Brain Rules- A Review Full of Connections

Back in December I assigned the group of coaches I mentor to select a professional reading source (book, website, publication, etc) related to something they felt they needed to learn more about professionally to boost their effectiveness as school coaches. We each shared our selections and justifications through a threaded online conversation, and then finally came together this spring to share the big ideas from our books and connections we made to our work.

I chose the book Brain Rules by John Medina and before I get any further you should know I give it two thumbs WAY up. It’s the first book that has ever entered my home that both my husband and I have read and enjoyed. (He’s a scientist. I’m an artist. This book has mass appeal.) I’ve chosen to share in this post what I considered to be the top ten take-aways from the book that have immediate influence over my work as a trainer and coach. The videos I’ve embedded simply and profoundly emphasize the points I make and if you haven’t seen them, now would be a good time to watch.

Here’s my list:

1) First of all, there are 12 Brain Rules…

  1. Exercise boosts brain power
  2. The human brain evolved, too
  3. Every brain is wired differently
  4. We don’t pay attention to boring things
  5. Repeat to remember
  6. Remember to repeat
  7. Sleep well, think well
  8. Stressed brains don’t learn the same way
  9. Stimulate more of the senses
  10. Vision trumps all other senses
  11. Male and female brains are different
  12. We are powerful and natural explorers

Each brain rule is described in depth on the Brain Rules website and there are short movie clips that sum things up if you don’t have time to read.

#2: Symbolic reasoning is a uniquely human talent and one we don’t capitalize on enough in schools and learning. Consider asking teachers/students to use metaphors or analogies, symbols or icons to sum up the gist of what’s being learned.

#3: The brain can only fully focus on one thing at a time. Look at your delivery platform for folks and ask whether it’s too dense with text, or check yourself that you aren’t reading slides or talking over text-heavy information.

#4: Appeal to the senses. Images and sounds carry huge weight in waking the brain up to pay more attention. A powerful image with two or three words as reminders can make a greater impact than lots of talking and notes. Get your ideas down to the “gems” and wrap them with sights, sounds, feelings (can be stories), and smells.

#5: The worst kind of stress is when you feel like you don’t have control over the problem. This is why asking people, “What can you do?” when you coach can be a powerful enabler to get folks moving. Likewise, students who are taught to persist and are praised for their effort will outperform students who are told they are smart. We need to develop tenacity in our teachers and students so that when learning gets tough, their stress receptors don’t override their abilities to think.

#6: The way babies learn is the same way adults learn best: observation, hypothesis, experiment and conclusion. The way in which we structure learning experiences (for teachers and students) should follow this same path.

#7: Curiosity is our natural propeller. If we aren’t creating opportunities that inspire wonder, we’re allowing brains to turn off.

#8: Creativity is a powerful thing, and one that I believe is missing from the classroom. Allow yourself the time it takes to watch the video here about schools and creativity and then ask yourself. “How well are we modeling and promoting creative thinking among the crowds we serve?”

#9: Brain Awareness Week is March 14-20. Mark your calendars for next year and be prepared by getting cool puzzles, info and more from the brain week website:

#10: Finally, in my pursuit to inspire, I came across another video that for me served as a metaphor for all kinds of things, but particularly coaching. Watch “Life Lessons from Building a Machine”. What connections can you make?

That’s my review. Get the book. It’s worth the money and the time it takes to read. You’ll be smarter and have so much more to contribute at parties this summer. And be on the lookout for upcoming guest posts from the coaches in my cadre. Each will be sharing their own reading reflections in the coming weeks.

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