Sep 6, 2019

Brain Research and Vocabulary


 Last week I shared that I would like to reflect each week about a failure (because we learn and grow through them).  Well...this week was filled with Aimsweb testing.  My teammate and I are in charge of completing all these benchmark assessments for our school.  If you have never given this assessment, let me share that it did not allow for much growth, on my part.  I ask the same 27 questions to every student.

But if we look...we can always find somewhere to grow.

This week I started to read "How the Brain Learns to Read" by David Sousa.
I just finished chapter 1...so I am not far along.  One section discussed the parts of the brain that process verbal and image based words.  As teachers, we know that it is important to be as concrete as possible.  So we use many methods to help our students understand vocabulary words: images, stories, context, motions, songs, etc.  David Sousa explains that different parts of our brain process verbal based information from image based information.

For example if I am talking to my students about a serpent.  I may explain that it is a large snake.  Students can visualize this and part of the brain lights up.  But if I have a discussion about the word grace.  Students will not a visual for this word because it is more abstract and verbal based; therefore, a completely different part of the brain lights up.

Students understand words better when they have a mental image of the word.  This is why, as teachers, we do anything we can to help them remember these words and their meanings.  Although, I teach in small groups all day and do not have a set list of vocabulary words, students are learning new concepts all the time through the texts we read.  I have always used a variety of methods to teach new words; however, when I read this information about the brain, it really helped me to have a deeper understanding of WHY I do it.  And WHY I need to do more of it.

So this year...as I am planning out my books for the week or day.  I want to ensure I am not glossing over words that could use more of a visual.  I want to ensure that even some "simple" sight words can have a picture attached, if it is going to help support a student's understanding.

 I can always work to do a little more.  A little better.

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