Brain Bites

Brain Bites

Want to Jump-Start Your Creativity in the Coming Year?

by Janet Zadina on 11/20/17

Why not read a book on creativity over the holidays?  Sometimes just one idea can really spark creativity or motivate us to jump into that creative project we have been putting off.  Occasionally, when I don’t want to start my weekend house chores, while I am having my coffee, I read a little bit in a book on organizing, feng shui, or decorating to get one idea about how to make a simple improvement.  That gets me motivated and makes mundane chores more interesting as I make an improvement here or there. Perhaps you need motivation to start writing or to begin a creative project. You could jump-start your creativity by reading one of the books in the list below.  

We are all so busy these days. Maybe you don’t have to have a big block of time to read nonfiction or you enjoy reading fiction to relax.  Keep a few nonfiction books near where you drink your coffee, or eat lunch, or by your bed. I keep an eclectic assortment near where I have my coffee. I read a few pages from whatever book strikes me every morning with coffee.   Sometimes I will come across an idea that sparks my creativity and gives me a rush of energy as I add new information to a talk or get motivated to work on my next book.  I feel that if I get one good idea from a book or a book motivates me to make a change or get started on something, it was well worth the money and the time.

This blog sounds like I am trying to convince you to read books!  No, most of you probably love to read!  I am suggesting books on topics outside your usual realm of interest or non-fiction books about your field, your brain, your health, or your lifestyle and taking them one bit at a time.

Here are some books on creativity.  I haven’t read most of them but they all came recommended.  Maybe one of these will fire you up to be more creative in the upcoming year!  They would make great Christmas gifts for your writer or artist friends!

Recently I gave a talk on creativity to faculty about how the creative brain is different from the logical brain in terms of function and activation.  Then we explored how to create the opportunity for creativity both in themselves and in their students.  CLICK HERE for more on that.

Books on Creativity (including writing and art)


Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmuli, Creativity, Inc

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit


Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Annie Lamott, Bird by Bird

Stephen King, On Writing

Ben Shahn, The Shape of Content

Grace Bonney, Company of Women

The following were suggested by author Gretchen Rubin

Bob Dylan, Chronicles

Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being:  Letters

Edward Weston, The Flame of Recognition

Twyla Tharp:  The Creative habit:  Learn it and Use it for Life

W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up

Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

Mason Currey, Daily Rituals:  How Artists Work (includes many occupations, including scientists)

If a Bilingual Brain is a Better Brain, Why Are My Students Struggling?

by Janet Zadina on 10/25/17

Learning a language makes you smarter!  Learning another language early is associated with better reading skills, something that serves children well in school.  Fluent bilinguals may have better learning, more complex thinking, better multi-tasking skill, more creativity, better attentional control, and some protection against age-related mental decline.

Then why do my students struggle, you ask.  Because they are not yet fluent.  The same things that are an advantage later, are actually a disadvantage when they are learning another language. Becoming bilingual makes more demands on attention and working memory, skills critical to academic success.  Struggling with two languages can create cognitive load, leading to mental fatigue and more difficulty multi-tasking.  Many language learners are immigrants, migrants, may live in poverty, or have increased stress in the home.  Anxiety, stress, and trauma create a hidden “learning disability” and increase all of the difficulties just mentioned.  

Teachers must adjust the presentation of material to address the issues with attention, working memory, cognitive load, and stress.  Because anxiety, stress, and trauma diminish attention and working memory and increase cognitive load, addressing stress in the classroom should be the first step.  Start from day one and have your students begin class with a few deep breaths.  Smile and greet students by name when they enter.  Keep things predictable by letting students know what to expect.  Give them some choice (a way of giving them some control) whenever possible.  

Learn about the science and strategies of the hidden threats to learning in attention, working memory, cognitive load, and anxiety-stress-trauma in this keynote or workshop.

Recently presented at the ELL Mini-Regional Conference in Buffalo, NY October, 2017.

Anxiety, Stress, Trauma, and the Brain: Science and Strategies

by Janet Zadina on 10/25/17

At least 30% of your students have enough anxiety or stress to impair learning. Faculty experience stress, as well.  High stress impairs thinking and learning that can negatively impact academic performance. Learn how to reduce this obstacle to achievement.   Depending upon length, this workshop includes:

  • The shocking statistics of the extent of the problem

  • The many ways anxiety, stress, and trauma affect academic performance in multiple pathways

  • What NOT to do – typical classroom practices that can make anxiety or stress worse

  • Research-based strategies for you and your students that

    • Reduce anxiety and stress in the moment

    • Help prevent physiological stress reactions

    • Increase happiness and well-being

    • Increase coping self-efficacy and resilience

    • Create a brain/body/mindset for higher performance

    • How to prevent and address burnout

  • Creation of an Action Plan for yourself and your students

For more workshop or keynote options please visit my Presentations Page HERE.

KEYNOTE OR WORKSHOP: What is True About Brain-Based Learning?

by Janet Zadina on 10/16/17

Are you perpetuating neuromyths in your practices?  Teachers can’t afford to waste valuable learning time engaging in practices based on old myths about learning. See for yourself how the brain actually learns.  Leave with credible practices based on current neuroscience.  Come prepared to laugh, engage, and participate in experiential activities presented by an experienced high school teacher who became a neuroscientist.

This presentation brings a unique vision that most cannot bring because the presenter is a former high school teacher who became a neuroscientist, doing MRI brain scan research on dyslexia.  She understands the difference between good research and media hype and translates this into credible practices (author of books on this topic). The presentation includes experiential activities from science that amaze while teaching.  She models brain-compatible practices throughout the presentation. It is presented with amazing visuals, humor, and engagement.

The goal is threefold: 1) to dispel myths about brain-based learning.  Research indicates that most teachers believe many myths which can translate into practices that may actually harm, or at least, waste time. 2) to replace the myths with a better understanding of learning processes.  3) to provide credible strategies based on new research that will help all learners, especially diverse and struggling learners.

Attendees will be amazed as their beliefs are challenged.  They will acquire new strategies they can use immediately with all grades and content areas.  They can see brain-compatible teaching modeled by the presenter and participate in energizing activities illustrating scientific principles.

Multiple Pathways to the Student Brain: Using Brain Research to Orchestrate Learning

by Janet Zadina on 10/16/17


In this exciting presentation, loaded with real brain images and scattered with interactive experiences, attendees will actually see how learning takes place in the brain through powerful images. Learn the difference between thinking and learning and discover what is required for that to happen. Neuroscience indicates that the more modalities by which learners encode information, the easier that information is to learn and recall.  Go beyond visual, auditory, and kinesthetic and find out about other powerful learning pathways in the brain! Acquire strategies for stimulating these pathways in your classroom activities and assignments.  Learn how to avoid "drill and kill" and get more learning in less time. Discover what part of the brain you are responsible for helping to develop! Be prepared to laugh, learn, and engage!

with Dr. Janet Zadina
Copyright 2013 Janet Zadina, Ph.D. All rights reserved
Janet N. Zadina, Ph.D
Brain Research and Instruction

Science and Strategies
Janet N. Zadina, Ph.D
Brain Research and Instruction
Bridging Neuroscience and Education​

"Science and Strategies"
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