Teaching Tips

BrainWise Checklists Improve Thinking Skills

Why Use Checklists?

We can use checklists to make sure that that we apply knowledge consistently and correctly to make decisions.Atul Gawarnde’s (2010) book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Done Right, discusses how checklists help pilots and surgeons avoid errors.No surprise to those who use them!!

Checklists have been included with BrainWise materials since 1997.The 10 Wise Ways provide a simple and effective way to think critically about problems.But if these thinking skills aren’t used, our Lizard Brain reactions propel our actions.Make it a habit to go over problems using a checklist of the 10 Wise Ways.This tool is a simple, effective, and valuable way to make sure program users practice using all 10 Wise Ways.Try it and see!

BrainWise checklists.

Checklist 1: Analyzing a Problem from an Individual’s Perspective

Checklist 2: Analyzing a Problem from Someone Else’s Perspective

Checklist 3: Analyzing a Problem Simultaneously from Your Perspective and Someone Else’s

Location of Checklists: The checklists are on the green BrainWise Review Guide that is inside the pocket of every BrainWise curriculum. They also are in the BrainWise curriculum Worksheet Sections:

BrainWise for Grades K-5 pp. W-50 to W-52

BrainWise for Grades 6-12 pp. W-49 to W-51

BrainWise One- on-One pp. W-46 to W-48

How To Be BrainWise pp. 100-102

To learn more about checklists go to “The BrainWise Method” link on the left side of the page or click here:



BrainWise Problem Solving Worksheet Available to Instructors

Participants who apply the 10 Wise Ways to their own problems quickly learn the consequences of faulty thinking. The Problem Solving Worksheets in the curricula (pp. W61 to W63 in BW K-5 and pp. W58-60 in BW 6-12 and BW One-on-One) provide participants with practice and reinforcement. A condensed version of the worksheets is now available. It separates the 10 Wise Ways by “BrainWise CPR.” Control for Wise Ways #1-4; Process for Wise Ways #5-8, and Respond for Wise Ways #9- 10. The condensed version fits on both sides of one page for children and youth/adults. Reproducible copies of the worksheets are free to BrainWise instructors.

Please contact us at: info@brainwise-plc.org if you wish to receive copies of these worksheets.

BrainWise Jeopardy  

BrainWise instructors have a wide array of popular games that offer exciting ways to help students and clients practice using The 10 Wise Ways.  Below is an example of how a BrainWise site uses high school students to reinforce BrainWise at a nearby elementary school.  The high school students introduced and played Jeopardy with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who had been taught BrainWise in their classrooms.
For this project, BrainWise instructors created their own materials and inserted customized BrainWise questions into the format.  Other instructors have found templates for a wide range of games on the Internet.  Either way, students have fun while learning to make decisions using the wise ways.
Playing this popular television game involves using The 10 Wise Ways and can be taught to elementary school students through adults, as well as to small and large groups.  High school teacher Stacey Hervey and school nurse Tess Calinicos created the following version of BrainWise Jeopardy for high school BrainWise mentors to use with thirty elementary school students.  Other instructors have created versions of BrainWise Jeopardy for even younger elementary school students, and used the format to reinforce money and The 10 Wise Ways with teens and adults.  The topics are endless, and involving older students in creating BrainWise Jeopardy for younger students guarantees an effective outcome.

Getting started.  First, Stacey and Tess identified five topics for the headings.  Because the game was part of an after school program, they included a fitness heading – “GET PHYSICAL”.    Other headings were “JUST GETTING STARTED,” KNOW YOUR BRAINWISE,” FACT OR OPINION,” AND “COMMUNICATION.”


The high school mentors divided the elementary school students into two teams of fifteen students each.  Each team picked a student to represent their team on different questions. The chosen students selected a heading, picked a question, and used others on the team for support.  Each team representative was given a fly swatter that they used to run up to hit a marked spot on the wall when they had an answer.  The first to hit the spot with the fly swatter gave the answer.

As seen in the picture above, each heading had questions under four monetary categories ranging from $100 to $400.  Stacey and Tess inserted increasingly difficult questions behind each of the monetary signs.  For example, under “Know Your BrainWise,” the statement for $100 was:  People use this part of the brain to make decisions.  The correct response is, “What is your Wizard Brain?”  The statement for $400 was The medical term for the brain’s relay center.  The correct response is “What is the thalamus?”

The Get Physical topic involved competition among the teams.  Excitement was high as the two teams picked members to pick categories and respond.  The statement for $100 was “Do 20 arm circles in each direction” and the response was to time representative students from the competing teams as they did the activity.  The statement for $300 was “Do 10 sit ups,” and if $400 was picked, the team representatives had to “Perform 15 pushups.”

BrainWise Jeopardy is a powerful teaching tool.  The headings and statements can be changed, and can be created to be as easy or as difficult as needed.  Competitions between classes can be held, with winning teams moving answering more difficult questions.  Stacey and Tess created all the parts for the version I presented here, but Jeopardy templates are available on the Internet for teaching purposes.
Please let us know how you use games to teach BrainWise, and we will share them on www.brainwise-plc.org.



Integrating BrainWise into the Classroom

Like many public school teachers, Judy Cardenas must fit her curriculum to a wide range of students from divergent backgrounds. Out of the school’s approximately 510 students, 37 percent are from an Ethnic Minority, 27 percent are recipients of Free and Reduced Lunch, and 19 percent are English Language Learners. Cardenas says that despite their differences, students all find BrainWise to be a useful tool that helps them reflect on their behavior and on the school’s culture.

In the classroom, Cardenas integrates BrainWise thinking skills, called the Ten Wise Ways, into lessons in several creative ways. For instance, Cardenas made up a song that is sung to the tune of Disney’s “It’s a Small World,” that the students sing together when they are doing a transition between activities. “When they are singing the words, “We will use our Wizard Brain, We will Stop and Think,” they are making a connection between their thinking brains and their actions,” Cardenas said. “That helps students have a plan for positive behavior during transition times.”

For students who are naturally introverted, or reluctant to participate in class discussions, Cardenas first examines how her teaching style might be affecting them. “I am really energetic, and I tend to get loud,” Cardenas admits. “The first thing I do is I go back and look at myself and see who I am and how I am with them. I look at myself as a Constellation of Support. If I need to, I will lower my elevator by doing some deep breathing and calming down before I approach a student.”

Cardenas wants her students to have an action plan for positive behavior. “I had a student who was really showing passive-aggressive behavior, rolling her eyes and not joining in with the class. I asked her what it is she really wanted, and she said, ’nothing’ I said ‘Your behavior shows you want my attention, but getting into trouble is not you. You could be a leader. My goal is for you to participate. If you want my attention, and for me to be nice to you, have a plan for that.’ This is a strategy that really works with my students,” Cardenas explained. “It doesn’t make sense if students don’t have a plan for achieving their goals. BrainWise gives them a positive framework for setting their goals and achieving them.”

Here are some suggestions for successful adaptation of BrainWise:

  • Unless you have enthusiastic buy-in from all of the people who will be teaching it, introduce BrainWise using only the individuals who want to teach the program.
  • Insert the BrainWise language into your vocabulary. Even people unfamiliar with the program will quickly pick up on using the “wizard brain” vs. the “lizard brain,” the constellation of support, red flags and exiting the emotions elevator. They also will connect the terms with tools that help people to stop and think.
  • Encourage students or participants to assess and analyze all problems — those that happen to others and themselves — using BrainWise’s ten thinking skills. Have them apply the 10 Wise Ways to problems not only related to school or work, but to problems at home, in history, the media and world events.
  • If working with children and youth, involve other faculty or staff by making a short presentation telling them how you are using the 10 Wise Ways. Make them aware of the language and concepts so they can reinforce it with the children. They may even catch the enthusiasm generated by BrainWise advocates and start using the program!
  • Teach BrainWise to parent or family groups outside of school or the work setting. You will reinforce the concepts and provide families with skills to make smart choices.
  • Encourage participants and program graduates to teach BrainWise to others.

Reinforcing BrainWise Creatively

Tina Aaron worked with the Walker County Board of Education in Alabama to provide BrainWise training to principals, teachers and school counselors. From there, the Walker County School system contracted with Aaron’s employer, Jasper Family Service Center, to implement a Parent Involvement District Initiative which has been providing BrainWise workshops to students and parents for the past two years.

While she now works more with BrainWise trainers, Aaron has fond memories of her involvement in the classroom. Out of her own money, Aaron purchased “goodies” that she used to reinforce lessons on the Ten Wise Ways. Some of the class favorites include “Smarties” candies and gummy lizards for the lesson on Wizard Brain Over Lizard Brain, glow-in-the-dark stars for Constellation of Support, stress balls for the discussion on Emotions Elevator, pins, t-shirts, pencils, CD cases and mirrors with BrainWise messages on them, and large magnets printed with “Stop and Think” for their lockers.


Send yours to: info@brainwise-plc.org

and receive a free copy of How to Be BrainWise!