Buff Your Brain

Buff Your Brain
Write stuff. Look at art. Drink water.
Getting a bigger brain is easier—and
more fun—than you think.
Brain Research:
What’s New?
One discovery from 2011 brain research stood
out above all the others: IQ, long thought to be
largely unchangeable after early childhood, can
in fact be raised. And not by a mere point or two.
According to a groundbreaking study published
this fall in Nature, IQ can rise by a staggering 21
points over four years—or fall by 18.
Twenty points is “a huge difference,”
says cognitive scientist Cathy Price of
University College London, who led the
“If an individual moved from an IQ of
110 to an IQ of 130 they’d go from
being ‘average’ to ‘gifted.’
And if they moved from 104 to 84
they’d go from being high average to
below average.”
There are 3 components
that lead to changes in
In their recently published study, Price and her colleagues
documented how IQ changes are linked to structural changes in
the brain. (This study was conducted on people ages 12 to 20.)
Although most of us think of motor skills and cognitive skills as
like oil and water, in fact a number of studies have found that
refining your sensory-motor skills can bolster cognitive ones.
No one knows exactly why, but it may be that the two brain
systems are more interconnected than we realize.
So if you learn to knit, or listen to classical music, or master
juggling, you might be raising your IQ.
The other brain element you can train in order to raise
your IQ is attention. Neuroscientists have shown over
and over that attention is the sine qua non of learning
and thus of boosting intelligence.
Only if you pay attention to an introduction at a party
will you remember a person’s name.
*sine qua non: an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient
Another way to the same end,
says UCL’s Price, is “passion.”
If you don’t care about what
you’re reading, seeing, or
hearing, it won’t be retained.
The key to these kinds of gains is “intensive
training;” not quite the quick brain fix we’re told
can come simply from eating blueberries or
drinking pomegranate juice. Instead, intelligence
comes from having more neurons and synapses
(connections between neurons). The creation of
new neurons (neurogenesis) and synapses is what
makes learning possible.
So what does this mean for the classroom?
There are 12 suggestions for helping students
“buff their brains” at school.
1. Get Puzzled
When we stimulate our brain by learning or
playing we simply create new connections: the
synapses grow and spread to connect neurons
The brain can therefore be modeled through
conscious (or even unconscious) processes.
And…research shows word puzzles can help reduce the risk of
Alzheimer’s and dementia.
1. No one, two Blame
(No one to blame)
2. Right between the eyes
3. Jack in the Box
4. Down Payment
5. Left Overs
6. Bedspread
1. Keeping You Out of
2. Foreign Movie
3. A Little Rough Around
the Edges
4. Too Little, Too Late
5. Double Your Money
6. Start of Something Big
free Wuzzles available at:
Magic Letter, Magic Word
The teacher announces the Magic Letter.
The teacher gives clues about the Magic Words.
The students record the word they think is being described.
Letter A
•a list of letters (alphabet)
•person who writes a book (author)
•people in plays or movies (actors)
Letter S
• 7 – 3 = 4 is an example
•the total of two numbers added
•a shape with 4 equal sides
Letter L
•energy form the sun
•shampoo, milk, orange juice
•place to investigate
Letter F
•metaphors and similes
•event that took place before the story
•something that warns you of an event to come
Letter F
•nickname for George Washington
•each country has their own unique one
•products can be assembled in these
What is a Hink Pink?
Hink Pinks are fun rhyming word
riddles. The answer to the riddle is
a pair of words that rhyme with
each other.
For example: the clue large feline
would be answered with fat cat.
Hink Pinks
1. A literary thief
2. A plain sitting device
3. An uncooked animals foot
4. A prison for Moby
5. A promise to bet bigger
6. A quick explosion
7. A run for the money
8. A sack for holding Old Glory
Answer Key
1. Book Crook
2. Bare Chair
3. Raw Paw
4. Whale Jail
5. Growth Oath
6. Fast Blast
7. Cash Dash
8. Flag Bag
What's a commonym?
A commonym is group of words that have a
common trait in the three words/items listed.
For example:
the words car, tree, elephant.
What do they all have in common?
They all have trunks!
Bride & Groom
Boat & Trailer
Horse & Buggy
Commonyms #6
Commonyms #7
College Football
An analogy is a comparison of certain similarities
between things which are otherwise unlike.
In education, teachers use analogies to introduce
something new to students. They compare the new
material to something the students already know and
An analogy can be read like this:
grass : green :: sky : blue
Grass is to green as sky is to blue.
1. Bird is to fly as fish is to __________.
2. Snake is to reptile as frog is to __________.
3. Parrot is to feathers as bear is to __________.
4. Zebra is to stripes as giraffe is to __________.
5. Koala is to mammal as turtle is to _________.
6. Fish is to gills as squirrel is to __________.
7. Cat is to kitten as cow is to __________.
8. Shark is to fish as dolphin is to __________.
9. Canary : yellow :: polar bear :__________.
10. Penguin : Antarctica:: as panda :__________.
11. Goose : flock :: fish: __________.
12. Ant : six legs :: spider :__________.
13. Snake : slither :: whale :__________.
14. Lizard : vertebrate :: cricket :__________.
15. Ring : sting :: bee :_________.
16. Bison : walk :: kangaroo : __________.
Guess the Word Game
Number your paper from 1-5.
Write your guess as your teacher gives each clue.
1. It is a word from the word wall (or from today’s
lesson, page ___, etc.)
2. It has _____ syllables.
3. It is used to discuss ______________ .
4. It means ___________________ .
5. It completes this sentence:
_______________________________ .
Guess the Word Game
Number your paper from 1-5.
Write your guess as your teacher gives each clue.
1. It is a word from the word wall (or from today’s
lesson, page ___, etc.)
2. It has 4 syllables.
3. It is used to discuss a type of energy.
4. It means motion is happening.
5. It completes this sentence: The energy of
movement is called __________ energy.
Answer: mechanical
2. Get Moving
Look for an activity that raises your heart rate
and requires a lot of coordination, says John J.
Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary
New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
Why? Moving our muscles produces proteins
that play roles in our highest thought
The value exercise has for the learning process
in high school students includes improved
academic performance, alertness, attention
and motivation.
Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight
memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function
better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate
and breaking a sweat?
The evidence is incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise
physically remodels our brains for peak performance.
Classroom Snowball Fight
Four sheets of blank paper per student (preferably recycled paper).
1. Hand out four sheets of paper to each student.
Ask them to write key information on the four sheets of paper,
one item per sheet.
2. Ask all students to crumple each piece of paper into a ball.
3. Have students stand up and place them into two teams, one
team at each end of the classroom.
4. Tell students they have 10 seconds to throw all the “snowballs”
on their side of the classroom to the other side, but when you shout
STOP everyone must stop.
5. After the STOP signal, have students pick up any four snowballs,
return to their seats, and open them up to read the information.
6. Ask students to evaluate the information and be prepared to
discuss it in small groups or with a partner.
Question Swap
1. Supply each student with an index card or slip of paper.
2. Name a topic of study and ask students to write a
question related to the topic on the piece of paper.
3. Next, students stand up and find a partner; the pair
asks each other their questions.
4. The students then move to find new partners,
repeating the procedure.
5. After a set time, have students return to their seats
and summarize information regarding three things they
were asked.
Mixed Pairs: Divide the class in half. Half of the class write a word
on an index card. The other half writes the definition. Shuffle the
cards and hand one card to each student. The students must move
around the classroom and match the word with the definition.
Incorporate “walk and talk” breaks – take your class out
for a walk and have students discuss what they have
learned during the class period.
Walking Worksheets: Tape worksheets on wall, easel and
chalkboard. Students move from worksheet to worksheet
and answer the different questions.
3. Get Hands-On
Refining motor ability can
bolster cognitive skills.
make Foldables
draw pictures
trace images
4. Wipe the Smile Off your Face
Experiments have shown that the
simple act of frowning makes you
more skeptical and analytic in your
Select a quote from the next page
as the being the most accurate
statement about education.
Get ready to defend your choice.
1. Education is a progressive discovery of our own
Will Durant
2. It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a
thought without accepting it.
3. Children have to be educated,
but they have also to be left to educate themselves.
Ernest Dimnet
4. Some people drink from the fountain of
knowledge, others just gargle.
Robert Anthony
5. Education's purpose is to replace an empty
mind with an open one.
Malcolm Forbes
5. Refine Your Thinking
The brain has two distinct modes of
thought, according to Daniel Kahneman,
author of Thinking, Fast and Slow. System 1
is fast and automatic; System 2 is slower
and more effortful. Understand these two
systems, Kahneman argues, and we may be
able to detect our own lazy biases and
make better choices.
Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.
― Thomas A. Edison
Thinking is the hardest work there is,
which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.
Henry Ford
Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid
thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and
half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than
having to think.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reading is equivalent to thinking with
someone else's head instead of with
one's own.
Arthur Schopenhauer
Now THINK about your own ideas about thinking
and create your own quote.
6. Hydrate
Sure, every doctor and trainer tells you this, and
we will too: dehydration forces the brain to work
harder and may dampen its planning ability.
So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a
temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined
that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13
cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters
(about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.
What about the advice to drink eight glasses a day?
Everyone has heard the advice, "Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of
water a day." That's about 1.9 liters, which isn't that different
from the Institute of Medicine recommendations. Although the
"8 by 8" rule isn't supported by hard evidence, it remains popular
because it's easy to remember. Just keep in mind that the rule
should be reframed as: "Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of
fluid a day," because all fluids count toward the daily total.
You may need to modify your total fluid intake depending on how active you are, the
climate you live in, your health status, and if you're pregnant or breast-feeding.
Source: Mayo Clinic, 2012
7. Look at Art
Not only does it make you look smart,
but viewing art has been shown to
reduce stress, letting you focus on the
things that really matter.
Ten Lessons the Arts Teach
The arts teach children to make good judgments about
qualitative relationships. Unlike the curriculum in which correct
answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than
rules that prevail.
The arts teach children that problems can have more than one
solution and that questions can have more than one answer.
The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One large lessons is that
there are many ways to see and interpret the world.
The arts teach children complex forms of problem solving.
Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to
discover the possibilities of the work as it unfolds.
The arts make vivid the fact that neither words nor numbers
exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not
define the limits of our cognition.
Ten Lessons the Arts Teach, con’t
The arts teach students that small differences can have large
effects. The arts work in subtleties.
The arts teach students to think through and within a material.
Art forms employ some means in which images become real.
The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said.
When children asked what a work of art helps them feel, they
must reach to find the words that will do the job.
The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no
other source and through such experience to discover the range
and variety of what we are capable of feeling.
The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the
young what adults believe is important.
SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It
Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. Copyright ©
Starry Night
8. Write by Hand
Remember what that feels like? Brain scans show that
handwriting engages more sections of the brain than
typing. Bonus brain boost: it’s easier to remember
something once you’ve written it down on paper.
Typing is certainly a lot more efficient, but discarding
handwriting entirely might not be such a great idea.
Picking up a pencil and a pad of paper to write out your ideas
could aid your thought process and learning ability.
If not just for the level of focus you get from having nothing
but a pad of paper in front of you, you might benefit from the
actual act of writing by hand. The Wall Street Journal takes a
look at how this is an important developmental skill for
children, but how it also applies to adults looking to keep their
minds active. The idea is that the actual act of writing out the
letter takes a little more work in your brain than just typing
the letters on a keyboard, and that extra work keeps your
mind sharp.
How Handwriting Trains the Brain [The Wall
Street Journal via The 99 Percent]
9. Set Some Limits
Time-management methods can make you more
productive using nothing more than a kitchen timer.
Use it to help work in 25-minute blocks, taking a short
break after each; the frequent rests aid mental agility.
10. Delay Gratification
Studies have found that children who
were able to resist a marshmallow
placed in front of them turned out, years
later, to have higher SAT scores than
students who snatched it up. The more
successful children didn’t necessarily
have a natural gift for patience; they
controlled their attention by
focusing on something else.
In our society, we are bombarded with the temptation of short-term gains. Fastfood, lottery tickets, shopping malls, bars, Las Vegas, and quick-fixes to problems.
Benefits of Delaying Gratification
Improve your academic and job performance. Gains usually continue throughout
life, creating more satisfaction and success in their careers .
Enhance your relationships. As our patience increases, we become less
vulnerable to anger and its tendency to drive others away from us. We learn to
look at the big picture and take other’s feelings into account.
Become more physically fit. Studies also show that those less practiced at
delayed gratification, or “low delayers,” tend to have higher body fat. If you
appreciate the long term benefits of nutritious food and regular exercise, you’re
less likely to overindulge in junk food.
Lower your risk of substance abuse. Drug addiction can be one of the most
painful consequences of seeking immediate pleasure. Even legal activities like
shopping or watching TV can be destructive if we take them to extremes and
allow them to crowd out more meaningful endeavors.
Enjoy more contentment. Self control enables us to set goals and focus our
energies on reaching them. We can make better choices, accomplish more and
handle setbacks better.
Techniques for Delaying Gratification
Divert your attention. Just turning your attention away from
temptation will instantly make you a little happier and better
behaved. The more you learn to control your thinking, the wiser
you will become.
Take a pause. Pausing for a second can help you avoid reflexive
responses that run against your best interests. Decide if important
to cut class or make an unkind remark .
Seek out good role models. Child psychologists find peer
modeling to be a highly effective tool for character education.
Whatever your age, pick up some valuable lessons by observing
someone whose patience you admire.
Reinforce your new habits. Self control grows stronger the more
we practice. Look for daily opportunities to delay gratification,
whether it’s choosing a more nutritious breakfast, better study
habits, or changing a negative behavior.
11. Become an Expert
Master one task you really enjoy and your brain
will perform more efficiently when you do it.
Chess whizzes, for example, recognize patterns
more quickly than amateurs. Expertise is not
innate—practice, as the old saw goes, does
make perfect.
There’s no better way to
become an expert than to
teach others.
How can you put students in the
teaching/expert role
in the classroom?
How to Become an Expert
Published on September 3, 2011 by Carl Beuke, Ph.D.
12. Write Reviews
Anyone can be a critic on the Internet—and
you should too. When you like or hate
something, review it on Amazon, Yelp,
Twitter, whatever. Writing out your opinion
will help you to better understand your own
Review Guidelines
• The review should be relatively short with opinions
delivered in a clear, concise manner.
• The factual material must be correct. Check all facts
pertaining to the content.
• The review should be firm and assertive, not wishywashy. A reviewer must have a strong opinion.
• The reviewer is entitled to whatever opinion he or
she has of the work be it positive or negative, but the
opinion must be substantiated with details and
• The reviewer should establish a voice, tone, and
personal style that make the review interesting.
Consider this scenario:
•A teacher has taught for more than two decades.
•He considers himself to be a very good teacher.
•He knows his content.
•He has organized his lessons and worksheets.
•His mode of instruction : lecture.
•His mode of has ONE cognitive strategy: worksheet.
•His has ONE mode of assessment: written test.
•He believes that if he says it, students will know it.
Think about some of the strategies we just
discussed, and consider adding at least one
to your classroom during the first week of school.
What strategy do you think you might use?
Sharon Begley is the science
columnist and science editor
of Newsweek. She is the
coauthor of the 2002 book
The Mind and the Brain and
the author of the 2007 book
Train Your Mind, Change Your
This article was the main resource for this information.
one quick message
about your heart:

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