10 Neuro Nuggets for Educators

1. Brains do not fully develop in girls until about age 20, in boys, as late as 25.

2. The last part of the brain to develop is the Pre-Frontal Cortex; it controls impulses, organization, moral reasoning, emotional stability, concentration and prioritizing.

3. Adolescents often do not fully process cause & effect (another skill of the Pre-Frontal Cortex) so they really DO NOT know why they just did something stupid or why they got in trouble for it.

4. Kids need 9-13 hours of sleep daily to concentrate, metabolize sugar, regulate emotions and retain information effectively.

5. Our mind controls our brain-our brain does not control our mind.  Teaching a growth mind-set is valuable because it triggers happy, critical thinking chemicals in our brain that increase our capacity for learning.

6. When kids act out or zone out, it is an INVOLUNTARY response to stress or boredom AND boredom is stressful to the young brain.

7. Kids can misinterpret instructions and emotions up to 40% of the time.  Be clear in your expectations and explicitly model, explain and give feedback to children whether you are teaching them to organize their binder or load the dishwasher correctly.

8. Optimal brain engagement occurs when there is a positive emotional connection between student and teacher.  Relationship, relationship, relationship...it makes a considerable difference in the learning environment.

9. Information is only stored in short-term memory for about 20 minutes; when information is connected to prior knowledge and emotion, it can be stored in long-term memory.

10. Young brains need learning breaks to reset their attention span clocks.  Every 4-8 minutes, engage students in a "Learning Brain Break" such as turning and talking or retelling (first, then, finally) what was just learned with another on the other side of the room. 

Every 10-20 minutes, students need to be moving around, even for just a minute or two, to reset their attention; use an "Energizing Brain Break" to get their blood pumping (www.energizingbrainbreaks.com). Numb buns=lame brains.        

Julie Adams, Adams Educational Consulting, effectiveteachingpd.com, @adamsteaching

Article updated June 2017

*Recommended Resources: Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning (Judy Willis), Your Child’s Growing Mind (Jane Healy), Teaching Smarter with the Brain in Focus (Sarah Armstrong), The Primal Teen (Barbara Strauch), Teaching with the Brain in Mind (Eric Jensen), Brain Rules (John Medina), Secrets of the Teen Brain (Sheryl Feinstein)




Are Women Fashioned to Reign?

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Recent studies have compared male and female leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses and the results are in... women are skilled leaders. 

From Oprah Winfrey to Linda Darling-Hammond, Sheryl Sandberg to Yingluck Shinawatra, female leadership around the world is increasing, and with good reason.

Female Leadership is on the Rise

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51% of management positions in the U.S., up from 26% in 1980.  Hanna Rosin’s TED Talk “The Rise of Women,” notes that of the 15 careers that will grow the most in the next decade, women dominate 13 of them.

In the book Man Down, journalist Dan Abrams investigates several areas in which women dominate, from driving, to investing, to practicing medicine, studies show that women are far more effective in their problem-solving and decision-making, than often perceived.

According to Bob Sherwin, “Why Women are More Effective Leaders Than Men,” both male and female employees rate women higher in 12 of 16 leadership characteristics such as initiative, inspiration, collaboration, follow-through and integrity.  Mr. Sherwin also notes that as women age, they become even more effective because they continue to seek input from others in how to improve and they make adjustments based on feedback, whereas men sometimes do not.

Male and Female Brains

In several studies, neuroscientists have discovered many characteristics in the female brain that increase the propensity for leadership success.  For example, the Pre-frontal Cortex which is in charge of impulse control, problem-solving, analyzing cause/effect, and organizational skills, develops 4-6 years faster in women and continues to remain more active throughout life, compared to males.  The Corpus Collosum connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain; it is often thicker in females allowing more whole brain connections and engagement instead of the “compartmentalization” often found in the male brain.  Also attributed to more whole brain connectivity is the fact that women often have up to 10x more “white matter” in their brains which allows information to be communicated between the two hemispheres at a faster rate. In addition, females have more oxytocin, which many believe results in increased impulse control and collaborative and relational connections, strong characteristics for successful leaders.

Perhaps the most intriguing difference in the female brain is the XX Factor.  A female is comprised of an XX chromosome combination and a male, an XY combination.  The X chromosome carries over 1500 mutations, the Y only has 100.  Genetically speaking, the X chromosome is the cognitive hot spot involving critical thinking and communication abilities.  Because women have an XX combination, they have over 3000 cognitive combinations compared to a male with an XY pattern who has only 1600.  This is the reason that many scientists believe that males are more likely to suffer from disorders such as schizophrenia and dyslexia; if their X is damaged, they do not have a cognitive backup.  If the female X is damaged, she employs what is called "X inactivation" and engages the other healthy X chromosome.

Healthy Female Brains

As we age, females are very sensitive and susceptible to hormonal and chemical fluctuations and those fluctuations can drastically alter brain effectiveness.  Doctors such as Dr. Daniel Amen, recommend that women over 35 regularly monitor (every 18-24 months) several health components that are not part of a routine check-up, including: a complete blood count, metabolic panel with fasting blood sugar and lipid panels, HgA1C, vitamin D, thyroid, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, ferritin, free & total serum testosterone, cortisol & sulfated DHEA, estrogen and progesterone. 

The gut has just as many nerve endings in it as the brain and doctors often refer to the gut as the "second brain". The gut, or intestines, are responsible for 80% of our immunity and they regulate good and bad bacteria levels in our body.  Due to fluctuating hormones, diet and stress, our gut can get out of balance fairly quickly and that can lead to weight gain, fatigue, headaches, aches and pains, insomnia, depression and emotional upheaval.  

Unhealthy leaders are not as effective. To avoid these issues, doctors recommend taking a pre/probiotic supplement to regulate bacteria levels and maintain healthy brain function.  After trying several products, I have found tremendous success with a product called Thrive Probiotic.  It is a 3-step daily routine that incorporates pre/probiotics, vitamins, antioxidants, and protein to regulate the digestive and adrenal system and it WORKS! If interested, order it here

Females are also very sensitive to Adrenal Fatigue, which is the body's response to stress, resulting in the overproduction of adrenaline, DHEA and cortisol, all of which can hamper brain activity.  Thus, effectively managing and lowering stress should be a top priority. 

We have all witnessed successful and unsuccessful male and female leaders; but what is of utmost importance is that we don't stereotype a gender in order to put limits on it.  

Females have tremendous leadership strengths and often a unique and intuitive perspective that can be utilized to produce positive change that benefits all.  

Effective female leaders...may we know them, grow them, and be them.

To learn more, check out these books and articles:

Brain Rules

Unleash the Power of the Female Brain

The Female Brain

Brain Differences Between Genders

Do Men and Women Have Different Brains?

How Male & Female Brains Differ

Lean In and Why Women's Brains are Wired for Leadership

Male and Female Brains are Built Differently

The title, "Fashioned to Reign," is from Kris Valloton's book, which takes an inside look at the Christian perspective of women in leadership.

Julie Adams, Adams Educational Consulting, www.effectiveteachingpd.com 

10 Things Parents Can Do to Foster Happy, Healthy & High-Achieving Children

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“Help!  My child is moody, stressed and not doing well in school! What can I do to help?”

As an educator, I often hear this sentiment as it is a common and frustrating phenomenon.  There is good news; there are many things parents can do to support their child’s social, emotional and academic success during the school years.

A young brain is very different than a mature brain and sometimes we treat children as though they were mini-adults and we get frustrated when they don't act like adults.  The problem is the pre-frontal cortex in the young brain is not functioning at full capacity until a child is in his early twenties and that can pose major obstacles when it comes to analyzing emotions and situations, concentrating, understanding cause and effect, retaining information, focusing and controlling impulses. 

For more information about adolescent neuroscience, read my blog titled: "10 Adolescent Brain Facts Educators Should Know."

Here is my “TOP 10 List” of things parents can do to increase their child’s happiness and potential for success:

5 Critical Thinking & Comprehension Ideas to Boost Achievement:

1. Predict

Have your child predict what will happen next while reading, watching a show or discussing an event and then analyze whether it was accurate.

2. Retell (first, next, finally)

Ask your student to stop periodically while reading and explain what happened first, next, and finally.

3. Summarize

Encourage your child to explain the who, what, when, where, why and how of an event or reading.

4. Re-read

Get your student into the habit of re-reading portions of text, especially if the text is difficult or confusing.

5. Practice the 3-2-1

After reading or watching an educational program, have your child share 3 ideas he learned, 2 personal connections he can make to the content and 1 comment or question he has about the topic and then you do the same.


5 Ways to Establish an Environment Conducive to Healthy & Happy Brain Development:


6. Establish healthy sleep, nutrition and exercise rituals as a family

Children ages 5-19 need 9-13 hours of sleep every night for healthy brain and body development. If your child has difficulty meeting his/her sleep needs, consider these tips: after dinner, have your child take a warm bath or shower, turn down the lights, turn off the technology and get them into bed and read.  These practices encourage the brain to release melatonin to signal the body to get sleepy.  Also, cut out caffeine, excess sugar and fat (as a family, for best results) and make sure your child is vigorously active for 1-2 hours daily.

7. Implement routines and check-off lists

The young brain is not naturally organized, in fact it is very chaotic! To increase your child's success, implement routines for doing homework, feeding the dog, getting ready for school, doing the dishes, etc. Create check-off lists for kids when they are young so they know exactly what to do each day (without having to yell at them).  

Kids develop a sense of accomplishment when they can check things off their lists.  When my daughters were in elementary school, I had a morning “To-Do” list for my them that included making their beds, eating breakfast, feeding the dogs, and brushing their teeth and hair.  They would have to have all items checked off and be ready by 7:40 each morning and when they had succeeded in doing so all week, we went to the park on Saturday as a reward.

8. Ask open-ended questions

Many times adults ask kids yes or no questions and then we wonder why kids often provide only mono-syllabic responses.  To increase communication and critical thinking, incorporate these phrases into your conversations: how, why, what do you think, or tell me more about…

9. Model explicitly what you want your child to do

Don’t “assumicide” that kids know how to effectively complete a task such as: cleaning their room, organizing their binders, answering the phone or loading the dishwasher.  Explain how to do something, why it should be done that way, model it, have them show you and then provide constructive and encouraging feedback.  

As a parent, we can sometimes become exasperated because something wasn’t done the way we wanted. The developing brain needs explicit modeling and explanation as to why a task needs to be completed a certain way because it does not process cause and effect the way a mature brain does.

10. Read and listen to your child

Make reading to and with your child, even if he is a teenager, a consistent routine.  He learns fluency and inflection from hearing you read and he even wants you to listen to him read.  If he makes a mistake, don't correct unless it affects the comprehension.  Reading is a wonderful bonding experience so take turns reading sections and discuss/question/predict/summarize what is happening.

One last idea to consider: my grandmother told me that God gave us two ears to listen twice as much as our one mouth should talk.  Listen to what your child has to say, ask him what he thinks and don’t jump in to interrupt.  The young brain will communicate extensively when given the opportunity to do so.

There are many things we can do as parents to increase our children's social, emotional and academic confidence and competence; pick a few of these ideas and put them into practice and you will see your student’s attitude and aptitude improve quickly. Julie Adams, Adams Educational Consulting, effectiveteachingpd.com