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Wildly Successful Metacognition Lesson!

(To see the post with accompanying photos, please visit my blog at http://www.fortheloveofteaching.net.  I can't get the pictures on the ning to look right.)
Today my class was featured in an article in The Edmond Sun.  The reporter discussed our growing class brain in her article.  This has prompted questions from other interested teachers, so I’ve decided to give an update. The Edmond Sun article is here: Students Give Thumbs Up for Brain-Based Teaching.  (The article was also promoting a free BrainSMART informational session this Tuesday, March 1st.  If you are in the OKC area and are interested in brain-based teaching email nsu@brainsmart.org to reserve a spot.)
The Brain
Earlier this school year I was inspired by one of my BrainSMART classes to create a lesson on metacognition. I did a post about the lesson here: metacognition lesson.  In that lesson, students twisted pipe cleaners together to represent related concepts and subjects.  Next the pipe cleaners were connected to show how information connects in the brain.  It became our class brain!  Our brain has continued to grow all year.  Students love it!
The Update
Once the class brain was constructed and strategically located (see the previous article for the process), we were able to begin adding new connections.  We periodically gather around the brain to reflect on new learning and how it connects to what the students already know.  When a student proposes a new connection, I give the student three pipe cleaners to twist into an axon. I also quickly make a label for it on a small rectangle piece of paper. (Otherwise I forget…oh, the irony!) I fold piece of paper over the completed axon (pipe cleaners) and staple it. Then the new axon is attached to the appropriate connection in the brain.  As each student proposes a new connection, the process repeats itself. 

Some things I have learned:
  • ·      I connect the new axons to the brain myself.  The more complex the brain gets, the more difficult it is for 2nd graders to get into it.  Upper-grade students might not have this issue.
  • ·      I write the labels myself to help me keep track of things.
  • ·      I write the label on both sides of the small paper so it can be seen from more than one viewpoint.  That becomes very important later as the brain gets more complex!
  • ·      Hang the brain low enough where students can interact with it, in a location with no regular traffic.

The Result
By using this method, we are continually reviewing things learned all year.  For example, when studying China, students made a connection from the invention of paper to an earlier lesson on Sequoyah since Sequoyah invented a writing system for the Cherokee people.  While making connections about the Erie Canal students made a connection from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi.  The length of the Mississippi had them connecting it to the Nile, Amazon, and Yellow Rivers.  They learned about the Amazon and Yellow Rivers earlier in the year, and the Nile in first grade. See the growing connections?
To add to the fun, former students of mine come by frequently to see the brain grow.  They are intrigued by the connections and beg to make their own.  

Finally
This metacognition lesson continues to be wildly successful.  This has provided a fun way to review and solidify learning all year. 

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