Brain Rules Chapter 7 – Sleep

Rule #7 – Sleep Well, Think Well

1.  Our brains are active, very active when we sleep.   Some of our best processing of new ideas happens while we snooze.  This is why often my chorus can’t grasp big pivotal ideas of our music on the first day.  I’ve noticed this especially when discussing  things that are structured for the first time like form or overall dynamic plans.  The students can understand the pieces but it’s not usually until the next day that some of them begin to see the big picture that I was trying to describe the day before.  You’ll notice only some of the kids glean full understanding on the 2nd day.  Perhaps those are the ones who got the right amount of sleep the night before!  Sometimes I find it helpful to end the class period with one of those big ideas I know the students will need time to process.  It’s challenge for their minds to work out how the overall plan works before they come back to me the next day.

2.  Lack of sleep affects more than just how well one is able to pay attention.  It can lead to hallucinations!  So maybe if I have a kid that’s nodding off in class I should just let them sleep.  Chances are they aren’t going to be retaining anything if their eyes are open any way.  I’m happy to say that I’ve really only had 2 students in my 13 years of teaching who presented this unique problem to me.

3.  Our bodies are in a constant tug of war between going to sleep and staying awake.  The middle of the day, around 2p.m. – 3:30 p.m. is when both those needs flat line. The universal nap time urge!!  Dr. Medina suggests that no classes or meetings be scheduled at this time.  But realistically that probably isn’t going to happen.  Can you imagine a school district letting all the students nap for and hour?  Someone is going to have to stay awake and monitor that!  What would be more likely to happen is that schools would schedule classes they deem to be less “demanding” during this time.  As a music teacher I know full well that means my class.  But I’m here to say, “HEY NO FAIR!!!”  Last year I taught 4th and 5th grade music from 1-2 p.m. and I can safely say I have experienced first hand what tired brains can’t do!  I suppose I could construct a class that required little to no thinking or learning to fill that time.  But WHY?  Music is worthwhile!  It deserves active and alert brains!  These classes were frustrating for both myself and the 4th and 5th grade students.  It seemed the most frustrating for the 4th graders as the year before in 3rd grade they had music at 10 a.m. and we simply soared!  They all wondered how suddenly they became so unable to focus.  I would have no issues teaching inside this hour some of the time.  But it seems unfair to grade a student for a class that only occurs once a week in the time of the day when they are LEAST able to learn.   Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now……

What would you suggest doing with students in the 1-2 p.m. time frame?

Brenda Muench

music educator tech specialist

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