Learning and emotion are related. Creating a safe environment and making learning fun with fun learning games can support memory and boost achievement.
The primary role of the brain is to make certain the organism is safe. Unless this need is met, optimum learning simply can not take place.
It is critical that we create a safe, homelike environment for the children in our care, an environment that lowers stress and is accepting and supportive of each and every child. In order to feel happy and secure, emotions which can support learning, children must feel they can take risks and be wrong without penalty.
When I had morning bus duty, I often studied the children as they arrived at school. Kindergarten and first grade students emerged from the buses with bright, happy faces, rushing up the steps into the school, eager to begin their day. Clearly, learning was fun for them.
Second and third graders as a general rule followed more slowly, not quite as anxious to reach their classrooms, and so it went until sixth graders brought up the rear, climbing the stairs reluctantly, obviously less than enthusiastic about the day ahead.
This memory encourages me to continue finding ways to make learning fun for my students.
The manner in which we communicate with children is a powerful force in the classroom because it can either foster a positive learning climate OR a negative one. The brain learns best in the absence of threat, and this is where we can begin to improve the culture of our classrooms immediately. And since learning and emotion are related, our children need to be having fun!
Paying attention to the language that we use with children is an important part of creating a safe environment for learning, and this extends to body language and tone of voice as well. Recently I have become even more aware of how intently my children study my face to discover what emotion is accompanying my words. They have learned that often more is communicated non-verbally than verbally. I have learned this, too!
Once children feel safe and secure, in a homelike setting with the absence of threat, they can relax and enter into the learning. Since memory and emotion are housed in the same area of the brain, learning and emotion go "hand in hand" so we must strive to make learning fun for our kids.
Fear is a negative emotion and has the opposite effect on learning. In the presence of fear, the brain goes into survival mode during which acquisition of knowledge cannot take place.
Note: The manner in which we communicate about children is also very important. The words and phrases we use to describe students are often vague and overused, and teacher language that is more clinical may be more beneficial to our work.
LET THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
According to Dr. Fritz Mengert, noted brain researcher and neuro-epistomologist, learning is a process involving three stages:
Acquisition - This first stage of learning consists of gathering material and integrating it into what is already known. This often includes remodeling of what is known based on new information or data.
When we introduce a topic to children, we must activate their prior knowledge of the subject in order for them to link new data to that which is already known. In a sense, they can't learn what they don't already know.
Retention - After new knowledge is acquired, the information must be retained or remembered. There are many strategies and techniques which can help children with memory, a step which deserves time and attention as we work with children.
Purposeful application - In order for learning to be complete, children must be given opportunities to apply what they have learned.
This step is NOT the same as drill and practice!
Purposeful application involves authentic use of the concepts and skills which have been introduced in class. For example, after introducing the concept of perimeter, children might measure and determine the perimeter of the classroom or ball field.
Neuro-cognitive schools provide this kind of authentic application in workshops or clubs which meet in the afternoons. These multi-age workshops, in addition to providing skills application, concentrate on building sight vocabulary as well.