Use brain science to change behavior

Teach Lessons that Change Behavior

Back in the day when I was teaching lessons to children regularly as a school counselor, I was always trying to determine the best way to engage children in the lesson as well as make sure that they could actually learn and remember it later.  Lucky for educators and parents today, there is all kinds of brain research to show the way.  In her book, Wired to Grow: Harness the Power of the Brain Science to Master any Skill, Britt Andreatti identifies three steps to learning anything well.

  1. The first step is simply the process of listening and taking in the information.  Research has shown that the attention limit is about 15-20 minutes, so keep your presentation short.  So much for those long drawn out lectures we used to listen to in college.  We knew it wasn’t a good way to learn even then.
  2. The second step is getting the information into your long term memory.  There are specific ways to do this and they mostly involve practicing some sort of retrieval that involves participation. Have students summarize information, take a quiz on it, play a game or use it in some way that involves remembering the essential facts. Three times of intermittent repetition is the sweet spot.
  3. Finally, the last step involves behavior change and in order to create behavior change, you must practice for about 40-50 repetitions.  I know that sounds like a lot but if you think about it there are lots of things that we repeat numerous times in a given day. Use those times as teachable moments.

Here’s what a typical SEL lesson might look like:

Teach a lesson on being a good friend; you can include a story, examples of students practicing the qualities of friendship, a list of good qualities, etc.

Review the material.  Here are some ideas:

  • play a game
  • have students role-play ways to be a good friend
  • complete a worksheet
  • make a booklet
  • have students quiz each other on how to be a good friend.

Practice being a good friend throughout the day.  Point out each time you see students practicing friendly behaviors.  Try to catch students modeling the behaviors you are teaching.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship

Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover Friendship

It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog.  How do you make friends?  Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.

As a public school elementary counselor, I find that Wyatt offers so much about real life situations, like making and keeping friends.  I will use this book as a resource for whole classroom, small group and individual discussions. ~Cindy Little, School Counselor, Georgia Elementary School, Milton Vermont

Grab your copy here

Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

Wyatts Lesson Plans Activity Book

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the nine Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Over 75 pages of ideas so that you can create lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.


  1. […] Use brain science to teach effectively […]

  2. […] the natural differences between boy and girls even at a very young age, can mean that adults provide an environment that takes into account their specific social emotional needs while helping them develop a growth […]

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