If a teacher looks around the room during a class, she will see her students doing a variety of things with their brains. What are some of these things?
Some students might be daydreaming or spacing out. When we daydream, we think about where we might like to be instead of in the classroom or what we might like to be doing instead of studying. For example, we might daydream about going to the beach, spending time with our favorite person, eating our favorite food, or achieving our future goals. We could daydream about shopping, traveling, or becoming famous.
When we space out, we might not be thinking about anything at all—our brain’s might be perfectly blank, like the sky on a cloudy day. We often space out when we are tired or ill.
In contrast, other students might be focusing, concentrating, or paying attention. These words are synonyms. When we do these things, we make a strong mental effort. We listen closely to what is being said. We focus on the vocabulary we are being taught. We concentrate on understanding grammar rules. We pay attention to specific examples. We focus on an important test. We concentrate when learning a new skill. We pay attention to the words of someone we respect.
Yet other students might be analyzing and categorizing. When we analyze something, we look at it closely in order to understand it better. We look at its parts or pieces. For example, if we analyze a sentence, we look at what function each of its parts has: its nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and articles. We might analyze a newspaper article to understand what it is about. We could analyze a test question to see what tense we should choose to complete it correctly.
On the other hand, when we categorize things, we group them into types. We might categorize students according to their level, their native language, their gender, or their personality. We could categorize movies by genre. We could categorize jobs based on how and where one works, how much one earns, or what kind of training one needs.
Another thing that students are often doing is translating and defining. They translate from their own language into English. They try to define new words, figuring out what each one means.
Of course, there are many more things that we do with our brains.
Which of the following words do you know? Can you use each one in a sentence as I have done in the examples above?
hoping & wishing planning imagining & creating
problem solving envying empathizing
wondering remembering forgetting
scheming regretting criticizing & judging