Bait the Hook

2 Jul

Educators make a living out of presenting information. We make a career out of engaging others in what we have to say. The success of our students is determined by our ability to communicate. The level of  learning is directly proportionate to our skills to guide, lead, teach, model, and coach students through a multitude of tasks. Keeping our audience engaged is crucial. Keeping the human brain interested in consuming what we’re serving up is the secret to our success. Quite simply, if we don’t bait the hook, those fish won’t bite. So, what are we to do? How in the world do we ensure that our audiences,  of children and adults alike, stay awake long enough to grab that worm on our hook?

Once again, I find the answers in research. One of my favorite texts on the topic of brain research is the following:

  • Brain Rules, by Dr. John Medina

Dr. John Medina is developmental molecular biologist who specializes in brain function. He’s one of those guys in the white lab coat, who’s way smarter than 99.99% of the non-molecular biology world.  But what I love about this book is that Dr. Medina delivers the goods in an easy-to-read 280 page text designed for the rest of us.  He gives us carte blanche access into the best of brain science research.  The book clearly defines 12 simple brain “rules” of our human hard-wiring. This text, while based on these rules, is a thorough synthesis of all that good brain research that’s been pumping out of think tanks for decades.

One of the brain rules that Dr. Medina explains is the concept of attention. He simply states that we humans don’t pay attention to boring things. So now you’re wondering why we need a 280 page text to tell us this. Nice try. There’s more, I promise.  What Dr. Medina does in this chapter is explain the real key behind keeping the attention of our human brain. He explains that emotion is the trigger that really excites our brains. We pay attention to emotions. Emotions are the invisible signal to say, react, think, or do something in a particular way. This concept is important to educators because without emotion, or without a hook, we lose our audience.  I know we’ve all been there, and truth be told, it’s no picnic.

Now that we know stimulating the brain is the only way to keep our audience engaged, what do we do? First of all, stop talking. Teachers who love to lecture, I’m talking to you. Seriously, stop talking.  If we must blather, keep it to a minimum. Stay under 10 minutes, and then use a hook: fear, laughter, happiness, nostalgia, incredulity, you name it. Reel your learners back in with a brain break. Make the  emotional hook relevant. Don’t dangle the wrong kind of bait. Know your audience and their background. Make the bait palatable for those you’re teaching. Additionally, keep in mind that fidgeting, movement, squirming and wriggling are all natural responses to the brain falling asleep. For those of us dedicated to teaching youngsters, find a way to make peace with the fidgets, wiggles, and giggles. Our kids are just like us, but with even smaller attention spans. Know that when we use the best of brain research all our audiences benefit.

So, now that we know, let’s make the best use of what years of brain science teaches us. Remember that baiting a hook isn’t just something we do while trout fishing; it’s how we educators must teach. Use our skills wisely in using our knowledge and brain power to work with us, not against us.  May you be successful  reeling in the big ones during your next lesson.

I wish you the best in excellence and instruction.

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One Response to “Bait the Hook”

  1. Rockstar August 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Great analogy! I’ll be downloading this one right away.

    I’m reading “Linchpin” now. A recommendation from Dr. Hess. Have you heard of it? Really good! I have digitally dogeared a lot of pages!

    Luv ya! k~

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