Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Review of Brain Based Core Principles

Brain-based Core Principles 

This process of creating a brain-based learning environment is not simple. It is complex, it requires a deliberate shift and not returning to the old mindset. Green, (1999) states that when information is skill driven,  you will have a classroom focused on memorization, repetition and regurgitation. Green states that if you want a successful brain-based learning classroom, it must be founded in the understanding that memory is enhanced when facts and skills are presented naturally through multiple experiences shaped by reflection as well as through collaboration. It is all about creating meaning, mutual respect and acceptance.


Caine and Caine (2005) outline twelve principles for developing a brain-based approach at any school. This came after numerous experiments and studies on basic principles for classroom instruction. It involved stepping into classrooms, talking to the teachers, looking at the environments and their previous studies and research on brain development.

The first principle is to realize that the brain is a parallel processor. Like the brain, teaching in the classroom should be based on many methods and techniques, not just one. Many tools in the toolbox are needed so that students can perform many functions simultaneously.

The second principle is that the learning that happens engages the entire physiology. Therefore, brain-based teaching must fully incorporate learning that is done by the natural body and the brain. Learning benchmarks based on age are bound to be incorrect because everyone develops at their own rate.

The third principle is that of recognizing that the search for meaning is the drive for learning. Asking deep reflective questions instead of yes or no questions will encourage this as well as using the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy process.

The fourth principle is that meaning occurs through patterns. Learners are always making patterns of one kind or another. Teachers need to learn to present information in a way that allows the brain to create patterns.

The fifth principle is that emotions are critical to patterns. The feelings and attitudes presented by students need to be honored by the teachers because it affects their learning. The learning climate needs to be that of respect and acceptance as well as reflection.

The sixth principle is that every brain perceives and creates parts and wholes. This is vital for teaching because chunking information will help with retaining and understanding. Learning in isolation will result in regurgitated learning. Create meaning by chunking.


The seventh principle is that focused attention and peripheral perception are part of learning. This means that in a brain-based classroom, a teacher needs to use visuals, transition signals, and understand how music plays key role in the classroom atmosphere.

The eighth principle is that learning always involves both conscious and unconscious processing. Active processing is vital for the students in a classroom to learn. It helps them take charge of their learning as well as understand how they learn. Reflection is essential to learning.

Photo: 8 Intelligences:
The ninth principle is that we have two types of memory. One is called a spatial memory system and the other is simply a system created for rote learning. In the classroom, so many teachers are focused on learning facts. Too much of this does not transfer learning. It is not sticky learning. It actually can confuse the learner instead and stall growth.

The tenth principle states that the brain understands best when facts and skills are embedded. The way to do this is to invoke spatial memory. This is done best through experiences and real life activity in the classroom. It is bringing teaching alive through visuals, demonstrations, field trips, and performances.

The eleventh principle is learning is enhanced by challenges and stunted by threats. Striving to have a safe learning environment means the threats perceived by the children are low and the challenge to learn is high. This is done through the attitude of the teacher themselves and modeling that attitude for the students. It is also done in the way lessons are delivered in the classroom.

The final principle outlined by Caine and Caine is that each brain is unique.  Due to that uniqueness, classrooms should have many choices and present many ways to learn information. Classrooms should attract learners and celebrate their individual interests.

In summary, Caine and Caine believe that brain-based learning is simply moving from memorized facts to meaningful understanding. It is a way of allowing the learner to be fully alive. It is an approach that benefits all aspects of education.

Kaufman Kaufman, E. K., Robinson, J., Bellah, K., Akers, C., Haase-Wittler, P., & Martindale, L. (2008), devised an acronym for brain-based learning to keep in mind as a teacher prepares lessons.

  • Brain’s Time Clock: Keep rhythm by alternating spatial and verbal commands.
  • Repetition: Use previewing and reviewing strategies.
  • Active Learning: Increase blood flow through physical movement
  • Images: Enrich the visual learning environment.
  • Novelty: Stimulate the brain with new approaches.
  • Be Colorful: Facilitate retention and motivation by color-coding.
  • Automatic Learning: Recognize the influence of non-verbal communication.
  • Social Brain: Exploit opportunities for cooperative learning.
  • Elicit Emotions: Create opportunities for emotional engagement.
  • Develop Thinking Skills: Engage learners in problem solving.

Successful and effective teachers never stop looking for different ways to improve student engagement to raise achievement. Though there are many specific model or methods, brain-based learning is one model that is gaining momentum now. Studying research on the brain and how it affects learning can change the way teachers maximize the learning experience in the classroom. 

Call To Action:
  • Try out Geniushour in your classroom this year.
  • Send out a letter to your parents to evaluate their children's 8 intelligences (here's a link) .
  • Ponder how you can use the 8 intelligences and brain-based education to help increase academic achievement and create a strong culture of learning in your classroom.

Kimberly Hurd Horst, Education Professional 
Isanti, MN United States of America

Caine, G., McClintic, C., & Klimek, K. (2005). 12 brain/mind learning principles in action. R. N. Caine (Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Green, F. E. (1999). Brain and learning research: Implications for meeting the needs of diverse learners. EDUCATION-INDIANAPOLIS-, 119, 682-687.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. Basic Books.

Kaufman, E. K., Robinson, J., Bellah, K., Akers, C., Haase-Wittler, P., & Martindale, L. (2008). Engaging students with brain-based learning.ACTEonline. Retrieved September, 2, 2011

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Oh, For The Love

When I decided I was going to be a teacher, it was when I was a little girl living in Colombia, South America teaching my dolls and stuffed animals because of my love of singing. It was pressed on my heart through the love of my parents both teachers and the love of my first grade teacher, Miss King to understand my place in this great big world.
When I started teaching in 1994, it was for the love of teaching. As I have continued teaching, it has transitioned into, for the love of deep meaningful learning. As I move into a new phase of teaching, seeking to work outside the classroom as well, as an education advocate and as a presenter on Multiple Intelligences and brain based learning,  it is for the love of positive change.

For the love. We do things for the love and love is something we have in ourselves and we give it away. No one steals it from us.

I teach for the love.

Which is direct contrast to what is happening outside my realm of power with the ongoing and steamrolling power that multi-billion dollar companies are "investing" in children. That is also for the love, but it is for the love of money. They are making big, big money off of children. 

Earnings of the top three: 2013


I went to  and there I learned that in the year 2013, total adjusted operating profit was 736 million GBP so I used Google to show me what that looked like in USD. The answer:  $1,260,852,640.00 That is their adjusted operating profit.  (I just wanted to write the number out.)

CTB McGraw-Hill:

I Googled information and found at Media Data Base that their profit was 4,875 billion for 2013.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 
I looked all over and found this information from Digital Book World and there I learned that the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was $325 million for 2013.

All three of these companies seemed to have looked at the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as a open door to make a profit. (Alternet shares that Pearson actually owns the Connections Academy which is a online for profit charter school. Did you know that? I didn't.)

This all brings me to my point. My children are not nor are the students entrusted in my care validated through a test. I am fighting my own frustration as it hits the wall with educational agendas that seem to be all about for the love of testing and for the love of money, not for the love of learning.

There is a difference.

Yes, the test will show "growth" on some educational level of some kind. Yes, I am well trained on how to use testing data to help drive the children's learning. Yes, I can also explain the data to the parents without using edu-lingo. I can even read the results of a test upside down so that the families can read it right side up.

I will have to give tests that I don't like. I will have to give them many, many times this year taking away from class time upwards to 20 hours or more for the whole school year. However, I am resolved that testing is not the end all, and I will let the students know that, yes, they want to do their best, but the test is just a snapshot, not the whole picture. That's the problem with standardized testing. That is the problem with the culture of testing that we are living in. Oh, for the love of testing.

For me, it is and will always be about:  for the love of deep meaningful learning to bring about the greatest change and raise achievement scores because the students are learning in a way that is tailored to them. Deep, meaningful learning which no amount of data from any standardized test nor any curriculum can ever provide. 


I am getting ready to kick off this school year. This year I will be mostly in third grade and I have a wonderful co-teacher (our recent model for some classes for the past few years) and I really am excited for all the possibilities.

This is how I propose a culture of learning. It is using with deep intention a Revised Bloom's Taxonomy and Multiple Intelligences matrix. (I found it here.)

The use of this matrix as this framework will help me as I continue to sow seeds of learning. If I do my absolute best to teach in a way so that all students can learn and as I seek to understand the uniqueness of each student entrusted to me, I will see growth. I will see true learning.

  • It is continuing to use passion time or as I call it Geniushour.
  • It is honoring each step that the student makes.
  • It is falling in love with the process of learning. 
  • It is making connections and understanding how the world fits together.
  • It is giving the students a voice in their own learning journey.
  • It is nurturing and growing learners through compassion (note my blog post here). 
Call to Action :

What do you do for the love?
How does that impact you in the classroom?
How do you balance out the zealous testing with meaningful learning?

Kimberly Hurd Horst, Education Professional 
Isanti, MN United States of America

The Gift of Compassion

I had the honor to write for my friend Oliver Schinkten over on his blog ComPassion Based Learning. Though I could copy it and put it right here and maybe in a year or so I will, why don't you head on over to his wonderful blog, look around and read my article while you are there! 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How Big Is Your Yes?

I used to live along the East Coast where fireflies danced around us all summer long. We would run around and catch them, put them in jars and marvel. There are  a few lesson  that the fireflies want to tell us and how to capture them is not one.

Balance: They hold their forewings called elytra out for balance.

Balance is so important in life. Too much of anything or not enough of something can make you sick either physically, spiritually or emotionally. Life does get out of balance. Its easy to do. We hear the voices of lies calling us to stay so busy. Too busy for our own good. Being out of balance ruins relationships, empties your spirit and leaves you exhausted wondering where you went astray.

Be a light: They produce their own heat without wasting heat energy. 

Being a light in a dark place is not easy. It will take a lot of grit. Sometimes, we will have to stand alone and not follow the popular crowd. Sometimes it means our light its there for someone else to follow. Even one little light will light up a dark night and so can we.

When you capture the firefly and put it in a container and it will soon stop lighting, it knows its trapped and this will lead to death. 

Trapped! I think we have all felt trapped. We are trapped in traps others made for us and we believed their lies. We are trapped in situations that feel like are sucking the life out of us. We feel trapped in a season that seems never to change. We trap ourselves by our fixed mindset. We trap ourselves because we do not tell ourselves the truth. 

Untrapping yourself is NOT easy, it is feels more like how I imagine a caterpillar feels as it is hanging upside down in the dark wondering what is going on as its insides are turning into mush. The journey from caterpillar to butterfly is filled with pain, but beauty will arise. 

I will admit, I have felt trapped. More than once. More than twice!!! Sometimes that season has felt like a lifetime. Now I am untrapping myself, again but in a different way.

At school, I have encouraged students to believe in themselves and I have used the You Matter Manifesto from Angela Maiers. I have spoken these words over the students aloud, in my hearts to them, and in posters. I have asked students to explore their own genius as Joy Kirr has encouraged me to do. 

Together these two core elements of my life as well as my faith have created a wonderful passion in my life to serve. It came from this GHO about a year ago when Joy, Angela, and I along with our friends from our PLN, Oliver Shinkten, Garnet Hillman, Mark Moran, and Justin Staub  met together. A firefly found the synchronicity it was looking for. There are a many lights lighting up the night together with #geniushour and #youmatter. 

My Own Geniushour and My Own You Matter: A place where genius and compassion come together to be the change.

I went back to school to get my M.Ed in K-12 education because I want to become an educational advocate. I believe that hope + compassion + education = change and I believe as my friend Jimmy Casas and my godfather Hal Roberts keep reminding me that we are called to be the change, and I am compelled. 

I want to be led to non profit organizations that work with women and children coming out of sex trafficking and out of domestic violence. I have a plan now, but I also know plans take time to evolve and I know just when you think you have a plan, God has another. 

But as I was chatting briefly with Rik Rowe and Salome Thomas-El, I was reminded that God just wants our YES. This fits in so well with my motto for 2014 which was to BE BRAVE. 

How big is YOUR yes because right now, mine is pretty big. My faith tells me that God can do amazing things when someone surrenders their plan for his. That in the end, is all I want. In the end, I know that my exploration of my own #geniushour, my own passion time, my own mix of passion and compassion is my process from not only untrapping myself, but to make a difference in this very big world. It really only takes one light. 

Here are some statistics about why from Women's Foundation of Minnesota:

  • The FBI has identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 U.S. cities with a high incidence rate of child prostitution. 
  • By very conservative measures, a November 2010 study found that each month in Minnesota at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services. This number does not include hotel, street or gang activity. 
  • A November 2010 study found that on any given weekend night in Minnesota, 45 girls under age 18 are sold for sex through the internet classified websites and escort services. 
  • In 2010, investigators from three states determined that Minneapolis was the home base of a large domestic prostitution (sex trafficking) ring comprised of three generations of one Minnesota family that was prostituting (trafficking) mostly young girls across the United States. 
  • About 50% of adult women interviewed as part of a 2010 study focused on North Minneapolis stated that they first traded sex when they were under the age of 18, with the average age at 13. 
  • In just one 72-hour sting over the summer, an FBI-led operation rescued 105 children and netted 152 pimps in 76 cities nationwide, including four alleged pimps in the Twin Cities.


  • Be Brave
  • Say Yes
  • Create your very own journey because you do matter and you do have a gift to give to the world. The world needs YOU. 
Do Something!!! Matthew West

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Brain Based Learning: A Reflection

Brain Based Learning: 

Brain based learning is a model for a systematic way of approaching new data and optimizing learning. Brain based learning ties in the Howard Gardner (1999) theory of Multiple Intelligences (linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, musical, body/kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal). Brain based learning recognizes that emotions are linked to learning. It realizes that the human brain is a pattern maker. The human brain loves to take random seemingly disconnected items and from that generate order. Brain based learning recognizes that the best learning comes through balance.
In the classroom, brain based learning looks like an orchestra. There are many parts to play, a specific set of notes special for uniquely each student. There might be an alto sax or a tenor sax or even a bass sax for example and even though they come from the same family and they play the same melody, they will have different notes to play. Apart from the other instruments they will make music but the song will not be as beautiful as when all the instruments play their notes that are specifically designed for them because when they play as a complete orchestra, the genius created is astoundingly breath taking.
The conductor of the orchestra, the teacher or as I prefer to be called, the lead learner, takes great time in making sure each note is played accurately, to make sure the instruments are in tune and to verify that the members of the orchestra are all playing the same song. It is a lot of work for the conductor. It is frankly exhausting. So much energy goes into desiring success for each instrument, for each learner. The conductor, the teacher or the lead learner,  keeps the rhythm, and knows the songs deep within their soul, the know the standards and the curriculum. They know the expectations for each learner and there is a plan. The conductor helps those who make squeaky notes, by having wonderful opportunities for great practice with intent as needed. Hours and hours, days and months go by and the song in the conductors heart blends with the sounds from the instruments and the hearts of the orchestra members. Another year of hard work comes to a close. 

Peter Durland:
When it comes to brain based learning, it is important to recognize that reading and literacy is more than comprehension or a test. It is more than decoding or basic skills. Literacy is about environment. Literacy is about brain based learning using the Multiple Intelligences and the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. Literacy is about engagement. Literacy is about going outside the box of what old traditions have told you and entering a 21st Century world of learning. 

It is time to break free from the mandated and prepackaged curriculum that is geared toward state testing, but ignores true engagement. In Seth Godin’s manifesto called Stop Stealing Dreams: What Is School For? (2012), He argues that the top down industrialized way we "do school" is killing the dreams of learners and something has to change. 

Godin examines the idea of school as it was set up since the Industrial Revolution when in 1918 it was mandatory for children to attend school, as way to prepare students for working in factories. This is no longer the case. Yes, it worked for awhile, but it's not producing the type of learners we need today. Today Godin states, we need students who are aware, caring, committed, creative, goal setters, honest, improvising, incisive, independent, initiating, innovating, insightful, leading, strategic as well as supportive.

This all in contrast to what many schools desire in their factory based outcome of being obedient. This reinvention of school is what is best for all learners. It is important to make school different, to make connections and not learn in isolation. This is a connected world we are in and to help them make this connection stronger, teachers need to be the answer. It is true as Godin states in his manifesto, that teachers who care can reach students who will care.

*These thoughts are part of my thesis: Brain Based Learning and Literacy Achievement for Boys, in fulfillment of my M.Ed K-12 through Bethel University, St. Paul. Sincerely, Kimberly*