Session Notes: The Adolescent Brain

The Adolescent Brain: Reaching and Teaching

Dr. David Vawter (vawterd@winthrop.edu) and his wife Gail Vawter

MY NOTES IN ALL CAPS

-“Non-threatening” pre-test to get interest in topic

  • Weight of adult brain? = 3 pounds
  • 2% of body weight but consumes 20 to 25% of calories consumed
  • Brain is 70% water but consumes 30% of all water we drink FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL BRAIN TO FUNCTION AFTER LUNCH THEY NEED GOOD FOOD AND WATER
  • Unfolded it would measure 2ft x 2ft
  • Composed of a trillion cells and 100 billion neurons

-Brain matures back to front…frontal lobe is the last area to mature.  Students physically mature faster and slower than others…no correlation between physical maturity and brain maturity…may be somewhat opposite

-We’re teaching kids, they may look grown up, but they’re not adults

-A 16 year old is 800x more likely to have an accident than an 18 year old…brain is not yet developed

-Brain research by Dr. Jay Giedd, Neuroscientist

  • Studied living brains of adolescents via MRI
  • Tremendous growth of neurons during birth-2 and 9-10…massive pruning during 2-3 and 11-12
  • During adolescence…fewer but faster connections…grey matter thickens…used connection flourish, but unused die

-CEO of the brain is the frontal lobe

NO WONDER KIDS STRUGGLE…THE LAST PART TO DEVELOP IS THE MOST USED PART…WE HAVE TO MODIFY WHAT WE DO IN THE CLASSROOM TO FIT THIS

-Spencer Kagan -stand up, talk out a situation for 30 to 40 seconds just to get brain reactivated

-Middle schooler listens 10 to 15 minutes max before shutting down mentally…

-Stupid teacher question “Why are you doing that”…they REALLY don’t know, the thought process is not like that of an adult

-teens rely on the amygdala which is associated with emotion and gut reactions…

THIS IS WHY WE GET MIXED MESSAGES FROM WHAT WE SAY TO STUDENTS…WHAT THEY TELL TO PARENTS…AND THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION

-MRI tests: Teens see anger when it is not really there…can be irrational and overly emotional

-Teens need 9 to 11 hours of sleep optimally…biological clock shifts during teen years…melatonin effects body at a later stage, why they can’t go to sleep until later and wake up later

-Cell phone/technology curfew…

-Students need to know these things…not to use as excuse but to understand what is happening to them…helps them recognize adults as a guide, not other peers with deficient brains as well 🙂

-Parents need to know this so they can show patience, stay involved, adapt their parenting, explain decisions, set limits, foster independence

PARENTS CAN SERVE AS EXTERNAL BRAIN FOR ADOLESCENTS WITHOUT FORCING THEM TO FEEL THEY ARE STILL BEING TREATED AS LITTLE KIDS

-Educators need to know this because:

  • Crucial time
  • making mistakes is okay
  • willful pigheadedness
  • provide structure to help them get organized

-Foster brain development

  • Predictability
  • Novelty
  • Challenge
  • Choice
  • Feedback

-Provide Brain Breaks…

Speed teaching…The Six R’s

  • Reflexes – how many things can you do an tie to learning (movement, rhythm, verbal, etc)…Marcia Tate, number line Hustle activity…
  • Reflection – If you want long term retention you must have reflection…*snapping, bobbing head, repeating concept* Even 30 seconds of reflection helps memory…THROWING IN SOME OF MY OWN TYPING FOR REFLECTIVE PURPOSES 🙂 WE NEED TO BUILD IN REFLECTION TIME…GREAT ADVISORY ACTIVITY, BUT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IN CLASS AS WELL
  • Review – Association activity creates multiple firings in the brain…Dehydration leads to headaches…the only brain feeling we get…keep kids hydrated, they’ll perform better…it’s not how long you review, but how many times…instrument practice: Four 15 minute practice sessions better than 1 hour long session
  • GREAT ACTIVITY WITH ASSOCIATION…TAKE WEAK ASSOCIATION, MENTION IT THEN REVIEW…ASSOCIATION NOW MADE STRONGER
  • Reteaching – reteach differently than the first time, if something isn’t learned…find a student who got it and let them reteach, they’re learning as well as others
  • Relevancy – things that are more relevant are better remembered. Stop and explain why you are doing activities…concrete learners AND abstract learners will benefit…EOG is not a reason to learn something
  • Ready for what is next – anticipation is a huge part of teaching…preview…stop at an important point and drive the kids crazy…they’ll probably go find the answer on their own…if that happens WE WIN!!

-All New Learning is coated with a chemical that encourages forgetting it…if too much of the brain fires at a time, you DIE…Epylepsy is too much of the brain firing at one time…Myelin is the chemical that allows the brain cell to fire with less energy/calories and less water

-Elementary kids can only remember 2 to 3 things at a time, middle school 3 to 4, adults 7…repetition increases this

-Middle school brain can’t handle an hour long test…their brain is not developed enough

-Kids around 25 will decide you’re somewhat intelligent.

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One Response

  1. Hey,
    Thanks for this. I’m just about to take my intermediate qualifications after teaching Primary and Spec. Ed. for most of my career. I’m looking forward to working with adolescents…and your post is good info. for me!

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