Are you back in the classroom this fall? It’s a great time to rethink your teaching approach. There are some powerful insights emerging from brain science that will help you connect better with your students.

Let’s start with communication. Reciting long lists of vocabulary words without personal relevance doesn’t resonate with most students. They will be blocked by the brain’s affective (or emotional) filters, says neurologist and former classroom teacher Judy Willis.

The brain stores information in the form of neural pathways, or networks. New information is great but it needs mental scaffolding to cling to–say, a funny story or a pop culture reference. You should help learners attach a new piece of information to an old one, or it just won’t stick.

Effective teaching will help your students recognize patterns and put new information in context with the old–crucial in passing new memories into the brain’s long-term storage areas.

Our class Managing Innovation is an ideal primer for using brain science advances in the classroom. The Portland State University class uses state-of-the-art techniques for getting information to stick.

For instance, here are some practical tips to liven up your lesson plans:

  • Make jokes
  • Use daily rituals, songs, or games to create a welcoming community
  • Give students opportunities to engage in discussions without judgment
  • Drop hints about a new learning unit before you reveal what it might be
  • Leave gaping pauses in your speech to build student interest
  • Change seating arrangements
  • Put up new and relevant posters or displays