Getting to the Learning brain

Here are tips to help students bring themselves into the learning zone (Theta). We can’t force it, but we can guide.

Impractical, revolutionary tips…
For secondary students:
Get funding to install a bank of treadmills at the back of classrooms used by slow or reluctant learners. This stimulates neurogenesis and puts students in Theta. Want proof? See the video HERE.

For infants/primary students:
Reverse the lunch-play order to a longer play – then a quiet lunch in the classroom while learning. Remember, exercise produces memory neurons  so why not INCREASE the mount of play and even add formal exercise activities. Food also puts students into Theta – the learning brain. Want proof? See HERE and HERE.

Easier, more practical tips…

  1. Tell your students what they will be doing and why. If they understand, they will gladly take part. In some ways, it’s the best lesson you can teach them.
  2. Try one lesson a day with the different technique. Then slowly progress to more. Using the new technique in very lesson will be too much for the students and too much for you.
  3. Eating produces Theta. Can the students eat (good food – not sweets) in the room?
  4. Laughter produces Theta. Even showing a photo of a cute kitten produces Theta for a short while.
  5. Have a ‘learning zone’ or ‘quiet brain’ activity before a lesson.  A good one is just to show a video of the glitter jar. There are other slow videos on YouTube but some are too long or too ‘cartoonish’. Cartoons and bright colours will do the opposite of what you want. Often just doing a breathing exercise is best. Slow, not fast, eyes closed, focus on their breathing . They could also watch a short ‘learning zone’ video without words eg:
    HERE     ⇒ HERE
    HERE    ⇒ HERE
    HERE     ⇒ HERE
    HERE     ⇒ HERE
  6. A person will go into Theta post-vigorous exercise or during repetitive exercise (like lap swimming or jogging). Playground play is usually a ‘Beta’ zone and students can take 30 minutes to come down from that. Could your students play first, then eat and then learn?
  7. If you have students who are clearly ‘up’ at the start of the day, you could suggest a morning lap-swimming program or similar to the parents.
  8. Dull the lighting if a classroom is very bright. You can’t escape florescent tubes yet due to hi-rate flickering they can effect some students with learning disorders.
  9. Use a soft, even voice – try not to raise it.
  10. Many lessons – especially in secondary school, are too long. Your students aren’t Buddhist monks and will get titchy after 20 minutes. They are used to distraction every 8 minutes via commercial TV and the beeping of their phone. This is how it is in the 21st century and we can’t change it. Accept it but…
  11. Use a brain break to split the lesson up. For younger children, a song, a joke, a game or memory exercise can work. For older students, a brief travel video, scene from a movie, memory exercise, ‘toothbrush’ activity or story circle should work.
  12. Always bring them back to the learning zone with a breathing activity (or similar).
  13. Start the day with some vigorous exercise. If in doubt, the book to read is called ‘Spark’ by Dr John Ratey.
  14. Experiment with some Theta based music/sound in the classroom. There’s lots on YouTube and Spotify yet some have too many ups and downs to really work. If it has words or you can detect a beat don’t use it. A drone is OK. Sometimes just a straight binaural beat like this one on Spotify can help. Others have a more musical flavour like this one.
  15. Keep the volume very low – barely audible. This is important. It’s white background noise only and some students won’t even notice it. If several students ask about it, turn it down or explain what it is.
  16. Stop office announcements and interruptions in lesson times. Educate office staff. Educate other teachers.
  17. Give the students feedback if you’re noticing a difference in the way they’re learning. Praise those who seem to be a little ‘quieter’.
  18. If you are using a basic EEG like the Neurosky MindWave, get the students who have trouble ‘coming down’ to do their EEG work before a lesson.