Teaching Tips

You are currently browsing the archive for the Teaching Tips category.

It is exciting when BrainWise instructors seek to interest parents in learning the 10 Wise Ways! Jon Livengood, a Mental Health Professional and a new BrainWise instructor, is working with children in grades K-8. He introduced BrainWise in a Therapeutic Summer Program in Warren, Pennsylvania, and sent an email requesting help so that he could better provide support to parents.

“I am writing to inform you of the successes we (our Therapeutic Summer Program) are having using the BrainWise curriculum.  The children have taken to it very well. 

I am working on a short presentation for the parents and guardians to introduce to them the concepts of BrainWise and how the information their children are learning will be weaved into our treatment.  In particular it will give a common language for them to use with their children forever for solving problems.”

This complements the long-term goal of BrainWise — to provide graduates with thinking skills that will help them live happy and productive lives.  The drawing below by a BrainWise graduate in China beautifully illustrates how this works.

Arrows Before

Arrows AfterYou will always have problems, but BrainWise skills help you deflect them.

 


 

Ways to Help Parents Reinforce BrainWise

Here are suggestions and teaching aids that will help you involve parents in teaching and reinforcing the 10 Wise Ways with their children at home.

Hold a BrainWise Parent Session.

Present an overview of the program using the 10 Wise Ways posters or contact BrainWise for a PowerPoint presentation of the 10 Wise Ways. As you present each poster, ask the parents what they think the concept means before you give a short explanation.

After you explain each concept, introduce a short activity for each Wise Way.   For example, for Wise Way #1, Wizard Brain over Lizard Brain, hand out brain worksheets in the curriculum, or a copy of the BrainWise CPR brain worksheet (contact info here to get BW CPR brain worksheet). Explain the five senses, the thalamus, the Lizard Brain and Wizard Brain. Have the parents draw a line connecting the thalamus to the Wizard Brain.

Here is an example that uses Wise Way #5, Ask Questions.  Use the riddle in the curriculum, “She turned, looked at him, and ran.”  This is an engaging activity and can be done quickly. Remember, if one of the parents asks the right question, say, “That’s a good question; we will get back to it.” Move on, and get more questions from the group before you reveal the answer.

As you review each wise way, have the parents draw a connection on their brain picture for each one.  At the end, remind them that the connections disappear if the skill is not practiced!

  • Distribute copies of the BrainWise problem-solving worksheets (in back of curriculum), BrainWise checklists (also in curriculum), or a copy of the BrainWise CPR problem- solving worksheet .
  • Suggest that parents work with their children and create customized text reminders that remind them to use the 10 Wise Ways.  The texts say things like “Use your Wizard Brain!”  “Exit your Emotions Elevator!” “Think about the Consequences,” etc. Parents can randomly send the text reminders to their children.
  • Encourage parents to integrate BrainWise into daily activities. Parents can use the BrainWise checklists (make copies from curriculum) to help their children analyze stories or movies. You can suggest that parents have their children identify and label Wizard Brain and Lizard Brain foods and that parents use the 10 Wise Ways to analyze their own problems, as well as help their children. Encourage the parents to apply the Wise Ways to current events as well as family behaviors. They can use BrainWise problem-solving worksheets to work through issues.
  • Have parents and children create individual Constellations of Support that contain viable resources including pertinent humans, online sources, spiritual support, pets, etc. Draw or cut out pictures that remind them of their support systems, and glue or tape them onto their Constellations.
  • Ask your PTO, the school, or parents to purchase the $15.00 companion book, How To Be BrainWise for each family.
  • Encourage parents to create their own adaptations of the 10 Wise Ways to address family dynamics. Practicing using mantras is one strategy for lowering your Emotions Elevator, and Newsletter readers will remember that a family used “popcorn” as a mantra when emotions started skyrocketing. The absurd, but “silly connotations” word spoken during duress helped defuse volatile situations. Another family encouraged members to use “I” messages during dinner discussions.

When BrainWise graduates are asked, “Which Wise Way do you find most helpful?” they frequently name  “Wizard Brain over Lizard Brain” and the “Emotions Elevator.” Further questioning reveals why.  Learning about the Wizard Brain and Lizard Brain made them aware that they have control of their impulses, something they did not know.  This knowledge helped them understand how they could control their emotions and exit their Emotion Elevators.

WW #1

WW #1

WW #4

WW #4

Some BrainWise graduates give dramatic examples, such as the ex-gang member who backed out of participating in behavior that resulted in the incarceration of his homies, or the parents who said BrainWise skills helped them learn how to not hit their children.  Many BrainWise graduates cite problem situations and pinpoint the techniques they used to control their urge to react. They will proudly describe how they used their Wizard Brain to stop talking, leave the situation, use control self-talk, or find acceptable ways to redirect their emotions. Now that they recognize consequences, they see how controlling their reactions helps prevent problems.

Although techniques to redirect emotions don’t get mentioned as often by graduates of the program, they can be just as important.  For example, Mindfulness, Contemplation, and Meditation (MCM) techniques may be overlooked because they take more time to learn. Program users need to see this as a BIG MISTAKE!  These techniques have been scientifically proved to have significant, long-term benefits for health.

Mantras are a valuable aid that complement and enhance MCM. A word or phrase that you repeat over and over, silently, or aloud, “mantra” comes from a Sanskrit word that has the root, “man,” and means “an instrument of thought.” This definition is a great description for a technique that helps you use Wizard Brain thinking over the Lizard Brain’s impulse to react. How does it work?

Studies show that repeating a word or phrase over and over relieves stress and promotes bodily changes that have physical benefits. Detailed research has been published by neuroscientists Alex Korb, Ph.D. and Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Ph.D. and her colleagues  The findings add further credibility to using MCM, as they explain the mantra effect and how it is related to controlling Lizard Brain reactions.

Previous posts have discussed the importance of addressing stress in our lives, including the wake-up call that Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) study gave us. Researchers were stunned to find the serious health consequences that stressful life has on our bodies, including earlier death. As a BrainWise user, you understand the importance of replacing Lizard Brain reactions with Wizard Brain skills. You know that using words or statements such as “stay calm,” “control,” and “wizard brain” help you build more neural pathways/brain connections that promote Wizard Brain thinking. Repeating a mantra over and over to build neural connections is one more way to help you use Wizard Brain thinking to control Lizard Brain reactions.

Establishing a mindset to use mantras and other MCM techniques effectively takes practice. It is a mistake to give up if you don’t see immediate results, as the positive benefits are lasting. The following example shows how a family got in the habit of using mantras. Their unorthodox approach shows how a personal twist can promote Wizard Brain behavior.

The public health nurse who worked with the family said its members struggled with multiple problems, including explosive outbursts. When talking about ways to exit the Emotions Elevator, he introduced mantras. When the nurse revisited the family, he learned that the family patriarch had chosen “popcorn” for his mantra, and he repeated the word over and over when things started to escalate. He found that it helped him defuse tense situations as he and his wife and children started laughing when he said “popcorn, popcorn, popcorn.” This novel approach worked, and the family started using humorous as well as serious mantras to lower their emotions.

The March post shared examples of how BrainWise changes behaviors, and past newsletters presented data that show how BrainWise graduates have improved outcomes on measures of decision making and executive functions.

Dr. Judson Brewer

Dr. Judson Brewer

These successes would not surprise Dr. Judson Brewer.  Dr. Brewer’s research focuses on mindfulness training, a process he describes as teaching us how to focus on what is happening in our minds and bodies from moment to moment. He calls this experience “getting curious,” and says it helps us step out of “old, fear-based, reactive habits.”  His 2016 TED talk, “A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit,” has been viewed more than 6 million times.

In BrainWise terms, he is talking about recognizing our Red Flag Warnings and then using Wizard Brain thinking to lower whatever emotions our problems trigger, including craving, anxiety, anger, excitement, and fear.  This awareness, which he calls a “step into being,” helps us manage our urges from moment to moment.  By breaking problems down and making them more manageable, they become easier to change.

He admits that this “might sound too simplistic to affect behavior,” but his lab research shows that “mindfulness training was twice as good as gold standard therapy at helping people quit smoking.” He has gone on to successfully apply the approach to a wide range of problem behaviors.

The reception to his work and presentation is exciting!  Likewise, BrainWise users learn how to replace Lizard Brain emotions and reactions with Wizard Brain responses, a similar technique that alters problem behaviors. By using BrainWise CPR (Marty put link to summary of BW CPR here), program graduates learn that Red Flag Warnings prepare them to access their Emotions Elevator.  This process helps them control the impulse to react because it makes them aware that what’s happening in their bodies is connected with their minds and how they react.

Emotions Elevator

Emotions Elevator

In addition, BrainWise graduates learn to make further connections with the prefrontal cortex when they use their support systems, apply strategies that help them lower their emotions elevators, separate facts from opinions, ask the right questions, identify all their choices and the consequences of their choices, and communicate effectively. These additional skills not only provide a simple way to break a bad habit, they also are easy techniques that help us make lasting changes to improve our lives.

So the next time your Red Flag Warnings fly and your emotions shoot up your Emotions Elevator, recognize what is happening, and step back.  Assess the situation by using the 10 Wise Ways.  And as was discussed last month, use BrainWise CPR problem-solving worksheets to practice applying your skills.  It won’t be long before you are making better choices.

Tags: ,

Parents and educators “need to teach information literacy as soon as children can push a button.”
Carla Hayden, PhD, 14th librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, PhD, 14th librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, PhD, 14th librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, PhD, former president of the American Library Association and the 14th librarian of the US Congress, says that information literacy is key to addressing fake news. “Librarians have been pounding on this issue in a different way for a while—just having computer literacy is great, but as information professionals, we’re always looking at what’s the most authoritative source for the information and teaching information literacy. It’s great to have all this stuff, but you need to teach how to use the library.”
Dr. Hayden promotes the valuable service libraries offer and understands the important role libraries play in communities. From school and local libraries to the Library of Congress, she sees professional library staff as resources who give unbiased, nonpartisan information and will provide answers to questions about fake versus factual news. Because of their long-standing reputation as stewards of information, libraries and librarians should be “double lines” in everyone’s Constellation of Support. They are the “go to” fact checkers for accurate information on any subject matter, including government. This link shows the wide range of online resources libraries offer for government information:
For some people, libraries are their sole resource to electronically access information they may need for their health, job, and families. As many businesses, health providers, and government agencies now use electronic formats as their only means of contact, libraries provide everyone with online computer services, free of charge. They thus enable all members of the community, regardless of income bracket, to find needed information. Additionally, in times of disaster, the library may be the only functioning source for contacting critical government services for people from all walks of life.
And while the services of skilled librarians and the resources of libraries are invaluable, individuals also need critical-thinking skills to navigate the information-gathering process and to evaluate multiple sources of information. This is where BrainWise CPR tools are needed, including knowing how to use Wizard Brain thinking, build a Constellation of Support, recognize red flag warnings, manage emotions, separate fact from opinion, ask the right questions, identify choices, consider consequences, set goals, and communicate effectively. BrainWise graduates recognize that solving problems requires them to wisely assess a situation, and using credible resources is part of this process. BrainWise provides the foundation for information literacy by teaching skills that prevent and solve problems associated with the assimilation and dissemination of information.