New Edition of a Brain-Friendly Classic

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies that Engage the Brain
By Marcia L. Tate
(Corwin, 2016, 3rd edition – Learn more)

Linda-Biondi-120Reviewed by Linda Biondi

Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand. – Chinese Proverb quoted in the Introduction.

Last year I was able to attend a workshop with several colleagues. I thought the sessions I attended were good until I heard from my two friends, Cheryl and Josie. They had the opportunity to attend the session given by Marcia Tate, called “Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.”

Dendrites-3rd-cvrI have to admit, after listening to them for a short time, I was jealous. They couldn’t stop raving about the strategies they learned and wanted to apply immediately. I was so impressed with their positive review that I immediately ordered the books, sight unseen. I felt that even if I had not been able to attend the workshop, at least I would have the next best thing – the books.

It was one of the best professional purchases I ever made. The books are now a permanent part of my collection, dog eared, full of sticky notes and flags, borrowed and returned (reluctantly).

Celebrating a new 3rd edition

Marsha Tate is a well-known and respected consultant and author. She has taught more than 350,000 administrators, teachers, and parents throughout the world, including Australia, Egypt, Hungary, Singapore, Thailand, Greece, and New Zealand. Wow! She is the author of many bestsellers includingSit & Get” Won’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Professional Learning Strategies That Engage the Adult Brain and Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Techniques for Managing a Brain-compatible Classroom.

Can you remember the days you taught a lesson and realized that all students were engaged and wanted to continue the lesson even after the bell rang? On the other hand, can you remember the days you felt as if every set of eyes in the classroom was blank, vacant looking and you wondered if a song and dance would help to engage the kids? We all have both types of days, but it’s the days when students are completely engaged that you reluctantly go home but can’t wait to return.

Like its predecessors (Editions 1 & 2), Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies that Engage the Brain is a research based, easy to read book that is guaranteed to provide you with strategies that engage your students. Some of the ideas might remind you of a strategy you have used in the past, and some of the ideas might make you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

This teacher friendly tome gives you 20 instructional strategies to use that will engage the brain and the whole student. The format of each chapter is easy to follow and includes explanations organized around:

  • What: Defining the strategy
  • Why: Theoretical framework and
  • How: Instructional Activities

More about what’s in the book

Here is just one of the great ideas in the book. This one specifically is to help students remember the 13 colonies. Once you begin to use this resource, I am sure you and your students will be creating your own activities. Fun teaching is infectious!


(Tate, 2016, p. 147)

I love listening to stories about teaching. They give you a glimpse into another teacher’s classroom. Some of the chapters include stories about her teaching days and others begin with anecdotes. No matter how they begin or end, each chapter is highly researched with current educational practices and data.

For example, what does humor have to do with engaging the students? Lots! “Laughter produces endorphins, which stimulate the frontal lobes of students’ brains and increase their levels of attention and degree of focus.” (Sousa, 2011) “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” (Allen, 2008, p. 99) “Humor has been found to free a person’s creativity and to foster higher-level thinking skills, such as perceiving and anticipating novel situations, creating visual images, and forming analogies.” (Costa, 2008)

Try greeting your students with SMILE! A mnemonic device that stands for Show Me I’m Loved Everyday! Begin your lesson with a content area riddle. Use editorial cartoons that emphasize curricular concepts. These things take just a few minutes, but leave the students with smiles on their faces and brains ready for total engagement.

The 20 strategies

Get ready to put more enthusiasm and excitement into your lessons. As you read this practical book, you will see how these 20 strategies can be used in all subject areas to help you engage your students.

  • Brainstorming and Discussion
  • Drawing and Artwork
  • Field Trips
  • Games
  • Graphic Organizers, Semantics Maps, and Word Webs
  • Humor
  • Manipulatives
  • Experiments, Labs and Models
  • Metaphors, Analogies, and Similes
  • Mnemonic Devices
  • Movement
  • Music, Rhythm, Rhyme, and Rap
  • Project- and Problem-Based Instruction
  • Reciprocal Teaching and Cooperative Learning
  • Role-Plays, Drama, Pantomimes, and Charades
  • Storytelling
  • Technology
  • Visualization and Guided Imagery
  • Visuals Work Study and Apprenticeships
  • Writing and Journals

Teachers are busy from the minute they wake up until they turn off the light before they go to sleep. We even dream about school. So we love books you can open to any page and get ideas to use for any subject at any time. You might also want to use this book for a professional book club study group, taking advantage of the “reflection and application” review activity at the end of each chapter.

All educators will enjoy using this marvelous resource – elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. I just caution you. If you purchase this book, make sure you have your name written on it! Once other teachers discover you have a copy, you might be the most popular teacher in school.

Linda Biondi is a fourth grade teacher at Pond Road Middle School in Robbinsville, NJ, and a long-time Morning Meeting practitioner. She’s also the recipient of several educational grants, a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project and a participant on the NJ Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel. Linda participates in ECET2 Celebrate Teaching which has posted an interview with her. 


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