Fortunately, since they all learn by using their brains, I can address this common factor by teaching to the strengths of how this organ functions.
I have often likened the brain’s acquisition of knowledge to the way an amoeba eats. An amoeba is a single-celled organism with an irregular and transformable shape. When an amoeba bumps up against food, it elongates its form around the object and envelopes it until what was outside is now inside.
In a similar way we often say, “I want to get my mind around that.” Early in my teaching career I believed that students didn’t like to be confused. However, our brains covet challenge. The brain is an insatiable and greedy organ. It wants to gain new knowledge and understanding and never gets enough of it. And there are more similarities between a hungry amoeba and our brains. Just as an amoeba is incapable of feeding on distant food, our brain is only frustrated when concepts are beyond its reach–beyond its ability to grasp. Conversely, an amoeba needn’t concern itself with acquiring food it has already eaten. Likewise, our brain is bored when presented with material it has already devoured or ideas it already possesses. This is one of the reasons why remediation has had such limited success. Brains abhor boredom; they seek challenge, anomaly, and confusion in moderate doses. In fact, I once heard someone say that if the students in my class are bored, it’s not their brains’ fault. That convinced me. I see now that I have two jobs. One is to avoid insulting my students’ brains by boring them. The other is to avoid frustrating them by teaching beyond their reach.
At the recent California League of Schools middle and high school conference in Sacramento, keynote speaker Dr. Debbie Silver spoke to the educational needs of students in saying, “We need to offer students goals that are just beyond their reach.” When we approach our lesson design with this idea in mind, we are able to set before our students material that can challenge them and engage them at the same time. This is no simple challenge, but it is imperative if we wish to maximize learning. - See more at: http://www.tttpress.com/pedagogy/the-amoeba-principle-of-learning-and-teaching/#sthash.XPU2GdWW.dpuf