"I've taught 'thinking skills' to teens for the past twenty years, but BrainWise puts the skills together in one program. The Lesson Plans make it easy to teach rather difficult abstract concepts. It is exciting to see the students use their new thinking skills to stop and think and avoid problem situations. The concepts are retained, too -- even by students who took the course three years ago!"
– Marsha Harman, School Counselor
Teaching children and teenagers critical thinking and decision making skills requires that certain specific concepts be introduced, applied, used, and reinforced. Through careful research and field-testing, Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry developed a thorough set of curricula and teaching aids that are focused on cultivating these essential skills. These curricula were specifically designed to be flexible and adaptable by the teacher and easy-to-learn and engaging for the students.
In the BrainWise curricula, instructors receive comprehensive lesson plans that are flexible and adaptable to the instructor's situation.To give the students sufficient exposure and practice with these concepts, the program is divided into two distinct stages.
I – BrainWise: Learn It!
section of the curricula introduces students to a series
of skills called the 10 Wise Ways. Learning about these
thinking and behavioral strategies helps them begin to
build fundamental neural pathways in their brain, replacing
impulsive responses with sound decision-making behavior.
Wise Way #1:
Wizard Brain over Lizard Brain
order to stop and think, thinking skills must be learned
to engage the section of the brain where problems are
assessed and analyzed before responding. Otherwise,
the reptilian or "lizard" part of the brain
– the section housing emotions and the fight or
flight response – takes over, triggering impulsive,
Wise Way #2:
Build a Constellation of Support
of people and what resources to go to for help involves
knowing how to evaluate the type of help you need and
identifying the best place to get it. This includes
learning how to recognize people who will help you succeed,
and understanding why people close to you may not be
able to give you the support you need.
Wise Way #3:
Recognize Red Flag Warnings
skills involve recognizing internal (what you feel inside)
and external (what you see or do) red flags. The red
flags warn of something about to happen, and awareness
of these warning signals gives you time to stop and
Wise Way #4:
Exit the Emotions Elevator
of emotions as an elevator in a ten-story elevator –
the higher up the elevator rises, the more intense the
emotion and the probability of Lizard Brain responses.
A number of strategies help keep emotions low or off
the elevator, including control self-talk, stop talking,
leave the situation, redirect the emotions, deep breathing
and relaxation methods, and recognizing and changing
Lizard Brain response patterns.
Wise Way #5:
Separate Fact from Opinion
root of many problems is the inability to separate fact
from opinion. A fact is what you know to be true, an
opinion is what you think is true. Used in conjunction
with Wise Ways 1-4, the process of separating fact from
opinion is easier to understand and do.
Wise Way #6: Ask
Questions to Gather Information
access to the right information requires the ability
to recognize what questions to ask, and knowing how
to ask them. This involves integrating Wise Ways 1-5
into the question asking process.
Wise Way #7: IDentify
your Choices (IDC)
who use their Lizard Brain respond one way, believing
they only have no choices. This creates a feeling that
their lives are controlled by fate, luck, chance or
powerful others. Wizard Brain thinkers recognize that
they have more than one choice, and use thinking skills
to assess and analyze all their choices so they make
the best choice possible.
Wise Way #8: Consider
Now and Later (CNL), Consequences Affecting Others (CAO).
Wizard Brain thinkers are aware of the consequences
of their choices. They use thinking skills 1-7 to help
them assess and analyze the consequences of their choices
now, the consequence later (CNL), and the consequence
affecting others (CAO).
Wise Way #9: Set
Goals and Plan for Action
Ways 1-8 help build a foundation to understand the importance
of setting goals and making plans to reach them. Within
this framework, it is easy to build connections among
and between the Wise Ways, creating awareness of the
importance of goals, and why successful achievement
must be accompanied by a plan to reach them.
Wise Way #10:
"I" Messages, taking other people's Point
of View (POV), using Positive Body Messages, and using
Assertive Statements. Communication involves using all
the 10 Wise Ways, not at the
same time, or in the order learned, but integrated throughout
conversations and different methods used to send and
share information. Effective communication involves
understanding other people's points of view recognizing
how using thinking skills helps to deliver information
and messages clearly.
II – BrainWise: Live it! In the BrainWise Zone!
this section, students use their newly-acquired thinking
skills to assess and analyze a variety of problems. This
practice involves classroom applications and everyday
activities that allow them to use the 10 Wise Ways to
analyze stories, movies, videos, popular TV shows, advertising,
and current events. This approach engages young people
by using popular culture to give them opportunities to
apply what they have learned to a wide range of situations.
Awareness of how the brain uses thinking skills to process
problems and replace impulsive reactions gives children
and teens a greater understanding of why the 10 Wise Ways are important. Equally as important is knowing that skills
not used are lost, leaving the brain to revert to impulsive
and reactive Lizard Brain responses.
Checklists – a summary of the 10 Wise Ways and how
to apply them to assess and evaluate 1) problems individuals
face, 2) problems other face and 3) Mastery –
individuals simultaneously apply the 10 Wise Ways to
themselves and others.
Age appropriate games are used to practice learning
thinking skills. The games are examples of how the 10
Wise Ways can be integrated into all types of games.
Using a bookmark with a list of the 10 Wise Ways, children
learn how to practice assessing and analyze stories,
current events, and other problems by identifying what
thinking skills were used or not used.
Practice moves outside the classroom when lessons include
using the 10 Wise Ways to assess and analyze cartoons,
comic books, television shows movies, songs and computer
By placing a story on a BrainWise skill sheet containing
the 10 Wise Ways, students assess and analyze the story
by drawing lines from words and sentences to their corresponding
thinking skill. The books contain age-appropriate examples,
and blank sheets can be used to insert stories children
write themselves or stories by others can be taped on
Solving Worksheet –
Individuals learn how to solve problems and gain practice
using their thinking skills when they use the worksheet
to guide them through the process of assessing and analyzing
problems by applying the 10 Wise Ways.