Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice

Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice

Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice

Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice


Everyone agrees that what we do in schools should be based on what we know about how the brain learns. Until recently, however, we have had few clues to unlock the secrets of the brain. Now, research from the neurosciences has greatly improved our understanding of the learning process, and we have a much more solid foundation on which to base educational decisions.

In this completely revised and updated second edition, Patricia Wolfe clarifies how we can effectively match teaching practice with brain functioning. Encompassing the most recent and relevant research and knowledge, this edition also includes three entirely new chapters that examine brain development from birth through adolescence and identify the impact of exercise, sleep, nutrition, and technology on the brain.

Brain Matters begins with a "mini-textbook" on brain anatomy and physiology, bringing the biology of the brain into context with teaching and learning. Wolfe describes how the brain encodes, manipulates, and stores information, and she proposes implications that recent research has for practice--why meaning is essential for attention, how emotion can enhance or impede learning, and how different types of rehearsal are necessary for different types of learning.

Finally, Wolfe introduces and examines practical classroom applications and brain-compatible teaching strategies that take advantage of simulations, projects, problem-based learning, graphic organizers, music, active engagement, and mnemonics. These strategies are accompanied by actual classroom scenarios--spanning the content areas and grade levels from lower elementary to high school--that help teachers connect theory with practice.


Imagine that you are pushing a grocery cart in the produce section of your local supermarket. As you see yourself walking down the wide, well-lit aisle, visualize the neatly ordered bins, each containing a different fruit or vegetable. Can you see the vivid dark purple of the eggplant? Can you smell the ripe peaches? Imagine yourself reaching the bin containing the cabbages. Pick up a big solid head and place it in the hanging scale. You read the numbers on the scale and see that your head of cabbage weighs about three pounds.

Your ability to mentally reproduce the above scenario—complete with all the sights, tactile sensations, smells, and sounds—is the result of the interaction of millions of neurons in a brain weighing about the same as that large head of cabbage. Isn’t this an amazing organ that allows you not only to experience the world outside its bony casing but also to be aware of and discuss the experiences? To start to understand it, let’s begin our tour of the human brain by looking at its basic structural and functional unit, the cell.

Starting at the Beginning: The Cells

The entire body is composed of cells. The muscles, lining of the intestines, bones, skin, and brain are all made up of billions of these basic units. Each cell or group of cells has a specific job to perform.

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