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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Are You Making Your Brain Stronger?

I think every teacher has one or two of those phrases they say constantly.

You know-
"Criss-cross applesauce!"
"Bubbles in your mouths!"
"You get what you get, and you don't get upset!"

Well, I have a teacher-ism I use all the time.

Click the picture to get your {free} copy!

At the beginning of the year, I pick up two pencils and start holding them like weights and curling my biceps. I tell the kids that I'm working out and I'm going to get super big muscles.

And of course, they start to laugh.

So I ask them why, and someone always tells me that my muscles won't get bigger when I'm picking up something so light. They insist that it won't work, even if I do it a lot.

I then tell them that their brain is the same way.

If you only do the things that are easy for you, even if you do them over and over- your brain won't get any stronger. You have to give your brain a challenge to make it grow.

I explain to them that, as their teacher, it's my job to make their brain stronger. That means I'm going to be trying to push them to try new things, and hard things- because if I only make them do things that are easy, their brains won't be stronger.

Sometimes, when I give them a big challenge, I call it a "Brain Workout." I tell them about when I started a new workout (Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred- whew. I am tired just thinking about it.) The first time I tried it, it was hard. I felt overwhelmed, my heart was pounding, I was doing terribly, and I just wanted to give up.

But the second time I did it, I was a little better.

And the next time, a little better.

Eventually, I got to where I could do it!- and I was pretty proud of myself.

And when it wasn't so hard anymore? I moved up to level 2, and made my body even stronger. And don't get me wrong, level 2 was just awful at first- but each time I did it, it got a little easier and I got a little stronger.

(... I decided that I probably didn't need to tell them what happens when you stop that workout program, but I suppose if you have kids that stop trying or stop doing their work, muscle atrophy might be a perfect analogy. )

This also works well when I have students who want to "help" others by giving them answers, or just telling their buddy reading partner the word. "Are you letting your partner's brain get stronger?"

Simply put... muscles are a great analogy for brains.

With my 3rd graders, I went on to explain how your brain actually has to make new pathways when you learn something new, and that's why it's so hard. Sending that first electrical impulse is much harder than doing it a 2nd time, or a 10th time, or a 100th time.

(Yes, I teach my 3rd graders about neural pathways and synapses. I am a complete nerd.)

So, I'm wondering... what do your kids hear EVERY day?
What's YOUR teacherism?


  1. Love it! Hmmm, you've got me thinking-What do I say all the time?? Love the brain analogy. FYI-If you're in the south, it's you get what you get and you don't through a fit. Otherwise it won't rhyme. hahaha!

    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

    1. A lot of teachers here use "fit"- but the way we pronounce it, it doesn't rhyme, which drives me crazy! I have to say "upset" to make it work :)

      Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

    2. I totally agree Jenny! It drives me crazy when teachers say "fit" since it doesn't match our accents! I always say upset too :)
      Teaching in the Valley

  2. I like your teacher-ism! It's close to one of mine. When students are improving or get something right, I'm always telling them "Look at your brain grow"!. I also ask them "What level are you thinking at? Are you thinking down deep?"
    Conversations in Literacy

  3. I really loved your brain analogy. I will definitely have to use it~!!

    The Paper Maid

  4. Love this! I talk about growing big strong brains, too. If I get a chance I hope to link up :)
    - Amanda
    Inspired in Second

  5. Gosh we all do have teacher-isms don't we?? Love this linky idea - I can't wait to read everyone else's!

    - Sasha
    The Autism Helper

  6. Love the teacher-isms!! I have so many, I'll have to think some on the most popular. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog & for your sweet comments :) I'm your newest follower!

    First Grade Fairytales

  7. I love your analogy about muscles and brains. I am going to have to do this with my class. Too cute!

    Third Grade State of Mind

  8. I am so going to use that brain analogy in my class. My kiddos are always telling me things are hard and I say "good, then I am doing my job." This might help them understand ;)


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