Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!
Dr. Seuss, beloved author in many parts of the world, wrote a telling poem in “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” The poem empowers children with these lines:
“Congratulations! Today is your day,
You’re off the great places; you’re off and away.
You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
Problem is, according to research done by neuroscientists, many children today arrive at school, camp, or other vacation destinations unaware of how the brains in their heads work.
What’s the attentionology connection? It’s a no-brainer! Brain function includes the capacity to stay on task in any setting.
Neuroscientists suggest that……improving brain function in students must be a team effort – another no-brainer – but a significant challenge.
Think of how many times, for example, teachers, camp counselors and parents have urged kids to get a good night’s sleep, only to watch them doze off or act like they’re in a daze the next day. No matter how many times supervising adults discuss the importance of enforcing bedtime for K – 5 students, the question remains…Is anyone minding the message?
You don’t have to have a PhD to know that sleep deprivation can impair children’s ability to learn. Add sleep deprivation to the growing list of distraction-makers that we face in the world today.
Learning and mastery of an academic, sports or any skill can’t happen if a student can’t stay focused. And how about permanent learning? Neuroscientists report that when children and adults sleep, the brain consolidates what they learned while they were awake. Sleep is good for everyone!
Another documented brain builder is good nutrition – another no-brainer! News abounds, at least in the U.S., about the growing percentage of obese children and the direct link between obesity, poor nutrition, and inadequate exercise. Professionals in all circles related to elementary education recommend that K – 5 students eat a breakfast with protein (milk counts) to provide a sustainable source of blood sugar – get this – that is essential to being alert.
Put another way, protein in the morning keeps kids on an even keel until lunch when they need to stoke up on more good nutrients to ride the afternoon learning train without crashing.
If Minding Your Brain were a triangle, the third line, after sleep and nutrition, would be, you guessed it – exercise.
How do you first address kids each day? I ask my students to sit up, look up, and listen up. As soon as I have everyone’s attention I tell the class that it’s important to sit up because doing so allows oxygen to flow better to the brain. Better brains do better work and everyone can achieve a better brain, I explain, when you set your mind to it.
Properly cared for brains don’t just have what it takes for one-day learning; they become storage factories of information and skills for the future. To help children grasp this important concept, you can make a Brain Box. It’s a simple graphic tool:
Directions for Making a Brain Box
Find a box with a lid
Find and cut out photos (available in newspapers and magazines) of the following:
* a child or children sleeping
* a container of cereal and one of milk
* Optional: pictures of other healthy foods
* people being active indoors and outdoors
- Place the cut out photos inside the box and write Brain Box on the lid.
- Add colored paper slips with short messages about healthy living.
- As a class activity, invite students to open the box and discover the contents. Discuss ways for students to care for their brains. Optional: ask students to draw and color pictures that show good sleeping, eating and exercising habits. Add these to the Brain Box.
Teaching K – 5 kids about brain health by presenting the concept in tangible form – a box with quick tips – is a great way to stress the importance of minding healthy messages.
Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!
Stop by Tuesday for a new International Festival of Attention-Grabbers – Vietnam, and again on Wednesday for Mid-Week Focus.
Talk with you soon,
Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet