Grow Those Dendrites! Book Study Linky

We already know that Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites! So what best-practice strategies DO? I can't wait to find out and learn more! The new book I am so excited about arrived in my mailbox just yesterday. Today I am linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin' it in Kindergarten for a book study of Strategies 1 & 2 in Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites (second edition) by Marcia Tate. If you don't have the book, no worries. You can hop around and get lots of great ideas from the link-up to take back to your classroom!

We've seen many changes in the classroom over the years. No longer are students sitting quietly in their seats all day like we did when I was in school! The first section of this book is a good reminder that students need to be allowed to interact and talk with one another. I'm not talking about casual chit-chat like you might have during a snack break or something. This kind of talk needs to be intentional.

Strategy 1: Brainstorm and Discussion :

When students talk about a topic, they will understand it better because their brains not only mentally process the information, but also verbally process it. (Allen, 2008) 

It used to be a proud moment for a teacher when another adult would walk into the room and compliment the class with comments like... Oh, they are working SO quietly! While a talkative classroom can look like a chaotic one, the benefits for learning are great.

How are you doing with this one? Do you allow and encourage discussion among students? I have to be honest, I do like it quiet when I am testing or when the students need to be fully focused on a task like reading. So many students are easily distracted by noise, so there are times when I think quiet has a purpose for learning as well.

When my students do talk, my favorite strategy to use is the WBT strategy, Teach-OK. The students pair up to teach one another, in their own words, what was just taught with gestures. The students are not allowed to simply "parrot" what was said. They need to restate it and make it their own. When they teach each other, the listener gets to hear the information in yet another way. What they may miss the first time from the teacher they can learn from a peer! When the teacher randomly calls out TEACH the students tend to be more attentive because they never know when it is coming.

I once heard this phrase at a PD workshop...Talk and Chew. The teacher talks and then the students are given time to chew on the information for a while while sharing verbally. I think this is also a good fit for the point that the author makes about discussion.

We have partner discussions down pretty well because we do them regularly. My goal is to start doing more small group (family) discussions too by purposefully structuring activities where everyone can be engaged. There are always those students who lead (or monopolize) the conversation and some that are just listeners. Having some pre-group work mini-lessons is probably a good idea!

What I have been reminded of from this first part of the book, is that we should strive for the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy as often as possible.  I love this butterfly visual. I have a copy in my room! It's great to glance at during any kind of questioning or when choosing a follow-up activity.

Strategy 2: Drawing and Artwork

This one I love! You might have guessed from my blog name that I am all about creativity in the classroom. Being creative is more than just artwork of course. This strategy is about making meaning by allowing students to illustrate concepts.

When useful, teachers should encourage students to draw pictures that can help them gain more insight by representing abstract concepts graphically. (Posamentier & Jaye, 2006)

I feel like I'm on the right track with this strategy... although there is ALWAYS room for improvement! For example, when learning about Harriet Tubman in February, I asked the students to illustrate the major events in her life. While the drawings are a little person's representation of her life, they are their own mental images.

In the first picture, we see Harriet working as a slave child and winding balls of yarn. The next drawing shows Harriet and her marriage to John Tubman. It is not likely that Harriet wore a beautiful white dress and carried a bouquet on her wedding day, but this is their schema! Good stuff either way!

This is an example of illustrating new vocabulary. 
Creating a pictionary booklet is always fun!

 I mentioned above that one thing I try to do is to incorporate artwork into worksheets. Here are some examples for a variety of subjects! At first glance these may look like plain old worksheets but many of them ended up as a project, craft or something more. These photos show the beginning and planning stages! Just because an activity is on a piece of paper does not necessarily mean that it fits the definition of a worksheet. I do not think that this book is all about becoming paper-free classrooms. But with anything, we use printables in moderation! We all know that there is value in pencil paper tasks as long as the students are assessed with a pencil-paper test! 

My goal is to do more of these types of activities on a daily basis. At best, I am hit or miss with my planning. I have to remember that the drawing activity does not require a fancy page. 

Do you use foldables? Before interactive notebooks came along, I used to do lots of them with my students. Foldables are a great way to encourage artwork to solidify content. A true foldable that I'm talking about is not always the same as an interactive notebook page with flaps. With many popular interactive pages, you may often see a clipart image to be colored. In fact, I have made several sets like this and teachers and students enjoy them because they are CUTE! But coloring a picture is not the same as creating the image yourself, obviously! Many more thought processes are involved when we ask the students to add their own pictures. Because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I am guilty of wanting everything I display or send home to be neat and cute. Some students are often in a big hurry when they illustrate or only use all one color, which is hard for me to overlook! I will try harder. My goal is to get back to using genuine student-created foldables once again!

Want to learn more about foldables?
You can check out some ideas on my Pinterest Board here

After reading the first part of the book, I am relieved to know that I am already on my way with implementing many of the recommended strategies. I have some goals to work on as well! 
I almost can't wait to go back on Monday so I can try something new!

I hope you were able to grow some of your own professional dendrites today and take away some good info and a little bit of inspiration! Until the next link-up for other strategies in the book, be mindful of how you incorporate discussion, drawing and artwork into your lessons!

Now head on over to Kickin it in Kindergarten to read what other bloggers have shared. 
It is interesting to see the different perspectives we all have on the same topics!

We teachers love to try new things!
How do you incorporate these strategies into your lessons?
We'd LOVE to read about it in the comments below! 


  1. I'm also thinking a lot about the idea of "families". I'm so-so when it comes to turn and talk {which I plan on improving} but I'm really enthused about incorporating more group/family interactions as well! Thanks so confirming for me, that I need to do that!

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

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  3. The Blooming Butterfly is great! How wonderful to have a reminder that's also lovely to look at!
    Yes, I also remember using foldables before INs became so popular. The act of cutting and folding and the 3D results were so appealing for some little learners - most definitely another way to incorporate art in the classroom!
    Primary Inspiration

  4. I love your post! Teach OK is a great way to encourage young "teachers". The Blooming Butterfly is a great reminder. Do you happen to have a printable copy? I would love to have a copy in my classroom. Thanks! Tammie


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