How Teachers Use Brain-based Learning to Motivate Students

The brain is responsible for processing information. When students take in the information during lessons, the brain stores it for future reference. Considering the massive amount of information that students take in daily, there is no doubt that the brain is critical in learning. Teachers can help students by tailoring lessons around natural brain functions for maximum benefits. There are several brain-based teaching strategies that teachers can use to make learning easier for students. 

Use colour for visual stimulation

The brain is highly responsive to art, images and colour. Visual stimulation is critical in learning because it helps the brain process information faster. Students also memorize the information they receive much faster if the brain responds positively. For example, a music teacher can request students to create art to communicate how a particular music genre makes them feel. 

Whenever educators in Singapore undergo professional development of teachers, they are often asked to give students the freedom to find ways to boost their memory. For instance, students can use coloured diagrams to help their brains to make lasting connections. 

Organize learning based on the brain’s cycle

Do you have peak times when your brain is at its best and times when you can barely process any information? We all have periods when we are most productive and moments when we can barely get anything done. This is because the brain operates in cycles. 

These cycles influence when the brain is most likely to process information as students learn. The first 15 minutes of learning are the most productive for students. So, instead of going on and on for an hour non-stop, teachers should instead follow the brain cycle when planning their lessons. 

For example, instead of creating long learning videos, teachers can choose to limit the videos to be 15 minutes long or less. Teachers can also include frequent breaks between lessons to accommodate the brain cycle in the learning process. 

Involve the students in active learning

Another brain-based learning strategy that teachers use is by encouraging students to be more involved during lessons. Active learning stimulates the brain. Students, for example, can take on role-playing as part of learning. This will help cement learning and positively keep the brain engaged. 

Play relaxing music during activities

Music helps the brain to relax and take in more information. Teachers can choose to use music in brain-based teaching to help the students relax and even enjoy the activities in which they are involved. Playing classical music as students read or during a quiz, will help the students think and even remember the lesson because of the soothing music. 

Repeat whenever necessary or to emphasize

When the brain is attempting to memorize, repeating a statement will help it store the information for a longer time. Teachers can make the statements they repeat more fun, so the students can find themselves repeating it because it now sounds familiar. For example, the teacher can create a fun sing-along song to accompany the most critical component of the lesson. 

Singapore carries out periodic professional development of teachers, and brain-based teaching is a critical component of the training. Since students have different levels of understanding, teachers must use multiple teaching methods to increase the likelihood of students understanding the lesson. 

How Singapore Invests in the Teaching Profession

Singapore is revered internationally for its education system, particularly, its achievement in math, literacy and science. Educators from various countries visit Singapore to find out what they do to make their students high achievers.

No country can develop without a robust education system that shapes students to become successful individuals in society. Singapore didn’t just set up policies to guide the education sector, but it also continues to invest in professional development training for teachers

Recruitment of top performers

Singapore’s Ministry of Education considers education as important as any other sector of the economy. So, during the recruitment process, the Ministry picks potential teachers from the top 30% of the graduating class. This is one of the differences between Singapore and many other countries. 

Some countries look at the teaching profession as a fall back career if one doesn’t perform as well as expected. Singapore, on the other hand, has placed great value in teaching that students who graduate top of the class choose a career in education. 

The fact that students want to go into education to train the next generation is not something that happened overnight. This follows deliberate policy decisions that were geared towards building a high-quality workforce for the education sector. 

Central comprehensive centre

In a bid to ensure all teachers receive the same level of training, the Singapore government decided that all potential teachers, whether they are taking a diploma or degree course, should get their training at the National Institute of Education located at the Nanyang Technological University. 

This Institute, in turn, associates with the various schools in the country. It keeps track of the teachers’ performance to help identify exceptional teachers, who are then asked to help train upcoming teachers for a few years. This encourages sustainability, rather than dependence on a few teachers, when there is more untapped talent out there. 

Attractive pay structure

Poorly paid teachers are usually not motivated enough to produce great results. This is why Singapore occasionally reviews the starting salaries for beginner teachers. Besides ensuring the qualified teachers start at the right footing, this also encourages more students to choose a career in education. 

Teachers also receive a pay rise as often as possible. However, since some professionals see their salary rise much faster than the teachers, Singapore has devised programs through which teachers can enrol for additional skills, which ultimately will help them rise to a better pay grade. These programmes include; 

a) Professional Development

All educators in Singapore are entitled to at least 100 hours annual for the professional development of teachers. The teachers have the option of undertaking additional courses at the National Institute of Education to earn a higher degree. 

Alternatively, the teachers can enrol in a school-based programme where school staff developers identify some of the challenges the teachers face and try to provide a solution. For example, suppose the students are not performing well in math, the developers can introduce alternative methods of teaching, such as brain-based teaching, to make it easier for teachers to share knowledge with the students. 

The schools also receive government funding which caters for the teachers’ travel needs when they go to other countries to assess various aspects of the education systems, and policies they can adopt to make education more competitive and rewarding. 

b) Career Development

Singapore does not take chances with talent development. It keeps a close eye on teachers and finds ways to enhance their talent, even after they have been teaching for years. For example, after three years of active teaching, teachers are assessed annually for easy identification when opportunities, such as those of master teachers, research specialists, and school leader arise. 

Teachers who are identified for career advancement are then moved to teams in middle management in preparation for their new roles. These training opportunities prepare the teachers for leadership positions, such as those of the school principal and assistant principals. 

Highly qualified teachers who are exemplary in their work see the fruits of the labour in successful students. This is the best measure of a teacher’s performance. Singapore discourages rigidity and instead encourages the teaches to focus on innovation. This allows teachers to have a mindset that if one teaching method does not work, it is okay to try another, and this has been beneficial to students.  

Tips for Teachers Preparing Brain-based Lesson Plans

When it comes to education, Singapore treats it with the same seriousness it does talent and innovation. After its independence, Singapore didn’t have plenty of natural resources, so it invested in its workforce. This investment doesn’t just take into account people in various fields, but it also focuses on students. 

Today, Singapore is one of Asia’s greatest success stories because the decision to focus on the workforce and education had made this small country achieve world-beating success in math, science, and literacy. This success has been largely due to favourable education policies, including brain-based teaching, and the hiring of high-quality teachers who undergo annual training in professional development for teachers. 

Learn more about professional development for teachers here:

Make brain-based learning practical as well as theoretical

When coming up with lesson plans, teachers need to remember that brain-based teaching does not end with the theoretical lessons in class. Instead, teachers need to make sure that students use the brain-based approaches taught in class in practice. 

For example, instead of creating hypothetical scenarios when giving school assignments, teachers should structure assignments to mirror the challenges students face in their lives. If they can place themselves in any given scenario, students will have an easier time remembering the concepts taught in class. 

Use lessons to help students boost their critical thinking skills

The only way for brain-based teaching to work is if teachers encourage students to think critically about all the challenges that they face. Teachers should encourage students to build on their critical thinking skills by introducing activities and lessons that will encourage students to learn how to solve problems.

Critical thinking skills are not only handy when solving academic problems, but can be quite helpful when dealing with other issues in life. Students are likely to remember their lessons if they participated in the process of finding solutions to the problems presented to them. 

Consider the social aspect of brain-based teaching

Although professional development for teachers often focuses on academic aspects, it is important to remember that students are also social beings. Teachers need to consider the social-emotional development of their students as they structure their lessons. 

Students spend a considerable amount of time in school, and teachers need to endeavour to help students develop all the life skills they need in school and beyond. For instance, teachers can use team-building exercises to assess and encourage student interactions. 

Avoid lesson plans that make students anxious

Lesson structures matter a lot because they often influence student reactions to any particular subject matter. Do you wonder why some students are anxious about one subject but quite responsive to another? Often, it is not how difficult the subject is, but more to do with how the teacher communicates. For students to maintain a positive response towards a lesson, teachers should avoid creating situations that will leave students feeling anxious or helpless.

Develop different teaching strategies

Before developing lesson plans, teachers need to remember that the students are not the same. While others will easily understand complex topics, others will have a difficult time processing simple concepts.

So, instead of coming up with a single lesson plan, the teacher should devise simpler ways to communicate, especially for those who need help understanding the lesson. Using different strategies means more students are likely to understand and even pass their exams. 

Teachers understand the needs of their students best. Therefore, if given the freedom to structure their lesson plans to cater to the needs of every student, performance will improve. Class productivity will also improve as the students will look forward to going to class, knowing that the teacher will use brain-based teaching. 

TT: My Little Superhero

As you know, yesterday I did 101 things around the house all evening, many out in our back yard.  As I finished setting up the little cookout table, I let Maggie play with it.  She pushed the benches together, stood up on them, and shouted

“I Superhero!”

Boy did we get a laugh out of that!  I have never heard her say that before, and I thought it adorable—and kind of ironic considering “Superheroes” are this week’s Theme Thursday theme.

Then tonight, I was talking to a friend tonight about magic.  I think there is magic everywhere in our lives, some of us are just better at spotting it than others. My friend is one of the great ones.  She is such a creative spirit, she just finds the details others can’t see and can spin a wildly captivating story from dust and crumbs.  I am less good at spotting magic in everyday life, as I have a tendency to take things at face value, even if I do look for “universal” explanations for things when I need them.  But I wish I saw magic like she does, the interwoven connections between people and life and earth and universe.  On that she gave me a bit of advice:

“Look at what [Maggie] sees, instead of just admiring her joy.  See the whole picture.  Maggie sees it [magic].  Take her cues.” (Italics are mine.)

Little did my friend know, Maggie and I had one such moment just earlier tonight.

Mags and I were walking into Rite Aid this evening after school.  I was carrying her and laughing, both at how cute she was all covered in smudges and pink cheeks from hanging out in the garage with daddy, and about how she was saying “bye, mama’s jeep, see you in a minute!”.  I smiled at a woman coming out of the store as we were going in.  Maggie looked intently over my shoulder for a second, and she said:


I looked around, and there was no one else in the parking lot.  I asked her “Did you see a princess?  Is she the princess?”  Maggie said “Yes.  Princess.”  And smiled.  I was stunned… where did she get such an idea?  The woman was dressed in standard issue black Rite Aid polo and pants, looked to be about mid-50s, and had chest-length thick (lovely) gray hair.  And my daughter saw a princess.

Even at the time I thought it was such a beautiful moment.

And now, I’m thinking it might have been more.  Maybe Maggie really is a superhero.  Maybe kids really do see the magic in the world.  Maybe that woman really was a princess.  We’ve all written or read or talked before about how children are born so innocent, with a perfect open view of life and the world.  It is us (and the “they”) that paint lines into that view.  Divisions, rules, restrictions.  Children are limitless in what they can see and imagine, until we give them limits.

I think maybe Maggie is a superhero.  I know she is one to me.  She brings magic and joy to my life, and gives me “magic vision”, so I can begin to see the world through her eyes.  She makes me laugh faster than a speeding bullet, she can scale couches in a single bound, spark a smile on the stoniest face, and I think she can see through to the heart of a person.

And you know what?  She was wearing an adorable shirt with a camping picture on it that I absentmindedly put on her late in the day.  And had I thought about it, I wouldn’t have, opting instead to save it for tomorrow since we are doing a camping theme in school right now.  That shirt was actually a gift from the same friend I was talking to about magic… A shirt Mags hasn’t worn in quite a while, because it was in the bottom of her basket.  It seems like a strange coincidence all this would happen at the same time on its own…. the superhero, the shirt, the princess, the magic conversation…

(This is Mags, wearing the shirt at 12.5 mos old… even then she looks like she’s making magic from dust…)

Maybe I can see a little magic in this world, on my own. And to that lovely Rite Aid employee, I believe you ARE a princess.  Because Maggie said so, and that’s good enough for me.


Friday Five (7/12/13)

This week, there have been lots of ups and down floating around me, swirling and dipping in the air.  Some have been lovely and beautiful, some have been heavy and jagged.  Most didn’t pierce me directly, but I felt the air rustle as they went by, hitting those close to me.

In that light, it’s left me with some sadness for those around me, but mostly filled with hope.  Because the hope does always float up to the top, even in the darkest moments.

So based on that, I am going to share with you a couple of lists this week.

Top 5 Honest Moments of the Week:

  1. Glennon from shared some “Brutiful” truths about how she is really feeling right now on her blog, with some wonderful honesty about depression and how some things are good for us even if we don’t always understand why.
  2. This Vlogger shared her response to some “Fat Girl” hate comments in the BEST kind of response.
  3. Parenting is NOT about perfection.  It is about loving through all the beautiful imperfections.
  4. I internet-know a different someone who, due to an ineffectual change in anti-depressant medications actually posted up to ask for advice on taking themselves to the ER for a 72-hr-psych-hold until the medication was righted, due to thoughts they were having.  Things worked out, but I thought it was so very brave of them to admit this, and to ask for help.
  5. Here’s my more lighthearted bit of honesty about how life often gets in the way of what we really wish we were doing.  Like writing.

To 5 Happy Things this Week:

  1. Theme Thursday this week was Superheroes!  I think Maggie, and all kids, are Superheroes.  And I haven’t stopped thinking about the “Princess” she spotted.
  2. My blog reached over 200 total followers, which is kind of amazing, and THANKS to all of you!
  3. We came across this at a preschool trip to the park this week, and I thought it was kinda beautiful, these chalk drawings someone did and left for us to find.


4.  My girl is learning so many garage words with daddy.  She picked this up, and said “Bolt!”  ♥

5.  We went and checked out a nearby city, one that’s smaller and a bit more “country” than where we live right now, and we all loved it.  I think we may have found where we lay down our (family’s version of) homesteading roots, in a year or two.

My Top 5 Tips for When Things Get Tough:

  1. Admit that you can’t do it all, and even if you can’t ask for help, DON’T turn it down when it arrives.  If you can, ASK for help.
  2. Breathe, and take a moment to remember how it felt when times were good.  This is just a dip in the many curves of life, and things will always turn back up again.  Hold tight to the memory of those happy feelings and know IT WILL COME BACK.
  3. Give yourself a long length of slack.  This moment does not define who you are as a parent/spouse/friend/person, nor will it stand to represent ALL of who you are.  You can get through this, even if it takes 5 gallons of ice cream, or 5 hours of TV a day for your kids, or 5 meals in a row of cereal, or 5 days with no clean laundry.
  4. Talk about it.  Share with someone close to you, blog about it, vlog about it, call someone, meet for coffee, write about it, find a forum/blog/chat room and log in anonymously and talk to them, talk to your cat/dog/bird/ferret/ the spider in your entryway.  Giving the tough times a voice makes YOU stronger, and lightens the weight.
  5. KNOW that you are loved.  There are people who love, you, who need you, who care so very much about you.  More than you could ever count right now.  You WILL come out of the tough times stronger than when you went in, and they will be there every step of the way, in person and in spirit, supporting you and cheering you on.


Sending you all love and wishes for a peaceful weekend!  Next week should be an exciting one, so stay tuned!

On Birthdays

So, I’ve had differing ideas of what I wanted to say today.  Birthdays always put me in a bit of a pensive mood…  Thinking back on the things that have happened, things happening now, things yet to come.  I’ve never been one who is super big on celebrating my birthday… things often tend to go wrong in some way, so I try to keep my expectations low and it never disappoints.

People often have crises on their “0″ birthdays… 30, 40, 50, 60….  But I had mine last year when I turned 35.  It was kinda scary, officially hitting middle 30s, not identifying myself as “young” 30s anymore, feeling that crunch age of trying to decide do I have more kids before I enter the risk-factor-zone, or do I run for president…  and it was overwhelming to me.  I got over it, obviously, and so far have decided on neither.

This year, I am met with a weird sense of calm…  36 is less scary than 35, but not too close to 40 to worry about that crisis.  I feel okay about where my life is.  I have my family of 3 plus 2 dogs, my daughter is almost 2 and still alive, and about to become a “preschooler” instead of a “toddler”.  I have my own business with my preschool, so I get the best of both worlds (theoretically) getting to be home with my girl but also work.

This past year has taught me some about being okay with where I am in life, and I’ve taken steps to try to be happy with who I am, just as I am, not happy with who I could be.  I’ve found a greater sense of honesty, and am starting to come to terms with the fact that I canNOT, in fact, do everything on my own.  I still try, though.  I just still suck at it.  Cupcake is still here, ornery as ever.  I wish I was healthier, and massed less.  I was on a good path to that, though an apparent soy sensitivity derailed that for a while–

–speaking off, who DOES that?  Starts a strict diet plan, only to find it was a bit too strict.  Wanting to uphold the gluten and dairy free thing that brings most people better health, I switched to soymilk in my coffee.  And you know what?  I have had bloating and stomach pain for a week and a half, with a several-times-a-day Pepto habit, until I figured out it was the soymilk.  Stopped it Sunday morning, and the last 2 days have been fine.  WTF??  I’m the only person on the planet who gets sicker when they eat healthier.  If that’s not a huge billboard statement from Cupcake, then I don’t know what is…  luckily chocolate almond milk seems fine, and I’m only medium bitter that I have to avoid Starbucks for a while…–

Oh, and if you were wondering, I had 3 orangesicle cookies for my birthday today, and I feel just fine thankyouverymuch.  I’m also looking forward to takeout sushi for dinner!  Yum.  You’re welcome, Cupcake.


36.  36 years ago Apple incorporated to become Apple, Inc, Star Wars opened in theaters, Elvis died, Voyager 1 was launched, The Food Stamp Act of 1977 was enacted, Harvey Milk was elected, The rings of Uranus were discovered, and I was born.  (Sadly, my birthday was NOT included in Wikipedia’s 1977 summary).

Well, I can’t say I’ve come as far as Apple Inc, or done as much alive as Elvis has done deceased, nor do I have as many rings as Uranus, and I can’t say too much for anything I did in my 20s besides finish college, but I’m still here.  And as a whole, I’m happy.  I guess that’s something, because I couldn’t always say that on my birthday.

Happy Birthday, Cupcake.