Note from Founder: This is a special guest post from Sally DeCost of Elementary Matters She has been teaching for 34 years in the state of New Hampshire and has taught PreK until 8th grade.
Hi, I’m Sally from Elementary Matters. I’m honored to be guest blogging for The Filipino Teacher!
I am fascinated by the brain. I’m amazed by how it works, and what a flexible organ it is. Every brain is different, and every brain has the potential to develop and grow stronger.
Just like the athletes in the Olympics have to keep their bodies in top shape, learners need to take good care their brains to keep them in top working order. Here are some strategies for Brain Fitness:
Get exercise! The brain needs oxygen. It uses 20% of the oxygen that comes into the body. That’s a lot of oxygen! The best way to keep the oxygen flowing to the brain is to keep the blood moving.
And, of course, the best way to keep the blood moving is through exercise. That doesn’t just mean a 30 minute Phys. Ed. class once a week, or a 15 minute recess once a day. It means the body should get up and move at several times through the day.
Eat brain food! Foods high in antioxidants and Omega 3 oils are great for the brain. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, carrots, berries, fish, chocolate, and dark green vegetables such as spinach are recommended for brain health.
Personally, I’d rather give my students chocolate or pumpkin seeds than fish and spinach, but watch out for that sugar!
Get enough sleep! I keep reading about how lack of sleep can actually damage the brain. As teachers, we can’t give our students time to sleep, but hopefully some communication with the home will bring this need to a family’s attention.
The experts recommend 10 to 12 hours for children ages 3 – 6, 10 to 11 hours for children ages 7 – 12, and 8 to 9 hours for children ages 12 – 18.
Deal with stress! Even if we can’t avoid stress, we can certainly help our students develop ways to deal with stress.
Frequent brain breaks are helpful, especially if they involve stress reducing activities like breathing techniques, yoga or meditation strategies.
Learn something new! The brain needs to be constantly making new connections and dendrites in order for brain fitness to continue.
Teaching the students something new is already part of our job, but making suggestions for them to try something new on their own time might inspire a new talent!
Of course, it’s not too late for the teachers to model new learning to maintain our own brain fitness as well as be role models for our students.
Learn a new language. Take up golf or ballroom dancing. Learn to play the violin. Learn to play backgammon.
Change your routine! Don’t let the brain become too accustomed to one way, or it will work less hard. Have math at a different time.
Switch around the morning routine. Have the children try writing with their non-dominant hand.
Listen to music! There are a lot of studies proving how music helps the brain form new paths and connections. I play a lot of music in my classroom, from rock and roll to classical.
I suggest music with lyrics and faster tempos be used sparingly, for example during brain breaks. I find music with a slower tempo and no lyrics helps the children concentrate and focus for independent work.
Laugh! Laughter brings oxygen to the brain and releases endorphins, which are nature’s stress fighters and pain relievers.
Everyone could use more laughter in their lives, so bring out those joke books!
Avoid sugar! Actually, some sugar is necessary for the brain to function, but that sugar is easily found in the complex carbohydrates in our diet such as fruit and vegetables.
The body can easily digest these and produce a steady stream of glucose to the brain.
Refined sugars, such as those found in sodas, candy, cookies, and many processed foods, are already broken down, and go straight to the bloodstream. This produces a sugar rush, then a “sugar crash” which makes a person tired and unable to focus.
This crash deprives the brain (as well as other organs) of the energy needed to function properly.
Watch less TV! There’s nothing wrong with a little TV; in fact, it can be informational and educational.
However, when the TV becomes a “babysitter” and consumes a large part of one’s day, brain function begins to decline.
Too much TV is said to be responsible for shorter attention spans and loss of valuable brain development. TV also consumes valuable time which could be devoted to exercise, developing social skills, or reading.
Drink plenty of water! Water is essential for all parts of the body to function, especially the brain.
Encourage games that use these skills and your students will develop the skills they need for success in school, and in life!
Take good care of your brain. Imagine where you’d be without it!