At Boys’ Latin our goal is not only to improve student achievement, but for students to grow in confidence and independence as they come to understand how they learn and put strategies to use. To that end, we instituted a program called Building Learners. Now in its third year, this highly individualized program is taken by all ninth graders.
“It allows boys to begin their high school experience grounded in information on their own brain and how they learn best,” explains Sara Rosiak, director of educational support services and upper school learning specialist.
Using Mindprint, a standardized test that provides details on how the individual's brain processes and stores information and then organizes it for practical use, each student makes decisions on how to learn most efficiently. Does he process information more efficiently verbally or visually? Visual learners understand, process and remember material using charts and graphs, while verbal learners use language - hearing and seeing it. Teachers are then able to work with students and tailor lessons to how they process information.
Ninth grader Logan now knows that ” I am better at verbal reasoning, so if I hear information or see it in words I learn better. If I have a diagram of how a cycle works, if I write it in a paragraph I will understand it much better.”
There are three main areas of focus in Building Learners: knowing your brain, memory and study skills, and executive function. Research has shown that strong executive function skills are the number one predictor of success. Three areas, inhibition, working memory and flexible thinking, play a role in every aspect of our lives. The skills students develop at Boys’ Latin will allow them to be successful not only while they are in school, but in whatever career they choose to pursue.
Two key modules inherent in Building Learners are growth mindset and mindfulness. Each session begins with mindfulness - slowing down the brain to be more open to what is going on around you. “Boys are able to recall what they have learned. As an advisory, sometimes we have free time, and I have had kids ask if we can do meditation.” says Latin teacher Theresa Burke.
Clayton Willets notices the difference in his tenth and eleventh grade history classes. “Students are more self-aware and self-advocate a lot more. We are all using the same vocabulary, such as neuroplasticity, working memory and neural pathways. For example, when I say to study something multiple times this strengthens the neural pathways so you can access that information a lot more readily - they know what it means.”
Rosiak concludes, “We know our students, but we strive for them to know themselves. Understanding how they learn best and the tools that the boys are using will help them far beyond their time at Boys’ Latin. No matter what career they choose and where their post-high school journey takes them, what they have learned in Building Learners will help them be successful.”