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We're Born to Learn
Using the Brain's Natural Learning Process to Create Today's Curriculum

Second Edition
  • Rita Smilkstein - Western Washington University, Woodring College of Education, Bellingham, USA


May 2011 | 272 pages | Corwin
In this updated edition of the extraordinary book that linked brain research and the classroom, Smilkstein incorporates all-new research on brain-compatible teaching and the implications of the brain's natural learning process for how teachers can design and deliver effective lesson plans and curriculum. The author's unique research with almost 7,000 students and educators reveals how people experience their own natural learning.

In this book Smilkstein breaks down the physiological as well as the emotional development of learning into practitioner-friendly terms well-grounded in research, with special emphasis in this revised edition upon the use of technology in schools; strategies to reach gifted students as well as those who are diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders; and upon the 7 magic words—"see if you can figure this out"—that lie at the heart of curriculum development to engage all learners.

 
Foreword by James H. Berry
 
Preface
 
Acknowledgments
 
About the Author
 
Introduction
What This Book Is About

 
Why Study the Brain?

 
Experienced Educators and the Research

 
The Learning Paradigm

 
Assumptions

 
Where We Have Been

 
Where We Are Today

 
This Book

 
 
PART I: Research in the Classroom and in the Brain Lab
 
1. Learning and Teaching
Eye-Opening Experiences in the Classroom

 
The Natural Human Learning Process and Brain Research

 
The Breakthrough Classroom

 
The Research-Based Stages, Curriculum, and Lesson Plans

 
 
2. How People Learn: The Natural Human Learning Process (NHLP)
Critical and Creative Thinking by Infants and Children

 
An Example of Children’s Critical and Creative Thinking

 
Critical and Creative Thinking in School

 
The Natural Human Learning Process and School

 
The Natural Human Learning Process (NHLP) Research

 
After the Research Is Over

 
Research Reports

 
The Importance of Making Mistakes

 
Where We Go From Here

 
 
3. How the Brain Learns: The Brain’s Natural Learning Process
Introducing the Brain

 
Getting to Know the Brain

 
How the Brain Learns

 
Convergence of Ceiling Levels and Neural Networks

 
Pruning

 
Experience and Brain Growth

 
Constructivism

 
How the Brain Thinks and Remembers

 
The Brain’s Innate Resources and Rules

 
Children’s Brains and Adults’ Brains

 
The Brain Grows Holistically with Plasticity

 
Implications for Curriculum Development

 
What About Piaget?

 
The Breakthrough Theory of Learning

 
 
4. Personal Experience, Individual Differences, and Learning
Emotions and the Brain

 
Negative and Positive Self-Image Networks

 
Learning from Experience

 
Learning Styles, Preferences, and Multiple Intelligences

 
Gifted Students

 
Aptitudes

 
Special Needs, Learning Differences, Autism, ADD, and ADHD

 
The Seven Magic Words: See If You Can Figure It Out

 
Tests

 
Beyond Individual Differences

 
A Handout for Students

 
 
5. The Student’s Experience: Metacognition, Motivation, Self-Evaluation, Achievement, and Technology Self Taught
Metacognition and Motivation

 
Intrinsic Rewards

 
Removing the Barriers

 
Self-Evaluation and Metacognition

 
Another Metacognitive Experience

 
Achievement

 
Writing Samples

 
Age and Achievement

 
Technology Self Taught

 
 
PART II: Theory and Application
 
6. Sequencing of the Curriculum
Challenges

 
The Missing Link

 
Two Problems

 
Neuroscience and Education

 
Converging Research

 
The Theory and Guide

 
Putting the Theory into Practice

 
Thinking at Higher Levels

 
Constructing New Knowledge

 
Planning the Sequence of the Units or Topics in a Curriculum

 
Using a Causal Sequence

 
Learning Activities for Units and Topics

 
The First Activity

 
Two Classroom Examples

 
Students and the NHLP

 
Developing a Curriculum

 
Young Students Thinking at a High Level

 
The NHLP in the Classroom

 
 
7. The Pedagogical Model and Guidelines
Transfer

 
Four Effective Instructional Practices

 
NHLP Pedagogical Guidelines

 
Assessment

 
Education Courses or Faculty Development Programs

 
Good News

 
 
PART III: Using the Brain’s Natural Learning Process to Create Curriculum
 
8. Brain-Based, Natural Learning Across the Curriculum
The Seven Magic Words in Action

 
Safety

 
Respect

 
The Opportunity to Learn Naturally

 
The Critical First Stages

 
The Introduction-to-Poetry Unit

 
Front Loading

 
A Science Learning Activity about the Concept of Buoyancy

 
A Unit for Library Orientation

 
A Unit for Introduction to Safety Procedures

 
A Science Learning Activity about Water

 
A Unit for Learning How to Take Lecture Notes

 
The NHLP Planning Guidelines and Pedagogy

 
 
9. Curriculum Development for Units, Courses, and Programs
Where to Start

 
Curriculum Development Guidelines

 
A Unit on Literal and Inferential Meaning

 
A Unit on an Introduction to Egypt

 
A Unit on an Introduction to Fractions

 
A Basic Grammar Curriculum: A Sequence of Units for a Whole Course

 
A Developmental English Curriculum: Courses in a Program

 
 
References
 
General Bibliography
 
Index

"I encountered Rita Smilkstein's work as I struggled with teaching entry level students on an Indian Reservation. The natural human learning process described in the book transformed my experience. My students were engaged, attending classes, and reprogramming their past from the frame of 'failure' to the frame of 'born to learn.' No teacher, new or experienced, should enter any class without a copy of this book."

Patricia Jamie Lee, Educational Consultant
Many Kites Press, St. Paul, MN

"Dr. Rita Smilkstein has inspired thousands of students and educators with her practical application of the Natural Human Learning Process. This new edition brings us up-to-date, and maintains the clarity and generosity of spirit that is Smilkstein's trademark.  Her enthusiasm rekindles the joy of learning that is hard-wired in all of us. If you read one book this year, make it We're Born to Learn, then put it into action."

Laura Symons, Assistant Professor
Piedmont Community College, Charlottesville, VA

"We're Born to Learn is one of the most valuable instructional tools teachers will ever use.  Knowing 'how' students learn should be absolutely mandatory, yet is rarely taught in college prep. All teachers believe that they are teaching, but few know how students actually learn, and don't consider how the brain processes new information while developing their lesson plans. Dr. Smilkstein likens the learning brain to twigs on a tree; the twigs grow from a branch that is already there (prior knowledge). After reading this book, the most treasured seven words in every classroom will be, 'See if you can figure this out.'"

Dr. Deborah Daiek, Associate Dean
Schoolcraft College, Livonia, MI

"Dr. Rita Smilkstein offers a prescription for what ails our developmental students: lack of critical thinking, lack of understanding of the learning process, etc. While the previous edition is a must read, this latest edition is teaching and learning’s pharmacology textbook…a collector’s item for developmental education."

Reneau Waggoner, Associate Professor
Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville, KY

"This book is a must read for anyone with ADHD or ADD students who are drowning in the public education system. The author presents recent research that opens the door for teachers to immediately create an environment conducive to helping these students learn." 

Karen J. Sides, Dean of Interdisciplinary Programs
St. Philip's College, San Antonio, TX

"Packs in in practical methods for achievement and is a top pick for any education collection."

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
The Midwest Book Review, August 2011

Sample Materials & Chapters

Foreword by James H. Berry

Preface to the New Edition


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ISBN: 9781412979382
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