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Report On This Week’s Lessons On The Brain & Self-Control


The school year is off to a fast start, and it’s going very, very well. One of the many elements I’m excited about is the fact that I’ve refined, developed and expanded a number of lessons on “life skills” that I’ll be teaching and will be including them in my upcoming book, Student Self-Motivation, Responsibility, and Engagement:Practical Answers to Classroom Challenges (it will be published by Eye On Education next spring). I’ve posted about a few of them in this blog already, but they’ll be a lot more in the book.

This past week I taught my lessons on the “Brain Is Like A Muscle” and on self control (you can see earlier versions of those lesson plans at Reading Logs — Part Two (or “How Students Can Grow Their Brains”) and at “I Like This Lesson Because It Make Me Have a Longer Temper” (Part One). They went very well, and several days after the lessons were done I asked students to write down what they thought was the most important thing they learned and why they thought it was important. I thought readers might be interested in hearing how some of the students responded.

I taught these lessons in my double-period ninth-grade English class, my advanced ninth-grade English class, and my Intermediate English class (I’ll be teaching versions of them in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class, but not until we begin studying Human Science). One of the other exciting things for me this year is that twelve of us at my school will be teaching these lessons (approximately one every other week), so I can get feedback from them about how it went and hear their suggestions for improvement. So far, everybody has been quite pleased.

I was struck by the fact that students in my double period class clearly took the lessons much more to heart than the advanced students.  Unprompted by me, many double period students made personal connections to what they learned from the lessons, and some obviously found the lessons to be quite significant.  The advanced class tended to look at it much more intellectually.  My suspicion is that the advanced students don’t lack for confidence in their academic ability, and have probably seldom had their intelligence challenged.  I also suspect they’ve had fewer self-control issues.  I want to put some more thought into how I might modify these lessons for them in the future.

Here are examples of what students wrote:

What was the most important thing you learned from the brain lesson? Was it interesting? If yes, why? If not, why not?

The main thing I learned about the brain was that the brain will get stronger th more you exercise it. The most interesting thing I learned was that even if you’re dumb you can become smarter by learning more.

The most interesting thing I remember from the brain lesson was that if you study and practice your brain will get stronger, and that’s interesting because you learn new things everyday.

The main thing I remembered about the brain lesson was that if you’re born stupid you can still be smart. This lesson was interesting because anyone can be smart even if you were born different.

I learned that the more you challenge your brain the more it learns.

What was the most important thing you learned from the self-control lesson? Was it interesting? If yes, why? If not, why not?

The main thing I remember about the self-control lesson is how the little kids failed and ate the marshmallow. Yes, it was kind of interesting because it was about how you have weakness and how you could get over your weaknesses.

I learned that if you are patient you will get more success.

I learned that with patience you are more likely to better succeed.

I’ll continue to report how future “life skills” lessons go…

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I teach reluctant/struggling teenage students and when I tell them that doing their math homework makes their brains stronger just like working out in the gym makes their muscles stronger, they believe me and don’t complain about having to do their work. I also tell them that if they do certain kinds of questions over and over again (the ones they have problems with) ,its like shooting hoops over and over again. The more you practice, the better you get .

    It’s amazing that I’ve never had a student tell me that what I’m saying is BS, and believe me my students would tell me that if they thought what I was saying was BS.

    I think they believe what I tell them because the kids really wish they could do better but they have trouble and struggle so they look for ways to get stronger so that things are easier. They understand the benefits of exercise in sports , I just make them aware that exercising your brain doing math questions helps your brain get stronger when doing math.

  2. hi
    I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. I find this article very interesting. Maybe you are right. The more confidence a student has, the better he/she tends to do. The better a student does the less problems they have dealing with learning. On the flip side, the worst a student does the more self-control problems they have. They get flustered easier and lose their temper quicker, because they do not have that confidence that keeps them thinking in a positive manner.

  3. Pingback: Week in Lab Week Three for 2010 | Reflections on Teaching

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