Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Neuro Science in the classroom

So what does all our learning look like in class?
What key points can we apply to the challenges we face?

Brain 1 - dyadic relationship 1:1
1. Focus on building a relationship both with the child and family. This comes before learning.
2. Build a happy safe classroom with singing, laughter and lots of physical activity.

  • Sing.. My Bonnie lies over the ocean
  • Daily class joke time - pull out of a hat, add to blog or child shared.
  • Brain breaks - dance, fitness game, activity
Brain 2 - Rhythmic Patterning 
1. Build an environment with repetition and routine.
2. Always have calm, quiet voices to reduce anxiety and the flooding of cortizol.
3. Have very quiet rhythmic music in the background - 80 beats a minute.

Brain 3 - Limbic - where resilience lives: social and emotional
1. Focus on belonging & dispositions of a learner.
2. Celebrate success with 10 positive comments to 1 next step.
3. Give opportunity for creative problem solving and being resilient.
4. Plan in opportunity of repetitive practise of skills that are lacking such as empathy.

Brain 4 - Cortical - ability to self control
1. Give lots of opportunity for choice in the classroom.
2. Teach self regulation strategies - breathing, calm down buckets, time-out cards.
3. Begin today's lesson by reviewing what we learnt yesterday.

Engaging Boys: Nathan Wallis

Ka Tikaka O Ka Roro: The fascinating Brain Nathan Wallis
Workshop - Monday 26th September

Nathan Wallis lectures at Canterbury University and went from being a primary school teacher to training in Early years because he discovered that the greatest impact on the brain takes place in the first three years. This is called Neuroscience and this has been called the 'Decade of the Brain'. Initially they believed that the key time was the 1st 3 years – now they say the first 1000 days from conception to 2.5 yrs.

Key point:
The human brain is genetically and biologically designed to gather data on what it needs to develop to succeed in life – in the first few years of life. Intelligence comes for early life experiences in the first 1000 days of life! We have assumed that early childhood teachers are of no value because we believed that it was nature not nurture that determined intelligence - not aware that it is about building realationships.

Oliver James states that it is about re-setting your emotional baromitor and calls it 'Love Bonding'.
He believes that how intelligent you are is 100% to do with your data gathering not your genes.
This is the extreme – most scientists are half way between. Now they think about 90% environment.

We can predict your outcomes with a high degree of accuracy from the age of 1 year. If it was just the genes then the whole family should have the same skills and success rate.
They discovered that intelligence and levels of success are dependent on.. how many words spoken to the child in the first year of life determines their earning potential.
Temperament + experiences = personality.

Other spectrums…. (how can we determine success)
Are the babies active?
How do they cope with change?
Parent – talking to the baby more. Talk is the goal!
We have access to research – should you go to a child when they cry?
It is impossible to spoil a child in the first 18 months. Meet the need of the developmental stage. Don’t try to accelerate their reading and colours etc. Use lots of open-ended creative play.
Following boundaries need to grow at 3 years not at 8 months.

Risk or resilience scale:
Risk factors:
Mental health issues in family
Domestic violence
5+ kids in family
Low educated parents
Lack of connection with their parents
Not speaking language of origin
Poor housing
Screen time under the age of 2
Hot housed learning - learn to read before school

Resilience factors:
Good parent attachments
Good qualifications in family
Trained teachers
Lack of smacking
Added language
Musical instrument – esp. before age of 7

You can' get carried away with the issue of putting your child in daycare. If they have lots of the 'Resilience Factors' then they can cope with a couple of 'Risk Factors'. It is the child who has suffered trauma, poor housing, 5+ kids in the family and not wpeaking their first language who does not need an additional risk factor to be added. 

Positive and negative comment:
10 positive comments have less impact than the one negative comment.

We can build resiliency in older children but it is harder for the brain to make those changes.
Neuro-placisticity. Your brain is always able to change. Growing in the first 1000 days is like rolling a ball down the hill. After the first 10000 days, you are rolling the ball up the other side of the valley.

The human brain is designed to be moulded by its encounters. A camel is genetically designed to survive in a hot place, they will not survive in the Arctic. Animals take evolution while humans can make those changes in 1000 days. Humans can change - no motter how old they are. They are designed to adapt to change. 

This clashes with cultures…
In Scandinavia – they pay most of the taxes on those first 1000 days. In NZ – we spend most of our money at 17 – 18 years of age. NZ follows the culture rather than the research - we value the learning at high school and university and spend all our money at this point - not in the Early Years. 

Making the connection:
That language shared with the child is only counted when it is shared with that principal caregiver because of the relationship. Only at 3yrs do the siblings start counting as a positive effect. Having ‘only children’ is the only ‘ideal’.

Neuro-sequential Model:

4 brains inside your head…
Brian 4 – driven by the environment…
1, 2, 3 compulsory (Dogs have these) but important because they are the only way to access the Frontal Cortex.
Brian 1 - brains stem - for survival. - brain stem (determines the potential of the frontal cortex)
Brain 2 - movement and co-ordination - reptilian brain., cerebellum.
Brain 3 - limbic system, emotional brain - mammal brain, 
Brain 4 optional = do I really need it based on the data gathered in 1000 days. (Frontal Cortex)
These are everything we want our kids to do that dogs can’t do!
Read, write, National Standards…. Empathy, self control,

Learning can only happen with the survival brain is NOT engaged. 
You can not be intelligent and SCARED. You must feel safe.  Survival wins over learning because in the reptilian brain - you can choose fight, flight or freeze. What might trigger this....
  • Slammed door
  • Insecurity of a new situation
  • Anxiety

Kids are hightened in sensitivity - watching faces. listening to tone of voice rather than the lesson content.
You need to meet the needs of Brains 1,2,3 before we can access brain 4. They must be fed, calmed etc... before back in the Cortex. Get to the point of not needing to worry about survival, time to now think about learning. Keeping your child out of their brain stem - quickly calm. Of they are spending time protecting themselves and growing their brain stem rather than developing their frontal cortex. There is only 1/4 of the frontal cortex available for life because they have not have time to develop it - set up at 2.5 years. 

Age when this frontal cortex is fully formed – 26 years, girls are 18 – 24 years while boys are much later!

Birth order also determines this, moving from making decisions in the Limbic or emotional areas of the brain in the Frontal Cortex.

Digital Technology:
Under the age of 2 - should not look at a screen.
Appropriate number of minutes a day - 0.
At 18 months old - advantage of knowing your colours early do not balance with the hours spent looking at a flashing screen. 
  • Still developing their vision - should look at 3D world.
  • Flashing light arouses the brain stem - puts into reptilian brain.
  • Don't build a better brain by skipping stages.
  • Teenagers - need technology + face to face interactions + physical activity
  • Research about violent video games - increased 2 hours after the session, after playing rugby the issues are the same.

Gender - Engaging Boys:
  • Not lots of research to show difference - about 1% difference.
  • There is a range between each gender even within female and male
  • Hippocampus - memory of the brain, the search engine or Google of the brain.
  • Females remember things 20% better than the others. Female back hippocampus shrinks from 55 years - location. Relationships remain constant. Men's come online later and don't shrink. 
  • In kids - 6 years old - both can understand but the boy has forgotten as the Hippocampus is not online.
  • Scandinavian focus is on oral language first then at 7 years beginning to look at writing. 
  • Young brain is very visual..... we ask kids to skip the visual by learning to spell the word 'The'.
  • Mainly just self control.
  • If you are parented in a feminine way, you will respond to the feminine approach.

How to engage boys in the classroom:
Biology plays an important role. How we interact with children makes a difference. We talk to baby girls more that we do talk to baby boys. Cradle girls more to encourage security and intimacy. For a boy, we tend to stand baby boys and bounce him up and down - lacking security and no emotional relationship. 
Language for boys - clever, strong, brave - active.  Girls - beautiful, pretty, cute - passive words. 
  • Autonomy
  • Risk-taking
  • Self control
Engaging people - get up to the Cortical - must meet the needs of the 1, 2, 3 brains:

Brain 1 - dyadic relationship 1:1
  • This comes first - meet them at their developmental /emotional needs not their age level.
  • Long-term buddies across school
  • What is the strongest relationship in this child's life? Work to enhance this relationship.
  • What you practise - grows. Practise the appropriate behaviour more = grows the relationships.
  • The teacher needs to become that person sometimes + also strengthen the relationship at home.
  • Let one teacher get to know the boys for a longer timespan.
  • The 20% of boys, Pacific Island and Māori, takes 3 terms to build that relationship before you can begin to teach.
  • How does this work with MLE with 90 kids and three teachers - is it more superficial? Need to build that relationship with one teacher. One parent teacher and to additional aunties. 
  • Those kids who are struggling need more time invested in building the relationship - equal access does not make for equality. Visit their homes and build a relationship with families. Need to build the relationship based on a positive point about that child.
  • Have the learning conversations in their environment to reduce parent anxiety.
  • Success is determined by the level of relationship with the teacher not the teacher's level of qualification.
  • The Dean follows the Year Group through
  • You follow your Form class through
  • Manipulate the time table - form teacher + social studies teacher + maths teacher
  • Look at alternative - e.g. science hui - 8 hours, then look at alternative options
Brain 2 - Rhythmic Patterning 
  • Steady pattern to meet the needs, rocking babies, winding...
  • Self defensive role - when traumatised. 
  • With boys in class... movement essential for learning.
  • Need to move and talk as part of learning, making them sit still uses up lots of their brain function, inhibiting learning. 
  • Move to this side of the room if.... rather than just putting you hand up.
  • Incorporate standing desks, swiss balls and wobbly chairs!
  • Physical activity connects into and co-ordinates what goes on in your Cortical Brain.
Brain 3 - Limbic - where resilience lives: social and emotional
  • In NZ we are focussing on the Brain 4 and forgetting this brain
  • Research shows that kids forced to read at 3, are caught up by peers by 8 but the lack of Brain 3 development - social skills are limited
  • Belonging, confidence, social skills, emotional skills
  • We need to develop the dispositions.... attitudes towards themselves as a learner.
  • We need to celebrate student success rather than keep extending them or just make sure they are celebrated.
  • Focus on creativity and problem solving. Be resilient and keep coming back with new solutions based on open-ended free play. This supports 'play based learning'. 
Brain 4 - Cortical - ability to self control
  • Number 1 factor for male success - ability to self control
  • We struggle with not giving kids any choice so no opportunity for developing self control
  • Full control, adding in own self control
  • Self regulation - strategies to help like deep breathe, 
  • Marshmallow experiment - 1960's Walter Mischel (Stanford)
  • Giving choice - give more control to them.
  • Use restorative practice to fix bad choices, grow frontal cortex by engaging with the restorative approach rather than just punishment.
  • What we practise grows - control them - they become dependent.
  • As a teacher are we stuck in the 'control' mode or is it the start for handing over control.
  • Improving the transition: 
  • Bullying literature - aggressive boys - restorative and putting them in a leadership role to help develop empathy and understanding of consequence. Bully to be the buddy, with the support of the 'expected' child to help manage and regulate. Practising empathy.
  • Men 20% larger emotional brain, Women 20% more memory.
  • Corpus callosum - women have a better ability to make connections from the right and left hand side of the brain, more control of their emotions. 

Develop Corpus callosum after the age of 7. 
  • Musical instruments
  • Put hand up by crossing arms - crossing the corpus callosum 
  • Brain gym to cross the corpus callosum 
  • Roles of leadership
  • Meeting the needs of brain 1, 2, 3
Neural pathways: (micro)
  • Can keep producing new brain cells - even OLD people
  • Information stored in the pathways between neurons
  • The neurons make connections - neural pathway, synaptic connection - aaaahhh moment.
  • The brain decided what to keep and what to discard, repetition lay down an insulator over that pathway - myelin. This insulates the connection to protect from the electricity. The middle of the learning takes the longest to establish. You learn the beginning and the end more easily. 
  • Practise makes faster and automatic, adding another layer of myelin.
  • Tends to be about 90 x to practise before the pathway is established - 3 months with support.
e.g. Building a new neural pathway.
  1. Learn the skill - slash the forest path
  2. Go away for a year - forest grows back.
  3. If I had practised - like laying down a layer of ashphalt.
  4. Come back 50 years later - the path is still there. 
Efffective teaching...
Remember when Peter used to bake at Kindy....... he used to share the cake between 2 people... Reduces the number of repetitions from 90 to just a few.

Endorphins: the feel goods - happy hormones - The learning hormones (Fertilizer)
  • Gentle relationship based responses from the teacher
  • Bio chemical released - accelerating learning - building myelin maybe 60 repetition, thicker and faster. 
  • The three things that release endorphins: 
  • 3 physical exercise, body fitness connected to mental fitness
  • 2 laughter - make it fun, benefits heart too!
  • 1 singing - deep breathing, far removed from survival, calm heart rate - message to brain that you cant be in survival mode!
  • Maybe do something from this list every 45 minutes.
  • Ritual - predictability... this is what we do at our school. That security allows us to engage our cortex rather than being in the brain stem. 
  • Have music in the background at the heart rate - quiet but so that it regulates the heart rate. 
  • Sing.. My Bonnie lies over the ocean - standing and sitting each time Bonnie is said. This will bring in lots of laughter.

Cortozol - the stress hormone, undoes the myelin laying (Weedkiller)
  • Angry shouting responses from the teacher
  • Strips away the latest learning - e.g. when you go to touch a hot plate
  • Triggered when the adult responds like a police officer or shouts - strips out the latest learning.
  • The teacher that they like says something, they take notice and are ready to learn.
Brain 4 - Cortical - risk taking
  • Risk taking improves learning - especially in language learning
  • Need to give them opportunity to evaluate the risk rather than be controlled by parents
  • Celebrate risk taking
  • Don't correct language but model the correct example.
  • Need a school culture that grows relationships and student leadership
  • Height of complexity of brain at 3 years, then begin to prune the dead branches or pathways.
  • It cuts away the ones without myelin at three then again at adolescence. (Refining)
  • e.g. born with the ability to make the sounds to speak every language in the world. By the age of 3, those sounds are cut away. To be a native speaker you need to put myelin on the sounds within those early years. 
  • To allow your child to keep the sounds available to them by singing two waiata to your child during their childhood. 
  • e.g. Teenagers have a loss of ability to speak Te Reo Māori at high school as they don't hear it.
  • Boys need to be able to take risks and have them valued. 

Leading theory of Autism - shows the extremely male brain
  • Nature tries diffferent ways of doing things.
  • A different ordered brain not a disordered brain. 
  • Possibly a lack of neural pruning.
  • E.g. throw 5 balls at once and expect you to catch one.
  • Too much information coming at once.
  • The kids look for ritual ways of doing things.... to try to make sense of all the information. 

Restorative practise, student leadership, opportunity for risk taking.

The boy who was raised as a dog

Mmm - this is a serious read and fits in so well with the workshop with Nathan Wallis this week.

It is a series of case studies that pull out some key needs of children and the impact of not having these needs met might look like in their behaviour. Here are the key points I came away with...

1. The first 2.5 years are essential to build that bond with a caregiver

  • I am safe = I can concentrate on growing my brain
  • I respond to pleasing others or disappointing others
  • I learn what it is to be loved and have a relationship
  • I don't respond with unexpected anxiety to everything beacause I know I am safe
Children who have been traumatized and are in a highly anxious state need to know that they are safe. Forget about teaching them at this stage... focus on building a relationship and let them know that they can always rely on you to be the person that keeps them safe. 

Any deficit in a child, such as bullying behaviour, can't be seen as a need for punshment but a need for setting up an opportunity for the child to observe and copy the behaviour needed until the pathway has been built in their brain. 

The earlier the trauma - the harder it is to treat.
Work from their mental age not their chronological age. Start down at the part of the brain what was not stimulated....

Brain stem - safety, basic needs not met
Mid Brain - patterning behaviour, rocking, repetition, touch, 80 beats a minute, 

To recover the child must feel dafe and in control. Never force treat them or try to coerce them. 

1. Calm ourselves first.
2. Take time to watch and listen.
3. Identify what is feeding the behaviour - from the child's point of view. 
4. Remove the child from the company of other agressive or impulsive children. pg 245
5. Establish routine and repetition - extremem trauma takes more repetition to embed.
6. Give the child elements of control - no coersion but from a position of safety.

This leaves me with lots to think about. In combination wiht the workshop, we need to think about how this might look in our classroom and set things in place to support our students.