Brain Rules

Months ago Ann gave me a great book called Brain Rules. Or Mary gave me the book, and I got mixed up. Anyway, I didn't read it yet. My brain "rules" with 2 kids are that my love of books has been temporarily trumped by my love of sleep when I can get it. Then Ann gave me two photocopied chapters of the book, so I would read the relevant stuff. Ann is very practical.

Author John Medina describes his vision of creating a college of education that studies the brain. He writes:

One semester might be devoted to understanding the development of the teenage brain. The internship would involve assisting in junior high and high school. Another semester might be devoted to behavior pathologies such as ADHD, and students would assist in a special education class. Still another course would be devoted to the effect of family life on learning, with students attending PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences. In this 2-way interaction the insights of researchers and practitioners have the chance to marinate in a single intellectual environment. The model crates a vigorous, use-driven strategic program.

In another section, Medina challenges traditional concepts of a school day.

The day of a typical high school student is segmented into 5 or 6 50-minute periods, consisting of unrepeated (and unrelenting) streams of information.

(Using concepts from cognitive science) how would you change this 5 period fire hose?

Basically, Medina argues, through massive loops of repetition. He posits: 25 minute classes, interwoven, with repetition 90 minutes apart. He doesn't write out a schedule, but I suppose it could look like this

Subject A - 9.00 to 9.25am Subject B - 9.30 to 9.55am Subject C - 10 to 10.25am Subject D - 10.30 to 10.55am Subject A - 11.00 to 11.25am Etc, etc

So that instead of Subject A in one hour long chunk, a kid might have 2 or even 3 short bursts of that class. It's an interesting concept. Though I'm not sure that Medina considers the lost minutes that often come from transitions between classes.

Medina further suggests a school year where every third or fourth day would be a "review holiday," since loops of repetition are what aids in memory.

We tried a version of that one year -- every Friday was a quiz on the key ideas from the week, essentially a review holiday, though nobody described it as a holiday. It didn't stick. Maybe we just executed it badly.