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Igniting Student Potential

Igniting Student Potential
Teaching With the Brain's Natural Learning Process

December 2006 | 232 pages | Corwin

"'Handle With Care' should be on the front cover so that the eager teacher uses the book as an inspirational resource."
—Roy Bentley, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia

"A wonderful guidebook for people moving toward constructivism and for many who are already there."
—Geoffrey Caine, Director, Caine Learning

"Fosters a refreshing educational discourse of possibility and offers some very useful classroom strategies that work with today's youth."
—Peter P. Grimmett, Director, Institute for Studies in Teacher Education, Simon Fraser University

Kindle students' excitement for learning with transformative, field-tested strategies and lessons!

Students are natural thinkers and pattern-seekers who are born to learn. Tapping into their innate abilities is the key to engaging students in their own learning. This innovative guide helps teachers maximize student engagement and achievement by combining brain research, classroom applications, and teaching skills based on the Natural Human Learning Process (NHLP).

Ideal for preservice and inservice teacher training and professional development, this superb resource covers:

  • Working with diverse learners from PreK through high school and beyond
  • Curriculum applications and sample lessons across content areas, teaching methods, and learning styles
  • Research and theory, instructional planning and strategies, assessment, teaching for transfer, and more

About the Authors
Part I: Research and Theory
1. Why This book? Why Now?
The Moral of the Maginot Line

Are Our Educational “Guns” Facing in the Wrong Direction?

A Bloated Curriculum

A Testing Obsession

Cultivating the Latent Ability of Every Student

Life-Altering Teachers

The Classroom as a Community

Understanding Is a Key to Hope

A Playful Classroom


2. How Learning Happens: The Natural Human Learning Process
Students Know How to Learn; They Are Natural Learners

Trying to Find the Way

Research on the Natural Human Learning Process (NHLP)

Using the Missing Link in Math Education

If All Students Learn the Same Way, Why Are Students’ Fates Different?

A Person’s Fate: Nature or Nuture?

Helping Students See Their Potential: Students’ Self-Understanding

The Benefits of the NHLP and Metacognitive Knowledge

All Students Have an Innate Potential and Motivation to Learn

The NHLP Pedagogy



3. How the Brain Learns: Research and Application
The Seven Magic Words

Metacognition: Basic Facts about How the Brain Learns that Everyone Should Know



Emotions and the Brain: Fight or Flight


Reasons Students Are Not Motivated In School

Plasticity (Neuroplasticity)

No-Fail First-Stage Learning Tasks

Examples of No-Fail First-Stage Learning Tasks

Things That Can Make It Go Wrong

Feeding the Brain

Opportunities to Fulfill Their Potential



Part II: Classroom Applications
4. How Tall Am I? Real-world Math for Early Learners
Transition from Home to School

Creating a Brain-Friendly Environment

The Nature of Math

Math Content for Early Grades





Multiple Intelligences and Student Potential

Exploring Outside the Classroom



5. Can You Build an Igloo? Understanding the Past with Elementary Learners
Discovering the Past

Beginning the Unit

Examining a Distant Place

Inuit Society Today


6. Where Would You Locate Your Castle? Developing Potential in Early Adolescent Learners
What are the Relatively Normal Physical Changes That Occur With the Beginning of Puberty?

How Then Would We Teach?

Justin’s Teacher

Building Relationships – The Key to Early Adolescents

Enriched Environments

Boredom Reduces the Adolescent Brain

The Importance of Play

The Opposite of Play is Stress

Active Learning and Problem Solving

Connected Learning

Social Learning

The Importance of Emotion

Where Would You Put Your Castle? A Potential Igniting Teaching Unit

An Acronym to Help Us Remember These Strategies

The Early Adolescent Needs a Uniquely Skilled, Compassionate Teacher


7. What Keeps Satellites Above Earth? Scientific Investigations for Teenage Learners
Teenage Intellectual Abilities

Learning to Use Scientific Methods

Coral Atolls

Pendulum Clocks





Part III: Teacher Skills
8. Learning Communities: Falling Empire and Rising Democracy
Learning Communities

A Falling Empire

Models of Learning Communities

Student Feedback

The “Ask Them” Method for Assessment and Engaged Learning

Using “Ask Them” For Assessment in a Coordinated-Studies Learning

Community: “The Fall of Empires”

Side Benefits

Pitfalls and Trouble-Shooting

Making a First Connection

Igniting Student Potential



9. Assessment Strategies that Promote Learning and Ignite Student Potential
Instructional Sequence: Case 1

Instructional Sequence: Case 2

What Are the Differences Between Juan’s and Mary’s Approaches to Assessment?

Informal Feedback

Making Certain We Are Measuring What Our Students Are Learning

Test Considerations vs. Projects


Appendix A: Interest Inventory

Appendix B: Eporue Map

Appendix C: Juan’s Classroom

Appendix D: Using Juan’s Interest Inventory to Show Group Attitude Change

10. Developing Teachers Who Inspire Their Students
What is Different About Instruction That Allows the Brain to Learn in its Most Natural Way?

Why Does This Approach Work?

How Do Teacher Skills Differ in Problem-Solving Instruction?

A Model Preservice Teacher Training Program: Training Teachers to Teach with the Brain’s Natural Way of Learning

Candidate Selection Process

Program Structure

The Teacher Education Classroom as a Laboratory

Student Teaching

A More Effective Approach to the Preservice Education of Teachers

The On-going Professional Development of Teachers

If the Resources Were Available, What Would a Model Professional- Development Program Look Like?

Lesson Study: Another Professional Development Strategy





"Well organized. I enjoyed the self-talk about bad neural networks and especially liked the brain research in the chapters pertaining to the development of the student."

Marilee Sprenger, Professional Development Consultant

“`Handle with care’ should be on the front cover so that the eager teacher uses the book as an inspirational resource, gradually remolding practice and introducing change in appropriate increments. This book might have immediate impact if used first as a discussion starter for small groups of teachers or as a study guide for staff development or 'retreats.' The message of the book, however, goes far beyond strategies for teachers. There are issues here for school administrators, for state-mandated goals and programs, and for teacher education programs. The book certainly deserves consideration by teacher education methods instructors. And since parental involvement is absolutely necessary if any constructive change is to take place, imagine how discussion of this text might perk up a PTA meeting!”

Roy Bentley, Professor Emeritus
University of British Columbia

"Fosters a refreshing educational discourse of possibility and offers some very useful classroom strategies that work with today's youth."

Peter P. Grimmett, Director
Institute for studies in Teacher Education, Simon Fraser University

"A wonderful guidebook for people moving toward constructivism and for many who are already there."

Geoffrey Caine, Director
Caine Learning

"Igniting Student Potential should be on every teacher's must-read list. The book not only tells why teachers should get in tune with their students' natural learning process, but explains how to do so. If teachers have intent to construct the best possible learning environment for their students, this book is an essential tool to help them do it."

Dee Tadlock, PhD Director, Research & Development
Read Right Systems, Inc.

"A stimulating read. Confirms so much of what we have been trying to convey to the teachers with whom we work."

Sue Beeson, Director, CSD
Developing Emotionally Literate Schools
Key features
  • Combines brain research, classroom applications, and teaching skills based on the Natural Human Learning Process (NHLP) that all students possess
  • By award-winning author Rita Smilkstein and co-authors Angus Gunn and Robert Richburg, all of them master teachers, teacher educators, and staff developers
  • Focuses on the needs of diverse learners from PreK through high school and beyond, as well as on the professional development needs of instructors and instructional leaders
  • Covers curriculum applications across content areas, teaching methods, and learning styles.
  • Appropriate for in-service teachers as well as for pre-service methods courses
  • Covers research and theory, instructional planning and strategies, sample lessons, assessment, teaching for transfer, teacher professional development, and more. 

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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ISBN: 9781412917063
CAD$ 56.95

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