Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the 20-year anniversary of BrainSMART, we are sharing some of our educators’ stories. All of the featured educators earned their Master’s in Brain-based Teaching curricula and/or the Minor in Brain-based Leadership, co-developed by Dr. Donna Wilson and Dr. Marcus Conyers, co-founders of BrainSMART. Below is a synopsis of one of those stories.
Christena Nelson’s goal is to create a classroom environment where energetic, optimistic children are excited to learn, and the BrainSMART strategies are among her most useful tools in accomplishing that aim. She shared some of these ideas in an interview for the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students.
At the time of the interview, she was teaching a year-round kindergarten class at Copper Canyon Elementary School in West Jordan, Utah. Ms. Nelson adapted many of the ideas in Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers’ book, 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, for use with her young students.
For example, she created a puppet show based on the story of “Treasure Hunters and Trash Collectors” to illustrate how optimism makes it easier and more fun to learn new things. Tess the Treasure Hunter has a positive outlook and collects useful moments—i.e., treasures—to carry with her throughout the course of her day. Conversely, Gus the Trash Collector focuses all his time and energy on looking for things that are wrong and unfair, carrying those thoughts around as a heavy and unpleasant burden.
The puppets and their props are displayed in the front of the classroom “to remind everyone— including myself— to be positive,” Ms. Nelson explained. The puppets get the children’s attention and make the lesson about the power of optimistic learning much more memorable.
“I ask them, ‘Which one are you? Are you Tess the Treasure Hunter? Or are you Gus the Grumpy Garbage Collector?’ They all say, ‘We’re Tess! We’re Tess!’”
Whenever someone would start to get negative, Ms. Nelson would tell the class generally, taking care not to single out any one student, “Uh-oh! It sounds like we’ve got Gus the Grumpy Garbage Collector in class today.”
“It’s really helpful to remind students of the power of positive thinking,” she said.