Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites

I know I'm about 3 years late to this party - but I've had the book (affiliate link) Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites on my shelf since 2015 and I knew I needed to read it! Since I've been working in an Arts-Integrated school, my teaching has really transformed.  I don't do nearly the same amount of crafts as I used to, students create their own graphic organizers and Thinking Maps in composition books, and my reading instruction doesn't include the same amount of comprehension worksheets as it used to.  With today's education focusing on brain research and appropriate development, it seemed like a good time to crack this book open and dive on in. 

Marcia Tate (as seen in this YouTube Video) starts the book off with two scenarios:

  1. Mrs. Taylor, a civics teacher, who gives lectures day in and day out.  Sometimes her lectures go on for the whole class! She doesn't use visuals and expects students to take notes on what she says. She has them round-robin read (which we know is a huge no-no for a whole group setting).  Not surprising - few of them are listening or engaged.  
  2. Mr. Stewart is a civics teacher next door, but he has different techniques for his classroom.  He uses graphic organizers, checks for understanding with questioning techniques, and even gets students involved in a simulation activity to learn the branches of the government.  He has few behavior problems and his students excitedly learn the content.  
As 21st Century teachers, we know that they ways we were taught in school just don't work anymore.  They weren't engaging then and they aren't engaging now.  We want ALL of our students to succeed, not just the ones who are intrinsically motivated.  Tate has come up with 20 strategies to ensure that students are learning and having fun at the same time:
  1. brainstorming and discussion
  2. drawing and artwork (Yay for arts-integration!)
  3. field trips
  4. games
  5. graphic organizers, maps, and webs
  6. humor
  7. manipulatives, experiments, labs, and models
  8. metaphors, analogies, and similies
  9. mnemonic devices
  10. movement (more arts-integration!)
  11. music, rhythm, rhyme, and rap (even more arts-integration!)
  12. project-based and problem-based learning
  13. reciprocal teaching and cooperative learning
  14. role plays, drama, pantomimes, and charades (arts-integration again!)
  15. storytelling
  16. technology
  17. visualization and guided imagery (ahem, arts-integration)
  18. visuals
  19. work-study and apprenticeships
  20. writing
As you can see, there are quite a lot of connections between Tate's 20 strategies and arts-integration.  There are also a lot of connections with visual learning, which is helpful for struggling learners and multi-language learners.  We know that long gone is the Sage on the Stage, that we need to be the Guide on the Side.  If you are interested in expanding your repertoire or even validating some practices you already do, I suggest checking out this book. I was not compensated for providing this review, I just love reading teacher books and sharing them with you. 

Which strategy are you excited to learn more about or try? Which is one that you already do?


  1. I'm so excited to see this article. I supervised student teachers and field experience students for 9 years after my retirement from the classroom. I shared this book with many of them, encouraging them to always keep their students actively engaged. I hope many teachers and teacher candidates will read Tate's book. It has lots of wonderful ideas for students to be taught in ways that should excite them.