Information on this page is taken from workshops conducted by Dr. BethAnn Pratte at the Penn State York Literacy Institute in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and the book Brain Rules by John Medina. These are general brain principles that apply to the general population and are guidelines to follow, however your individual circumstance for your child(ren) may differ.

  • A child's attention span = Age in Years (i.e. a 5 year old will have about a 5 minute attention span)
    • Attention spans can be lengthened by incorporating movement, exercise, activating multiple senses or emotions, or novelty
  • The brain seeks connections to past memories (background knowledge) and learnings as well as patterns
  • Children learn through talking (many partnerships and small groups are used in school)
  • The brain can learn difficult concepts more easily through music

  • Why is sleep important?
    • Neurons are highly active during sleep, replaying what you learned that day
  • Recommended Amounts of Sleep
    • Elementary- 10 hours
    • Middle School- 9.5-10 hours
    • High School- 9 hours
  • Results of Lack of Sleep
    • Loss of facts and knowledge- declarative knowledge is programmed into the brain during the last 2 hours of sleep, if sleep is not long enough that information is deleted
    • Symptoms of ADHD- hyperactivity, difficulty focusing and/or concentrating, lack of attention
    • Irritability
    • Increases appetite
    • Increases chance of Type II Diabetes
    • Impacts logical reasoning and motor dexterity
    • Example of math student working through a math problem. The top pictures show a 12 year old boy with adequate sleep. The bottom pictures show the same child working through a similar problem, but sleep deprived.

  • Limit carbohydrates, particularly white, refined flours. Go for whole wheat, whole grains as much as possible.
  • Limit/avoid all processed foods/sugars
  • Increase intake of fatty acids (fish, almonds, walnuts, avocados)
  • Eat lean proteins (shellfish, fish, skinless chicken, veal, lean beef, low fat cottage cheese and yogurt, dried beans and peas, tofu)
  • Increase intake of fresh/frozen vegetables and fruits. Variety is key, provide various colors daily for your child.

  • Why is water important? Water is a natural conductor of electricity. Neurons in the brain need water to communicate. Properly hydrated students learn 20% more information than those who are not properly hydrated.
  • Lack of water is the main cause of daytime fatigue and can also cause issues with short-term memory, basic math, and difficulty focusing.

  • Exercisers outperform sedentary people in every mental test
  • Gets blood to your brain, bringing more energy and oxygen (this allows the brain to get rid of toxins and also stimulates the neural connections)
  • Exercise while learning new information allows you to learn quicker and retain more
  • Helps with concentration, impulse control, problem solving, and memory

  • The brain has "mirror neurons" which allows us to learn through watching others
  • Modeling is practice w/out actually doing the activity
  • Visualization and self talk can increase chance of success
  • Mirror neurons are the reason children do as we do, and not as we say