Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Amazing Teenage Brain

When my daughter was less than one day old, she suffered a stroke that destroyed one sixth of her brain. If you met her today, nearly 16 years later, you would not observe any traces of the stroke, because as our daughter grew, her brain ‘rewired’ itself. While we were struggling to understand our daughter’s situation, doctors and scientists were conducting unprecedented research on the brain with the help of MRI technology. This brain research has influenced studies and practice in medicine, psychiatry, sociology, nutrition, and, of course, education.

Interestingly, the brain has two significant growth spurts: one takes place before the age of 18 months and another takes place during the teenage years. According to Eric Jensen, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind,

teenage behaviour may result from a complex array of fast-changing factors – not just hormones.

When dealing with teens, Jensen’s book suggests the following:

Be Succinct
Teens’ frontal lobes may not be good at dealing with multiple ideas at a time. When giving instructions, give just one step at a time.

Use Modelling
Early teens need concrete and realistic models in the classroom.

Be a Coach
Many unpruned connections in the teenage brain may impair their ability to make decisions. Many teens aren’t able to recognize the universe of options available.

Be Understanding
Jensen says that teens’ ability to recognize emotions in others is weaker by 20 percent up until age 18. In fact, it’s weaker at ages 11 and 12 than at age 10!

The most significant improvements in my daughter’s abilities occurred when her brain was in a growth spurt. I have witnessed, first hand, the ability of the brain to change and learn and this has fueled my belief that all students can learn if they are given the right supports and strategies. As teachers, we need to become familiar with the brain research that will help us teach with the brain in mind.

Read Teaching With the Brain in Mind, available in your school libraries.
Watch the PBS program Inside the Teenage Brain.

Take a 3DTour of the Brain
Read, This is Your Brain Online

Order The Teenage Brain: A World of Their Own or Inside the Teenage Brain from the Avon Maitland media centre.

1 comment:

  1. The brain unit is one of the favourite in the Issues in Human Growth and Development ~ too bad more teachers aren't offering the course. It gives teens an opportunity to learn about why they act the way they do and helps them to make better choices with their life at a critical time.


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