The brain and learning

Lesson powerpoint here

  • Provide students with the two learning challenges (or any others you can think of) and give them 5 minutes. Test them and see how successful they were.
  • Talk to the students about what it is like to learn, especially if it’s something new and difficult. What does it feel like? How do they do it? Are there different types of learning?
  • Play the ‘neurotransmitter synapse 3D animation’ to illustrate what happens in our brain cells when they form connections: learning.
  • Using the lesson powerpoint and play-doh, take students through the process of learning. Ask them to use the play-doh to make neural connections between axons and dendrites, to form synapses (worms joined together works fine!) Point out that (hopefully) the process they are thinking about is actually taking place in their brains at that moment, as they learn about it.
  • Emphasise two points: 1. the role of positive emotion and reward in releasing dopamine and 2. neuro-plasticity, the idea that our brain is constantly capable of learning.

Improving learning

  • Ask students to pay very close attention to the effect of positive emotions, exercise, reward and repeated practice on learning: these four things together should increase learning power. Ask them to experiment with these ingredients, especially in areas where they find learning difficult.
  • Here is some information on the brain and learning and how we can maximise the conditions for good learning.

Prep: ask the students to improve their learning in one area using the tips from the information about learning and to write about their experience.