Responsive Teaching
Debbie McLaughlin
By Debbie McLaughlin
High School Learning Support, 9th Grade Advisor
April 18, 2019
Teaching with the adolescent brain in mind: see what our high school teachers are up to!  
A group of 9th grade teachers are actively teaching students about the brain and executive functions, making time in classes to practice these skills. Executive functions are the group of skills directed by the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) of the brain, the last part of the brain to develop. Maturing around age 25, the PFC governs planning, decision-making, organizing,  and moderating social behavior.
Eve Lipton (math), Louisa Fish-Sadin (French and religious studies), Katie Joyce (global issues), Maritza Tavarez-Brown (physics), and Debbie McLaughlin (learning support) recently formed a learning community. We believe it is powerful to embed direct teaching about executive functions in the context of actual coursework, versus relegating sole support for this skill development to one-to-one meetings with a teacher, tutor, or learning specialist. Each teacher has chosen a skill or two to teach, and we meet every three weeks to debrief.   
A few areas of focus: breaking large projects into small chunks; activating working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory pathways; and using metacognitive strategies for test-taking, through test wrappers. We will report out more later in the year, but initially, we are excited about the power of these tools for all students. Teachers are already seeing progress and improvement in girls’ skills and how they envision themselves as active learners.  
Another place to learn about what teachers are up to is a regular blog on Learning Support: Responsive Teaching at the Learning Support Weebly. Written specifically for faculty in the spirit of ongoing professional development, the blog shares examples from our own classrooms, evidence-based research, and immediately-applicable strategies. We invite you to explore, and contact Debbie McLaughlin if you’d like to know more.
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