Create Flip Books with your students to understand Optical Illusions!

When we were teaching the students about the brain this year, one of the things that fascinated them the most was Optical Illusions!  I think all kids love optical illusions.  What exactly is an optical illusion?  All the information that your eyes gather is processed by the brain.  Your eyes processes color, light, and patterns and send that information to your brain which  interprets the information we take in through our eyes.  Sometimes the colors, light and patterns trick our brains into seeing things that may not be real.  Do you like to see animated movies or cartoons?  If so, you are seeing a series of images that create an illusion called apparent motion.  The pictures flashed on the screen move so rapidly that your brain fills in the gaps and actually blends the pictures together giving the illusion of motion.

A fun way to illustrate that concept is to have your students make a flip book.  This is the one I made to use with my students.  Just follow the directions on the sheet and you will see an illusion of a dog moving his head and wagging his tail!  Now this is just the introduction to the concept! Do not tell them why they see the motion before they make the flip books!  It is best to make them and then have the kids brainstorm ideas about why they think their eyes are tricking their brains.  Then explain about the rapid movement making their brain fill in the gaps.  Actually, this also happens every time you blink your eyes!

I like to have my students then create their own flip books.  No art skills are necessary.  They can create stick figures which do jumping jacks,  a bouncing ball, etc.  If they’re really industrious, they can use index cards to create a series of pictures which are then stapled together and flipped like you would flip the pages in a book.  But for young students in the primary grades, just a two page flip book is sufficient.  If you click on the image of the flip book below, it will take you to my Google Docs page where you can download a free copy of the picture and directions.

the friendly dog flip book directions

What are some ideas your kids could use for flip books in your class?

That’s all for today!  Remember to always…  Keep ’em Thinking! 

susan signature

BrainQUEST: A Brain Awareness Extravaganza

On Saturday, March 9th, the elementary gifted program is hosting an event we call BrainQUEST: Explore Your Amazing Brain! At our local mall. Each gifted classroom is hosting a different station with hands on activities about the brain. The stations include Nifty Neurons – kids learn about neurons and make a model of a neuron, Your Amazing Brain – kids learn about the parts of the brain and make brain hats, Can You Believe Your Eyes – kids learn about optical illusions and make a flip book, Listen Up! – kids learn about the importance of following directions and have to build a Lego construction following verbal instructions, Do You See What I See? – kids make inkblots and decide what they see in their pictures, The Nose Knows – kids match up vials containing different scents, Do the Stroop! – kids do the stroop test to see how the brain deals with conflicting information, Daily Doozies – kids complete brain puzzlers to keep their brains sharp, Memory Maters – kids complete a memory game, Let Your Fingers Do the Looking – kids identify mystery objects using touch. Also a local hospital has a display about the importance of diet, exercise, and sleep to keep your brain healthy, and biology majors from a local college have a display of different animal brains. Whew! It’s going to be a busy time! We have a program where students must complete 6 stations to receive a brain goodie bag filled with brain pencils, brain erasers, a brain stress ball, a brain coloring book, brain stickers, a brain button, and free coupons to things in the mall. Next week I’ll have lots of pictures to post showing everything from the event, so be sure to check back.
That’s all for today! Remember to always Keep ’em Thinking!
Susan Morrow

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Your Brain By the Numbers

I just found the most amazing picture today on the Internet while I was researching the brain, and I just had to share it with you!  If you know me, you know that I am fascinated with anything about the brain.  Dwayne Godwin is a neuroscientist at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and came up with all the information. Jorge Cham draws the comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper at www.phdcomics.com.  You can find this picture and even more neat brainy stuff in the November issue of Scientific Mind.  Just click on each picture to take you to the page.

I LOVE this poster!  I think the kids would be fascinated by all the mind boggling numbers!  I’m sitting here thinking of some mind boggling math problems you could create to go with it!

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You can find this picture and even more neat brainy stuff in the November issue of Scientific Mind.  Just click on each picture to take you to the page.  I never knew there was a Scientific American Mind magazine.  I previewed several issues and a subscription is now on my Christmas list!  The November issue even has a great article about How to Raise a Gifted Child!

Do You Doodle?

brain doodle created by one of the gifted specialists

Do you doodle? I do! I’m bad about sitting in a meeting and doodling all over my notes. But apparently I’m not alone. There have been some really famous doodlers like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Bill Gates. I am happy to have something in common with these guys! Apparently doodling is not a bad thing. When we doodle our mind is very active according to Jackie Andrade, a professor at the University of Plymouth. She did a study where two groups listened to a tape of a boring phone conversation. One group was given paper and pencil and encouraged to doodle while listening to the tape while the other group was given nothing. Afterwards she tested each group’s recall of the information on the tape. The doodlers remembered 29% more of the information in the conversation than the non-doodlers did in a surprise memory test. Andrade believes that doodling while we work can actually help you remember!
Why is doodling a good thing? Andrade says we need to look at how our brains function when they’re bored. Contrary to popular belief, when we’re bored our brains are very active and using lots of energy. The brain is designed to constantly process the millions of bits of information is it constantly being bombarded with. But when the brain finds an environment with little stimulation, it starts looking for something to think about. This is what happens when we begin to daydream which wastes a huge amount of brain energy. But doodling provides just enough stimulation to our brain during a task we find boring and prevents us from daydreaming. Doodling doesn’t take away from concentration and can keep us from daydreaming and losing track of what is going on around us.
So how does this play out in the classroom? Should we encourage our students to doodle while listening to a lecture or watching a video? Actually, one of the greatest strategies particularly for our visual spatial kids to recall information is to take pictorial notes which we might consider minds-on doodling.
In September, several of the gifted specialists attended a session at the Alabama Association of Gifted Children conference on a form of doodling called Zentangling. Apparently this is a trademarked form of doodling. Once you begin “tangling,” you are hooked. Some of the gifted specialists have had their students “tangle” brains, their names, and even pumpkins for Halloween and they’ve come up with some pretty awesome products. If you’re interested in having your kids get into “tangling,” check out the books below:
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That’s all for today! Remember to always Keep ’em Thinking!

Free Multiple Intelligences Posters for Kids

Since the students in the elementary gifted program have been doing a unit on the brain,  I decided to create a set of multiple intelligence posters for kids. Be sure to click on the picture below to download your FREE COPY!  Every chiild is smart in a number of ways, but  they often only think of kids who excel in academics as smart.  Refer to the posters often in the classroom when doing different types of activities.  It’s fun when you are studying biographies of famous people to talk about the different types of intelligence they demonstrate.  Lastly, it is important for students to realize that you can increase your intelligence in any area.  Mike Phelps was not born an Olympic swimmer, but through practice, persistence, and hard work, he was able to grow his “body smarts” to win many Olympic gold medals.  It is the same in the classroom.  The more the students practice and perservere, the better they will become at reading, math, logic, art, music, etc.

I hope you enjoy these posters as much as I enjoyed making them. 

Brain Awareness Week Activities

This year the gifted specialists are teaching a unit on the brain.  It has been so much fun!  Students have learned about different types of intelligence, basic brain biology, neurtransmission, and how emotions, diet, sleep, and exercise affect learning and memory. To kick off National Brain Awareness Week which is March 11-17th, 2013, the gifted students will be sponsoring a huge Brain QUEST at a local mall on the Saturday, March 9th.  Each gifted classroom will have a different interactive exhibit.  Some of the exhibits include making models of neurons, playing memory games, doing the stroop test experiment, making optical illusions,  identifying smells,  and making brain hats.  One of the gifted specialists showed me the game Operation Brain Surgery by Milton Bradley which she got at a yard sale for $2.00.  It was missing some of the parts, but all we were interested in was the head.  We’re going to use it at the exhibit on touch.  You see the head has an opening at the top which you put your hand through to feel objects which are placed inside.  So, to teach about the sense of touch at our Brain QUEST exhibit, we are going to place various objects into the head and students will have to use the sense of touch to identify them.  One head won’t be enough for our exhibit, so I starting researching the game online and of course I discovered it is no longer being made.  So, my next step was Ebay!  There I found one of the games also missing some parts, for under $10.00, so I snatched it up!  I’m hoping to find one more at a great deal so we will have three for our exhibit.

I think there are all sorts of ways you could use this head in your classroom.  One idea is to have a center called What’s on You Mind? and inside you could have journal prompts such as Wondering questionsWhat if? questions, or Would You Rather? questions.   Students could stick their hand into the head and pull out a prompt and complete it in their journals.  A great idea for those early finishers. Well, that is all for today!  Always remember….

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