if you would like us to feature you and your ideas on this page. As this is our first edition I asked some friends of mine to contribute their ideas this month.

Michael Cairns is a father of two, Lily age 9 and Max age 7. “My wife and I both work full time and getting both Lily and Max to school, getting to work, organising tea and homework supervision are just some of our daily commitments that require quite a lot of juggling. I feel like I am always rushing. To make sure we connect each day we have developed a family ritual. We share our evening meal together. Max and Lily set the table and pour the water while Jenny and I prepare and cook the meal. Once seated, we take it in turns to talk about our day. We have developed a routine. Firstly we focus on something that went well for us, and something that we found challenging. Everyone takes a turn to share the highlights of their day. Jenny and I started this ritual about one year ago and we have found that it helps us to keep in touch with each other and the children. We turn the TV off, and we don’t answer the phone if it rings.”

this works for me: strategies

this works for me:

Jane Kent teaches a Prep class on the Mornington Peninsula in Australia. Her students are four to five years of age and in their first year of full time school. “In the week before the children start school for the first time, I write and post them a letter. I imagine the nice surprise they will get when my brightly coloured envelope arrives in their mailbox. I usually write about my holiday, my pets and how much I am looking forward to seeing them at school. Parents tell me year after year that their child was so excited to hear from me, that it made them feel special and helped them feel less nervous about starting school”. page 05

sharing ideas

Do you have anything you would like to share with or ask your Optimise Learning network? This page of our emagazine will be devoted to the members of the Optimise Learning Global Community and will provide a forum for members to share ideas, make suggestions and ask or answer questions.

this month’s article:

ask your community

brain compatible learning environments by Peter Hand: M.Ed Grad Dip SpSci COGE Dip T

“Brain compatible learning environments are places where student’s curiosities are piqued and potential anxiety, frustration or confusion is dimished” -Kaufeldt 2009 Young people are constantly interacting with and learning from their immediate environment, which would typically include their home environment, their school environment and their classroom environment amongst others. School aged students spend up to five full days each week in classrooms, so for many young people their classroom could be described as their focal learning environment. Classrooms are where learning experiences are intentionally planned, delivered, assessed and student performance evaluated using common standards by teachers. It is widely recognised that teachers influence the potential for learning of students. To maximise learning opportunities for students it would be highly desirable for schools and teachers to provide brain compatible learning environments for their students.

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Eric Jensen (2008) defines brain compatible learning as ‘learning in accordance with the way the brain is naturally designed to learn’. Jensen states some specific instructional approaches comply with brain research on learning. He claims that teachers can implement a number of strategies to make the classroom environment brain compatible learning. These include: • • • • • • • • • • • •

Deliver lessons using a variety of instruction types Use error correction daily Use short instructional segments Enrich the environment at every opportunity Manage the emotional states of your students Manage the positive rewards and limit the intense negative Shape and influence meaning proactively Engage multiple learning and memory systems Use novel repetition Ask for student input then incorporate it Develop and use a range of social structures Ensure students have at least half an hour of physical activity each day

In their article titled ‘Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood’ Aberg, Perderson, Toren, Svartengren, Backstrand, Johnsson, Cooper-Kuhn, Nilsson and Kuhn (2009) state that physical exercise is a factor that strongly effects brain plasticity. They also claim that higher levels of cardiovascular fitness are associated with increased hippocampal volume as well as better memory function. Their research showed that improved physical fitness in adolescents between the ages of fifteen to eighteen years was associated with better cognitive achievement and physical fitness at age eighteen predicted occupational status and educational achievement in later life. The scientists state that their results provide scientific support for educational policies to maintain or increase the amount of time students participate in physical education lessons. Neuroscientists Michael Merzenich and Paula Tallal found that educators are able to make positive and significant changes in their student’s brains in a short time when the skill building protocol is used. Tallal states that “the brain seems to learn by looking for consistencies, looking for events that repeat themselves consistently”. These events are usually made up of visual input, auditory input and sensory input. These findings can be directly linked to the brain compatible instructional approaches recommended by Jensen. An environment that was brain antagonistic would be one that did not use any of the instructional teaching approaches identified by Jensen. A classroom environment could be described as being antagonistic to the brain where the teacher delivered all lessons and instruction in the same mode and in large chunks without allowing students to pause, speak, question or reflect. Lessons would not cater for the different interests or developmental stages and abilities of students, and could in fact be described as a ‘one size fits all’ approach to learning. page 07

Students would not be given the opportunity to experience anything other than sitting quietly and listening. No sensory experiences would be provided. Lesson content would not be reviewed and feedback would not be given. The emotional states of students would not be acknowledged, and behaviour would be managed by the teacher ridiculing and embarrassing students in front of their peers which would ensure the students felt intimidated and unsure. The concept of brain compatible education has its critics. John Bruer, executive administrator of the James McDonnell Foundation links brain based education with mythology by stating in his article ‘On the Implications of Neuroscience Research for Science Teaching and Learning; Are there any?’ (2006) that if brain based education is true, then “the pyramids were built by aliens—to house Elvis”. Jensen argues that ‘Nothing is more relevant to educators than the brains of their students. Brain based education is here to stay’.

Recently as I have learned more about ‘how the brain learns best’, I have incorporated a range of brain based strategies into my daily classroom practise. I can see that these strategies have genuinely enhanced the potential for learning for each of my students. Also, my classroom is a great place to be! Some of my students don’t want to leave the classroom for lunchtime outdoor break time; I have to chase them out! As an educator with over twenty years’ experience I am hooked on learning more about how to create brain compatible learning environments for the students I teach and the teachers I work with. Through my involvement with Optimise Learning, I also look forward to sharing my knowledge with other educators, which will benefit even more students. It could be said that as educators ‘brains are our business’, so it is imperative that when educators are planning classroom environments and learning experiences for their students that they do so, through the lens of how the brain learns best.

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for students:

student zone book of resources Our ‘Get ready for Reading’ resources are designed for young children who are attending pre-school or beginning school. By doing these activities your child is developing the necessary skills and understandings needed to succeed at reading.

This highly exciting grid game is a favourite. Head to the link below and visit the Student Zone you will find this grid game and a number of other challenges designed to give young minds a work out.

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Optimise eMag - Volume 1  

Optimise eMagazine: Volume 1 considers the definition of brain compatible learning.

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