Place Based Learning, Brain-based Learning, and Poverty—Teachers are the Thread that Links Together a Growth Mindset

Week 8 Reflection for
EDET 637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology
with Dr. Lee Graham

by Aleta May

Although our students here participate in Place Based Learning (PBL) through their Yup’ik instruction, the term PBL is new to me. I was able to compare how PBL looks here to an example of a local tree-mapping project I read about in an article about students integrating science, math and geography in another state. Amy and I noticed how much easier it is now for students to access instant information through a mobile device when compared to the hard copies of the old encyclopedia. We can easily take pictures of things we study near the school area to bring back to the classroom and to share with other students.

When I responded to Natalie, I was drawn into her discussion of neuroplasticity and how brain based education is so important for educators to keep in mind. I focused on how music can help students focus, or relax for a test. Classical music can help students increase problem solving potential.
Sally presented a list of strategies for educators to address when teaching with the brain in mind. I summarized her list in my post to her: Exercise, socialization, brain development, stress management, celebrate differences, teach in chunks, embed the arts into instruction, teach with emotional states in mind, special education is more than inclusion, and review, review, review. Sally’s focus on scaffolding instruction and how that connects to brain based learning was clear, as was the challenge she wrote about how she intends to organize her instruction in a way that considers both.

Larissa helped me think about differentiating for students’ learning needs through genuinely believing that each student can progress. We have such an impact on the lives of our students; even more when we see students coming in with the stress that poverty brings to their lives and how this often sets them back in their brain development.

Students who come from lives of poverty have learned to adapt to lives that are environmentally more threatening. Threats may range from exposure to community violence to having to move frequently or doing without electricity. What may present as a “bad attitude,” may actually be lack of sleep from an overcrowded home, etc. If we as teachers begin to recognize these behaviors, we can act in response more appropriately. For example, if a student seems to be agitated or distracted, he/she may need more frequent breaks. Also, I believe that educators need to team up with each other and with outside resources to make connections and plans to figure out how best to help our students who live in poverty. In the village where I live, some students may come to school dressed especially well. By the standards of larger towns or cities, this would be the norm. By local standards, this may simply mean that when adults in charge of them gain access to money, they are more likely to spend it on their children’s needs. Since most students come to school dressed very basically, it is easier to come in and not have the deep concern for how you appear to others. But the older they get, the more sensitive they become.

One point I picked up through reading chapters on brain-based learning, was how adolescent students may benefit from walking into a class with music playing and a little time to wind down after being in the hall where they may have just dealt with an issue that is big in their mind; such as, a friendship breakup or something taken from their locker. Movement during learning; like gallery walks to place sticky notes onto posters in categories around the room, or taking stretch breaks are ways to keep the brain alert and give it time to absorb new learning. For adolescents, plenty of time to discuss new learning with peers in multiple formats before moving on to teaching more curriculum will help them access their developing social / emotional parts of their brain to retain knowledge.

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