A book review

Hello dearest readers! It’s been ages since I last blogged. It’s the end of October, which means that one act season is in full swing and I am kept quite busy managing my regular classroom on top of directing duties. We’ve had a few setbacks which are making me a little nervous, but hopefully our show will be ready to go by next Thursday. (If it’s not, well… the show must go on.)

I also am slowly finishing up grad school. My last course was cognitive psychology and it was very useful. It was also one of the most intense courses I’ve had in my graduate studies, and of course, it landed at the busiest time of the year. So let me share some things I learned with you while I was reading way too many chapters a night.

One of the texts we used in this class was called Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen. I really liked this text because it was written by a former teacher who then entered the field of psychology. Because of his background, Jensen doesn’t use a lot of techno-babble. He writes in a clear, easy-to-read manner.

In each chapter, he outlines some of the different ways that brains, particularly the brains of children and adolescents, function and change over time. There are a number of illustrations to help when talking about the different parts of the brain and what section manages what section of memory and learning. As it turns out, memory is a very tenuous thing and I think it’s amazing we can remember anything at all!

Not only is Jensen’s text fairly short (186 pages) and easy to read, the best part is that he gives practical solutions to real life teaching problems. Some of the issues he discusses are how movement affects learning and behavior, how emotions affect learning, nutritional concerns, and environmental problems like poor lighting or ambient noise. He also talks a lot about how to increase memory retention with students. When I went to my TPRS conference this summer, the presenter used the idea of a research-based method as a selling point, but it was nice to see that claim corroborated by the evidence presented in this book. It made me feel really good to know that by using techniques under the CI umbrella (novelty, personalization, repetition, small chunks) that I am teaching in a way that is pedagogically sound.

Really, my only criticism of the text is that the kindle version doesn’t come with real page numbers. I thought this book was very helpful in understanding my students, their behavior, and how they learn. I would absolutely recommend it for some light educational reading. The book is very cheap ($15-17) from Amazon. I hope other readers find it as helpful as I did.