Adrienne Gear: What Are Brain Pockets and How Can You Inspire Your Students?

Welcome to Impact in the 21st Century, from Simbi Foundation. In episode #8, educator, speaker, literacy specialist, and author Adrienne Gear joins us to discuss motivating kids to love reading, brain pockets, and teaching in the 21st century.

We’re thinking about Adrienne’s insightful words on what education needs in the 21st Century, how to inspire your students to be lifelong learners and the concept of brain pockets as a helpful resource in the classroom.

Adrienne Gear is an educator, speaker, literacy specialist, and author of Reading Power, Powerful Understanding, and more. Adrienne is an elementary teacher in Vancouver, Canada, where she has taught for over 20 years. Adrienne is passionate about teaching, learning, and best practice. She is also passionate about children’s literature and how to integrate books into all areas of learning. She has been invited to present workshops and at conferences to make learning better for kids. Learn more about Adrienne Gear’s work here!

You’ve got to breathe life into learning.

Adrienne: Learning shouldn’t be a chore for our score. It shouldn’t be! Reading should not be a chore for a score. You’ve got to bring life and breathe life into learning. That’s what’s going to make the education of our young people. That’s what’s going to inspire them to be lifelong learners. Because just memorizing facts is boring, literally boring. You want your classroom to be interactive. I want kids to read something and go “okay, well, what do you think about that? Who agrees? What does this remind you of? What are you wondering?”. We talk about inquiry-based learning and that’s kind of what it is. It’s moving beyond that literal content and breathing life into the facts.

Brain pockets and how to make sense of a story when reading!

Aaron: What are brain pockets?

Adrienne: Brains are just another visual. I think one of the other things about me and the way I teach is I’m a very visual learner. So need to see concepts as tangible rather than abstract. So brain pockets are the way that I describe how our brains think. One of the ways that we can make sense of the story and think about it using our brain reading, is to make a connection. Making a connection means that we’re reading the book, and as we’re reading it we’re thinking, “Oh, this reminds me of something else” Or “this reminds me of a place that I’ve gone to”. As soon as you start connecting to the story, it brings an understanding of it and you’re bringing yourself into the text.

But the question we ask students is “where are our connections coming from?” So we think about our brains, right? Our connections are coming from our brains, but what is it in our brains that we’re connecting with? If you visualize a brain, you think about your brain as being the source for all the actions and thoughts in your body. It’s not a very small body part, and we can’t see it but it’s vital to our existence. Brains are the storage place for thought, all of our thinking, and if you really think about that it’s kind of an amazing concept that all thought is stored in one place in our bodies! If every single thought in our head was stored in our brain altogether, it would be super confusing. So our brains help organize our thoughts into three pockets.

Brain pockets:

We have one pocket of our brain that holds memories. It’s called our memory pocket. It’s there for experiences. Every time we do something, we go on a bike ride, we go on a hike, we go swimming, all those thoughts get stored in our memory pocket.

We have another pocket of our brain that holds information and knowledge, that’s called our fact pocket. All facts that we learn about dinosaurs, or life cycles, or global warming are stored here.

Our third pocket is our creativity. It’s our imagination pocket. The imagination pocket is where all of our imagination lies, all our creative thoughts.

So you draw this picture of a brain with three pockets and all of a sudden this is kind of building metacognition with kids, but all of a sudden our brains become more tangible places for thinking. So now I’m going to go back to that, where do your connections come from? Your connections come from your brain, but your brain has different pockets. It depends on what you’re reading. So Aaron, if you’re reading Harry Potter, most likely, you’re going to be finding connections in your imagination pocket. If you’re reading all about volcanoes, you’re probably going to be visiting your fact pocket.

So what I help kids do is find their connections in the different pockets. What I love about the brain pockets is it works well for writing as well. Where do writers get their ideas for writing? Guess what? Writers get their ideas from their brain pockets! So those brain pockets have become incredibly helpful resources, tangibles for making thinking visible. It’s making it more concrete and it’s giving it language.

…Aaron and Adrienne’s conversation continues in the podcast. Listen here!

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