5 things you should know about how your brain learns | USA TODAY College

I’m very interested in how the brain takes in new information, and how to improve the learning process.  I always encourage students to learn more about their brains, to better understand how to learn well.  There are a few things that I do regularly, based on what I’ve learned about the brain so for.

  • Ask students to talk about “what’s new”.  This builds social skills, but it also allows them to practice using vocabulary they already know, and to expand on that vocabulary with new words, expressions and idioms that relate to their everyday experiences.  I hope that this regular activity will also encourage them to “English” any of their everyday activities, since they know they’ll have to share something with the class.
  • Work on exercises individually, review with a partner, then correct the exercise with the whole class.  Good students will also do the connected workbook exercises after each class.  This provides several repetition and reinforcement opportunities since we rarely learn something new, the first time we’re exposed to that information.  It also allows connections to be strengthened between existing and new knowledge.
  • Individual, narrative writing that connects to each new subject area, as well as grammar.  Again, this allows students to reinforce new knowledge, connect it to existing knowledge, and expand their “English” thinking about the current subject.  As students write, I collect their writing, edit it, and send back the writing that all of the students have done, so that they have a grammatically correct “template” for expressing themselves on the subject.  Also, this provides reading material that is interesting, and not too challenging for students to read independently.
  • Regular “fieldtrips” to go use the target language in a real, yet safe and enjoyable environment.  This means visiting restaurants or grocery stores when learning about food, a nearby gym while learning about staying in shape.

I hope that these various methods are helping students to incorporate their language learning as quickly as possible!  Please share any other tips and tricks that have helped you to learn or to teach a new language.

Click the link below to see what scientists are saying about the brain.


via 5 things you should know about how your brain learns | USA TODAY College.

Do you want to be happy on Blue Monday?


Somebody decided that today is the most depressing day of the year. I think it was a travel agent who wanted to sell winter vacations, but possibly someone thought that it’s very difficult to survive the winter, and people are very impatient by now.  In my opinion, today is a fantastic day.  As you can see in the picture above, the dark part of the day is already much shorter, since the sky was turning red at 0630 hours.  I exercised with friends before starting the day, walked to work, and my students are full of good news today!  These are 2 great stories that I saw about happiness today: one video, and one article.  What’s something that you can do to be happier about your life?  One thing that I recommend is to try to see new stresses and challenges as opportunities for learning and getting stronger.  When we look back on hard times in our lives, we can always find lessons that we learned, as a result of our difficulties.



The Age At Which Learning a New Language Stops Strengthening The Brain — PsyBlog

The Age At Which Learning a New Language Stops Strengthening The Brain — PsyBlog.

The good news is that learning another language is always good for your brain!  Go to a coffee shop, store or restaurant where you can hear another language.  Change your browser settings on your computer to another language.  Listen to radio ads in a new language: it’s like vitamins for your brain!!

Learning a new language has the same effect as sex and chocolate on the brain’s pleasure centres

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate and the Future of the Chocolate Industry

Learning a new language has the same effect as sex and chocolate on the brain’s pleasure centres
From International Business Times
Learning a new language apparently has certain unexpected benefits.

Researchers found that the process of learning a language and acquiring a wider vocabulary has the effect of stimulating the same part of the brain as having sex or eating chocolate.

Scientists from Spain and Germany found people who expand their vocabulary trigger a part of the brain known as the ventral striatum, a pleasure centre that is activated when people are involved in activities such as sex, drugs, gambling or eating sugary foods.

Researchers from Barcelona’s Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute and Otto von GuerickeUniversity in Germany conducted trials on 36 adults who participated in gambling simulations and language-based tests.

Scans carried out after the tests, showed that both activities stimulated the same parts of the brain.

The study also seemed to confirm the belief that learning a second language helps to keep your brain sharp as you age.

The University of Edinburgh detected a pattern of slower mental decline among the bilingual in a group of 835 born in 1936.

Those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities in their 70s than their peers.

“Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the ageing brain,” one of the authors of the study commented.

“Those with higher myelin concentrations – or a better connection to the reward area – were able to learn more words. The main objective of the study was to know to what extent language learning activates subcortical reward and motivational systems,” said Pablo Ripollés, PhD student at Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute.

The researchers now hope to use results from their study to develop new treatment for people with language-learning difficulties.

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?.

This post highlights a lot of the ideas that I think are really important for learning, such as embracing mistakes, instead of fearing failure, making a long-term commitment, and including play.

Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates an arena for social interaction and learning. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents.

The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. 

In my experience, when students are having fun, they feel like they are in a supportive environment, and they aren’t afraid of mistakes, then their learning happens very quickly (and pleasantly!).

Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain, by Louis Cozolino

Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain, by Louis Cozolino

Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain, by Louis Cozolino.

For teachers and for students, it’s really important to know as much as possible about the brain and how it works, so that we can get the most out of learning time.  For me, some really important experiences that enhance learning are ones that incorporate movement, art, music, discussion, and storytelling.  Read the article to learn more about why these are important.

Students respond to “What are neural pathways, and why are they important?”

Recently, students in my writing class watched the video about neural pathways and summarized the information that they got from the video.  They did a fantastic job, and if you read their responses, it will help you to understand the video better.

The original post is here:



Learning from the video, when people start to learn a new thing, their brain will create a contact to cross the tiny gap between every Neuron. Although the gap seems to be small, in our daily life it can still be a deep gap. Learning a new thing is like crossing a deep gap. Like a huge mountain you’ve never known or visited, the new things stands there, waiting for you. However, to climb the mountain, first you should try your best to cross the gap. How difficult it is! The first attempt is always not only quite hard but also dangerous. Using tools, the people in the video are trying to build a bridge between here and the other side. Feeling scared, some may stop and give up, and some may hesitate. Only by being brave enough, can you be successful. Also, on the trip, there are always some failures which may dull your enthusiasm, telling that you are a loser and you can’t finish you work. Therefore, it’s important for us to insist on trying again and again. Naturally, we will gradually become more and more skillful. As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”. As time goes by, finally we will find we are successful.



In my opinion, understanding neural paths is really important because that knowledge would make it possible to change some undesirable habits and to make learning like an exercise routine. First, changing some undesirable behaviors is possible by repeatedly exchanging the undesirable action for another more acceptable action. On the other hand, learning new things is not only fun but it creates new paths in the brain which is an awesome exercise.


Good Habits Make You Feel Like You’re Gonna Die.  Published on May 31, 2012 by Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D. in Your Neurochemical Self

What’s a neural pathway, and why does it matter?. Published on June 04, 2014 in ellen’s esl teaching blog




We learn so many things in our life, and indeed, sometimes, learning new things is not easy for us. But we have something incredible in our brain that takes this new information, rearranges it, and keeps it until we need it. So how could our brain do this for us? Does it have some kind of miracle to help it?

Learning is about creating pathways. Our brain has billions of neurons and cells. Neurons help to connect brain cells to each other. Signals and electric impulses go thru neurons and between every brain connection in tiny gap called synapses. All the new things that we learn are through these electric signals. The electric signals have to jump to cross this gap and get from one side to other.

If I’d like to give you an example from life, I can use a mountain climber. They sometimes have to cross a deep ravine. Crossing a ravine for a climber is very similar to the electric signals crossing the gaps. Maybe you have to make a pathway between sides and this is not a thing you can do for the first time. After you cross the ravine, then you can do it again and again, and it gets easer. To learn something new is similar to crossing a ravine, so we need pathways. When the signals cross the gap between our cells again and again, we establish the most solid pathway, which is a neural pathway. These neural pathways help us to learn something new, and they are the miracles in our brain.


 What’s a neural pathway, and why does it matter?


Neural pathways help to link relatively distant areas of the brain or nervous system, associated with the local communication of grey matter. It helps us to learn new knowledge and to create new pathways trough the repetition process. The learning process is not easy, and it involves patience and time.


For that reason, when we are learning a new language or studying for a subject, we should have time to concentrate, practice and repeat the procedure. Especially knowing, when it is our first time studying or learning a material, it’s always difficult to process the information. The second time, it becomes a little easier, and successively, it becomes easier until you create a solid pathway. As a result, our brain internally changes, strengthening and creating new pathways in our brain, developing our knowledge and our way of thinking.


What’s a neural pathway, and why does it matter?


A neural pathway is a road where something new passes to the brain. When we learn anything new, it is difficult, complicated, hard and sometimes confusing, but if we learn and study continuously and repeat new information constantly, our brains will organize to accommodate the new ideas and we’ll able to use new information easily. For example, I had a poor sense of directions so I couldn’t go anywhere without navigation in Korea. However, I drove a lot to meet my customers everyday for my job and now, I know the main road and street of most cities and I can find route to anywhere easily without navigation. It was possible because of repetitive experience.


Neural pathways are the connections that transmit messages between brain nerves. They are formed from childhood when we start to learn for the first time. Then, they are intensified by more learning exercises. The more we learn, the more our connections are boosted and finally they are solidified. However, there are many learning pathways. It is possible to change a pathway or retrain the damaged part of the brain by exercising. Scientific methods can be used for retraining the brain. Transforming our common habits and setting a strong intention would be a useful way. High motivation can send our brain more pulses to make connections for learning. Focusing on outcomes of negatives habits can also motivate our brain to stop them and find a new positive way. However, it is very important to have a substitution for a negative habit. For example, we can replace smoking with jogging when we are stressed. Another important issue in retraining the brain is determination. If we believe that we can change a negative habit, our brain will be motivated and change unintentionally.





What’s a neural pathway, and why does it matter?

All of my students express frustration about how difficult it is to learn English.  When you begin to learn anything new, you need to  understand that it will ALWAYS be difficult, because it’s something new.  Your brain doesn’t know what to do with this new information, and it just seems really strange.  However, our brains are like soft clay, and we can shape our thoughts and ideas to learn new things, we just need to be calm about the fact that each new thing will be difficult.  As we continue to learn, and repeat new information, our brains organize to accommodate the new ideas and information, and as time goes by, using the new information seems extremely easy.  This is because we have developed new pathways in our brain.  Watch this short video to get an idea of how this works, and take a look at some of the images that explain neural pathways.