'my brains - let me show you them' photo (c) 2007, Liz Henry - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

One of the most popular resources on this blog, and a lesson plan in my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves, that I know is one of the more popular chapters in it, is about teaching students that they physically “grow” their brains when they learn new things.

I’ve posted a number of links to related resources on My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students list, but I thought it would be useful to bring some of those posts together with resources I’ve recently found and create a brand new “The Best….” list.

Here are my picks for The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning:

First, here is a series of posts where I specifically describe what I have done in my classes (though I’m in the process of revising those lessons):

Reading Logs — Part Two (or “How Students Can Grow Their Brains”)

“Now I Know My Brain Is Growing When I Read Every Night”

“This Is Your Brain On Learning”

“What Would You Tell You’re Parents You Learned In Class This Month?”

“I Know My Brain Is Growing…” Slideshow Of Student Work

Here are other more recent posts that include information I’m incorporating into those lessons:

“How Does Our Brain Learn New Information?”

“How to Take Better Advantage of Brain Plasticity”

What Does Learning From Mistakes Do To Your Brain?

Learning, adaptation can change brain connections, CMU researchers say

Neuroplasticity: Learning Physically Changes the Brain is from Edutopia.

Your Brain On Learning is by Barbara Bray.

In series of posts I wrote about my lesson, and in my book, I share links to some videos that actually show what learning something new physically does to the brain. I’ve recently found a few other videos that do the same thing. In each of these three videos, the relevant portion is in the first minute or so:

Fascinating Study On What Learning From Mistakes Does To The Brain

Mind, Brain and Education is a very good paper from an organization called Jobs For The Future (I’ve never heard of them before, but that’s more of a reflection on my limited universe than on anything else). It gives one of the best, if not the best, explanation that I’ve read about what happens to the brain when it learns something new. Though some of the “implications” of its findings seem a little shaky, particularly around second language learning, my quick scan of it leads me to think I can use parts of it with my students.

Study: Reading For Pleasure Makes Your Brain Grow (Literally)

I’m preparing a lesson plan on Reading and the Brain, and thought I’d share the resources I’m using for it. I’m adding them all to The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning:


Here are two videos of Maryanne Wolf. The first four-and-half minutes of the first one is the part I’ll use from it.


Reading in the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene has a website full of images. Most are incomprehensible to laypeople, but there are a few that are usable in the classroom. They are:


“This Is Your Brain On Reading”

Here’s news from Scientific American:

Learning a new language can grow one’s perspective. Now scientists find that learning languages grows parts of the brain.

Scientists studied the brains of students in the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, who are required to learn new languages at an alarmingly fast rate. Many must become fluent in Arabic, Russian and the Persian dialect Dari in just 13 months. The researchers compared the brains of these students to the brains of medical students who also have to learn a tremendous amount in a very short period of time, but without the focus on languages.

The brains of the language learners exhibited significant new growth in the hippocampus and in parts of the cerebral cortex. The medical students’ brains showed no observed growth.

Source: dailyinfographic.com

Great Student Hand-Out On Learning & The Brain

Article On Learning & The Brain That’s Perfect For Tenth, Eleventh, & Twelfth Graders

Yet Another Good Piece For Students On Learning & The Brain

Quote Of The Day: Using Imagery & Figurative Language To Describe What Learning Does To Our Brains

Deliberate Practice, Myelin & The Brain

Your brain is like a muscle: use it and make it strong is an article from a new site called Frontiers. It appears to have articles by neuroscientists that are edited by kids.

Why Reading Matters is an hour-long BBC program did a couple of years ago on how reading — and writing — impact the brain.

I wouldn’t show the entire show to students, but there are several very good segments.

The entire show is available on Vimeo, which I’ve embedded below, and it’s also available on YouTube, though it’s in six separate ten minute segments. I’ve also embedded the first segment below.

[BBC documentary] Why Reading Matters from International Dimensions of Tech on Vimeo.

Oh, Boy, This Is Great! Researcher’s Scans Show Brain Connections Growing When Learning New Language

New knowledge about human brain’s plasticity is a report from Science Daily. Most of it isn’t particularly interesting, but it does make some useful comments about myelin, which I discuss in Deliberate Practice, Myelin & The Brain.

Second Quote Of The Day: Learning A Second Language “Increases The Size Of Your Brain”

6 important things you should know about how your brain learns is from Brain Mysteries. I wish it had more links to the research it cites, but it is very accessible and could work well as a student hand-out.

Two “Must Use” Resources From The UK On Education Research

Khan Develops Decent Lesson On Growth Mindset But, Come On, Can’t They Create An Engaging Video?

Jo Boaler, a math professor at Stanford, recently released this great video. Though it talks about math, it would be a good one to show to any class – it’s a good intro to Social Emotional Learning:

Another Study Shows We Physically Alter Our Brain By Learning

How understanding the brain affects learning potential is from The Guardian.

Even for Late Learners, Starting to Read Changes the Brain Fast is an article from Ed Week that has a nice graphic. I’m going to to show it to my ELL students who are not literate in their home language. It goes along with lessons I do about how learning new things makes the brain “grow.”

Another Study Shows That The Brain Changes Physically When Learning Something New

New Study Finds A Growth Mindset Intervention Effective When It Highlights Impact On Brain

Everyone Can Learn Mathematics to High Levels: The Evidence from Neuroscience that Should Change our Teaching is by Jo Boaler.



Building Meaning Builds Teens’ Brains is by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and Douglas R. Knecht.

Reading Changes your Brain, let me explain. is by Jack Close.

5 Astonishing Ways Reading Changes Your Brain is from Bustle.


Quote Of The Day: What Learning Something New Does To The Brain


New tool reveals what happens in the brain when we learn is from Science Daily.

Feedback and additional suggestions are welcome.

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You might also want to explore the 800 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.