Brian Mueller-Blog #5

Learning Styles and Homework Myths

(To analyse your child's learning style, have a look at this free online demo.)

Myth 1: Don't agree to having the TV or music playing while your child is doing his or her homework. It's nothing but distracting and teaches a habit that will be hard to break.

Truth 1: Research shows that many students think and remember best when studying with background music. Furthermore, 20% of an elementary population in a research study scored significantly higher when reading in a noisy environment.

Myth 2: Use folders, small boxes, manila folders or other types of stationery for storing school work, both past and present. This will teach a life long habit that makes achieving set goals so much easier.

Truth 2: Yes, being organised is a wonderful habit to have. However, a child whose information processing is global, will feel distressed or even threatened by a neat work area. Such children draw comfort from a less tidy and less structured homework environment and will find it impossible to function at an organised desk. And, speaking of desks....

Myth 3: Children learn best when sitting upright at a desk.

Truth 3: Sitting upright on a firm chair puts most of your weight on a very small part of your body. Many children (and adults) find it distracting to maintain such a body position for any length of time. Speaking from a learning style point of view, many learners need to sit in a less formal environment (floor, bed, sofa) in order to concentrate better, or concentrate at all. Which leads us to sitting....

Myth 4: Students who do not sit still are not ready to learn.
Truth 4: Many students need mobility when they learn because of their learning style requirements. An American study revealed that half of one school's seven grade students needed extensive mobility while learning. When they were allowed to move from one instructional area to another while learning new information, they achieved statistically better than when they had to remain seated. Most students who are actively involved are likely to learn more, pay closer attention, and achieve higher test marks.

Myth 5: Students learn best in well-lit areas and damage their eyes when they read and work in low light.

Truth 5: Research shows that many students perform significantly better in low light environments, because bright light makes them restless, fidgety and hyperactive. Low light calms these youngsters down and helps them relax and think clearly. The younger children are, the less light they seem to need! They only need that amount of light for reading in which they feel comfortable, but their need for light seems to increase every five years.

(Does your child need bright light to do her homework? Find out here.)


Some of these myths/truths are a bit surprising to me but after thinking those through they seem to make sense. The first myth I found surprising was number five. It seems important to have enough light in a classroom so students can see the chalkboard and other reading materials clearly. But after thinking back to my days in grammar school I can remember being more relaxed in classrooms that had low light, I was actually able to concentrate better on the subject at hand and didn't find it that hard to read material.

The myth's I found to make the most sense were number three and four. I understand why teachers and parents would want their children to sit up straight so they won't damage their backs but the chairs most children sit in are very uncomfortable, which leads to slouching and fidgeting. If classrooms made desks were more student friendly students would be able to become more relaxed and able to concentrate on the task at hand.

Most of the myths/truths you brought up in this article are all experiences I had during school. When I become a teacher I will certainly try to implement some of the positive research about learning styles into my classroom. It's important to try and make all students comfortable in the classroom in order to get the most out of them and so that they can get the most out of the class.

Brian Mueller


Brian Mueller-Blog 4

Doing IT Differently - C: Social Learning

What will be different at HC in 2008?C: Social LearningA number of colleagues have already started using Web 2.0 tools with their students or other educators. A couple of classes were even assessed on their social bookmarking and MySpace pages. A few English students created MySpace pages for fictional characters they were studying and MySpace layout and content was assessed in some Media subjects. The majority of students on campus had MySpace pages.In 2008 selected social learning (web 2.0) tools will be integrated into learning, teaching and assessment for a large group of students.Social Bookmarking - students will be encouraged to keep and share bookmarks online using The college has already established a number of accounts for some learning areas eg journalism, game design, learning2learn, multimediaResearch - Google Notebook will be used for making, collating and sharing notes while researching online. Journals (Blogs) - students will post to online journals - tagged according to topic and/or assessment criteria - and students will read and comment on other student journals or international blogs. A number of customised services will be provided including Moodle and ELGG - or students can use another service and provide an RSS feed for class aggregation.Microblogging - particularly recommended for students engaged in student directed inquiry projects - using Twitter or Jaiku.Social Networking - students will be encouraged to establish a digital identity and presence that will get them "hired not fired". Facebook will be the preferred site for linking students on campus and for specialist groups established for some classes. 43 Things may be used by some students to set learning and life goals.A number of services will be used to aggregate various feeds for students and teachers including Google Reader, Bloglines and ELGG. At this stage there is no extensive use planned for wikis in 2008.Previous - B: Personalised Learning Next - D: New Curriculum

This sounds like a great new way for students to learn and use material. As student studying to become a history teacher this sounds like something that could really help student's connect themselves with the past. The idea of posting a Myspace page would be a great and interesting way to learn about past figures and connect you with them. Its ideas like these that will help keep students involved and interested in learning.

 Brian Mueller


Brian Mueller===Blog Entry #3

I wish I could quit you!

In one of those weird, fortuitous reading coincidences, I read the following articles back to back:

On, Why Quitting is Good For You, and on, Please Cast Ryan Gosling as Me.

They got me thinking: When do we (teachers) quit?  This question has two meanings: (1) When do we quit the profession, and (2) When do we "quit" students?

I remember as I was finishing up my teacher preparation program, one of the instructors said, "When you're done, you'll know it.  Don't stay just to stay."  I think her point was that when you are "done" with teaching (i.e., you are burned out), you are not doing anyone any favors by staying.  You are making matters worse for yourself, your students, and your colleagues.

As I am on leave from classroom teacher to pursue my Ph.D. in English Education full-time, I wonder if I "quit" teaching.  I certainly wasn't done with the profession (although schools and school systems is another story), but I felt that I needed an intellectual challenge that classroom teaching just wasn't providing.  I'm much happier and fulfilled being a student again and my work has me thinking about classroom practice regularly and I will be doing my research in classrooms.  But, did I quit?

This is related to the second meaning of the question: When do we make the decision that we've done all we can with a particular student and the situation is out of our hands?  I remember the last time I was challenged by this several years ago.  I had an advisee who was a genuinely nice kid.  He started off the year strong and unafraid of asking for help (thank goodness, as he was grade levels behind).  A teenage boy openly asking for the teacher's help on something academic was not common in many of the classrooms I taught it, so I was thrilled he was so gung-ho. 

That stopped though when his chronic absentee problem came back to life.  When I called home to his mother, she seemed concerned but resigned to the fact that she had no control over him.  I remember one exchange where she said that he was bigger than her and she couldn't make him do anything.  I replied, "Well, he's not bigger than me.  I can come over if you want."  She didn't take that well and it was clear that she was using his size advantage as an excuse.  I don't think she cared. 

That didn't stop me.  I went to the guidance counselor who called his probation officer (oh ... didn't know about that) and I was filled in on the long-standing problems that had been plaguing this student.  It was clear quickly that his problems were bigger than me.  But, I still didn't give up (plucky, ain't I?), but to no avail.  Several months later, I did give up.  The problem was so much bigger than me.  Every time he did show up I showed him I was happy that he was there and I was ready to help him.  The next day (or, frankly, on several occasions later that morning) he was missing again.  Everyone - the principal, AP, guidance counselor, ACS, parole officer, mother, brother, aunt, uncle - had been informed, yet somehow he never got better.

It was a sad situation, for sure, and the decision to "quit" him was difficult.  I don't like to say "quit" because I never stop believing that a student can do it, but sometimes we just have to prioritize.


I think as a young aspiring teacher it's important to learn that even though we all come into teaching thinking we are going to change the world that its unrealistic to expect. I have a friend who sounds like your former student. He was kicked out of our grammar school in 7th grade and struggled to make it to high school. He eventually dropped out because his parents couldn't keep him there and he had no interest in going forward in school. After a few years of doing nothing and jumping around from job to job he finally realized he needed to change. He just graduated from Job Corp. and finally got his GED. It took me and all my friends to help motivate him to succeed and complete his training but he finally got it done. I think it's important for teachers to realize that sometimes something's are just out of their hands. This is not to say teachers should not try and help but they should not look at it as quitting. Sometimes its up to the person to change and luckily for my friend he realized it was time to change, now he is thinking about going to college, which is something 5 years ago he would have never imagined he would be thinking.

Posted by: Brian Mueller | March 04, 2008 at 05:36 PM


Blog Entry 2, Brian Mueller

Brian Mueller

2 cents Worth Teaching & Learning in the new information landscape...

This little tidbit was shared by Dave LaMorte, on Google Reader.  The Center on Education Policy has published a new report (February 2008) about instructional time devoted to English language arts (ELA) and math after NCLB, and instructional time given up (sacrificed) by the other subject areas.  The publication's web page describes the report as examining...

...the magnitude of changes in instructional time in elementary schools in the years since NCLB took effect in 2002, and is a follow up report to Choices, Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era that was issued by CEP in July 2007.

In the full report (PDF download), Jennifer McMurrer, its author, describes in her key findings the significant shifts in instructional time toward ELA and Math (averaging 43% increase) and away from other subjects (averaging 32% decrease).  Eight of ten districts increased ELA time by at least 75 minutes per week and 54% by at least 150.  The shift toward math was less, with six of 10 reporting increases of 75 minutes and 19% of more than 150.

OK, kids have got to learn how to read and do arithmetic.  But isn't it also important to learn about the world they are reading about, measuring, and living in.  According to Table 3 of the report, elementary schools reporting an increase in time for ELA and/or math and a decrease for one or more other subjects reported an average weekly decrease of 76 minutes (32% dcrs) for social studies, 75 minutes (33% dcrs) for science, 57 minutes (35% dcrs) in art and music, 40 minutes for physical education (35% dcrs).  They also reported 50  fewer minutes of recess (28% dcrs).

Improve reading and math skills is not the problem.  The problem is how we're paying for it.

Image Citation:
M, Chris. "Math Homework." Hunkdujour's Photostream. 14 Apr 2005. 21 Feb 2008 <>.

Brian Mueller Your comment is awaiting moderation. February 26th, 2008 at 12:52 am

I couldn't agree more with the post. I am currently a History Ed. major and am learning about the affects NCLB is having on the education system. With math and reading being the two important parts of emphasis, history tends to be taken out of the picture. I think it's important that children be taught to use critical thinking and are able to comprehend situations and historic events. I know reading and math are important but later in life being able to understand and comprehend other subjects is just as important. NCLB needs to be fixed in order to have longer lasting effect on student's lives.

--Brian Mueller


First Blog Entry

Brian Mueller


Create and Share your work online 

But over the last few months, I've noticed the kids in my class have made a dramatic move to Google docs. Using Google docs they can work at school or at home much more easily. But they are moving there for other reasons as well, the biggest one being that they can simply share their work with me and with other kids in the class. For example, my students are currently writing a short, one page essay on a topic of their choice to do with life in ancient Egypt. They've chosen a wide variety of topics ranging from the Nile to make - up and dress, boats, farming techniques, and much more. I keep the formal essays that they need to write short, being much more interested in having students learn to write a set of coherent paragraphs and an interesting introduction and conclusion than I am in quantity. It's not hard to write lots. It's hard to write well.

.....So they are learning the benefits of these types of social, online software. I gives many of them access to the same platforms and it allows the knowledge to flow more easily around the classroom.


As an education student who was recently introduced to a wide variety of web tools such as Wiki and Vcolr it's nice to know of an easier way to edit and save research. What sounds nice about what you were talking about is with Google docs you only need to go to one place to find and save material. I've gotten use to saving Word documents on library computers, sending the document to my AOL screen name, and opening and saving it on my own computer. It's nice to know there is an easier way of saving documents instead of constantly e-mailing them back and forth. It's also ironic because I happened to be observing a high school class this past week and noticed a majority of students using Google docs while working on a short paper they were writing themselves. I had no idea what they were doing and it's nice to finally have a clue to all the new technology out there

Posted by: Brian Mueller | Thursday, February 14, 2008 at 02:46 PM

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