Brain Research for Amazing Learning

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What can we do to help students learn more and better? You need to know how the brain works and what is needed for amazing learning.

Information on this page is taken from workshops conducted by Dr. BethAnn Pratte at the Penn State York Literacy Institute and the book Brain Rules by John Medina.


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Attention: Brain Research for Learning

1. A child’s attention span = Age in Years (i.e. a 5 year old will have about a 5 minute attention span)

2. Attention spans can be lengthened by incorporating movement or exercise.

3. The brain seeks connections to past memories (background knowledge) and learning as well as patterns.

4. Children learn through talking.

5. The brain can learn difficult concepts more easily through music. Check out Best Songs for Learning Letters and Sounds.

Sleep-Can it help with learning?

Why is sleep important? Because neurons are highly active during sleep, replaying what was learned that day.

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Recommended Amounts of Sleep for Learning

  1. Elementary students need 10 hours.
  2. Middle School students need 9.5-10 hours
  3. High School students need 9 hours

Results of Lack of Sleep for Learning

*Loss of facts and knowledge- declarative knowledge is programmed into the brain during the last 2 hours of sleep

*Symptoms of ADHD- hyperactivity, difficulty focusing and/or concentrating, lack of attention


*Increases appetite

*Increases chance of Type II Diabetes

*Impacts logical reasoning and motor dexterity

Nutrition-How to help learning.

*Limit carbohydrates, particularly white, refined flours. Go for whole wheat, whole grains as much as possible.

*Limit/avoid all processed foods/sugars.

*Increase intake of fatty acids (fish, almonds, walnuts, avocados).

*Eat lean proteins.

*Increase intake of fresh/frozen vegetables and fruits. Variety is key.

Hydration-Why is water important?

Because water is a natural conductor of electricity neurons in the brain need water to communicate. Therefore, properly hydrated students learn 20% more information than those who are not properly hydrated.

As a matter of fact, lack of water is the main cause of daytime fatigue, but it can also cause issues with short-term memory, basic math solving, and difficulty focusing.

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Exercise-How does exercise help with learning?

Exercisers outperform sedentary people in every mental test. Therefore; have kiddos get more gross motor movement in the classroom…check out  How to Build Gross Motor in the Classroom.

Obviously it gets blood to your brain, thus bringing more energy and oxygen. Exercise allows the brain to rid body of toxins and stimulates the neural connections.

Exercise while learning new information allows kiddos to learn quicker and retain more information.

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Helps with concentration, impulse control, problem solving, and memory. Check out ways to help with listening skills.

Modeling-Why should you show to help learning?

*The brain has “mirror neurons” which allows us to learn through watching others.

*Modeling is practice without actually doing the activity.

*Visualization and self talk can increase chance of success.

*Mirror neurons are the reason children do as we do, and not as we say.

I hope you’ve found this information about how the brain works helpful. If you have any additional tips that might help a teacher, please comment.

Teach Magically,


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Unknown

    Thank you for sharing. I'm just fascinated with the brain and how it works!

    1. Debora Marines

      I know Jen! So am I.

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