Non Standard Leadership Techniques

Brain Savvy: a Creative Teaching and Learning Tool

Dr. Kathy Goff asked:

Educators with doctorate degrees and over 30 years of teaching experience created a magnetic board game template to provide teachers with creative ways to meet state and federal performance benchmarks by making learning fun.  BrainSavvy looks and plays like a game, but in reality it is an easy-to-use “teaching tool” that equips teachers to motivate even bored, indifferent students to create good study habits, often with the help of teammate peers.

Brain Savvy was named the 2008 Education Board Game of the Year by Creative Child Magazine. It works with those who dislike school, as demonstrated by this 5th grade student’s comment on school and BrainSavvy. “BrainSavvy is fun and it’s awesome. I don’t know why, because usually anything that involves school I hate. BrainSavvy is just flat out fun!”

BrainSavvy not only encourages students to learn the study material, but to develop citizenship skills by promoting cooperation and tolerance. Diverse team members, chosen at random using sorting chips, need to work (play) together in order to win; which is a lot like the real world.

Teachers provide the questions or allow the students to write questions from the material being taught. The roll of special dice selects which team and team member to answer each question. Players learn to be prepared, just in case their number is called to answer a question for the team.

“I really like BrainSavvy because it really helps me in social studies. It was like Einstein hot-wired my brain. I was just on fire. This game rules!“  – Brandon –grade 5

Students crave to fit in and be accepted by their peers; but often ‘fitting in’ leads to negative behavior. Playing BrainSavvy uses positive peer pressure to maximize learning, by building team camaraderie and team allegiance through the simple competition of a game.

“I love BrainSavvy ‘cause it is a challenge. Oh, and I love a challenge.” –Destiny.

BrainSavvy has donated 93 games to various teachers, including Oklahoma’s A+ teachers and others with interest in participating in a grassroots “How do you like it? Does it work?” on-going research study.  Every teacher, who has used it, said they would use BrainSavvy again the following year.

The teachers who used BrainSavvy in the classroom adjusted it to best suit their own teaching styles and to meet the needs of the individual students on whatever subjects being taught. BrainSavvy offers teachers a great deal of flexibility and opportunities for creativity.

According to pilot data from the teachers, the students where highly motivated not only to study and learn, but also to be good citizens.


The following is a testimonial from a teacher who used BrainSavvy and contacted the BrainSavvy creators more than once to share her experiences.

“My students loved the game! Anytime we had a free minute, they would beg to play. Sometimes they would ask even if we didn’t have a free minute. I would make the questions relevant to our current lesson to check for comprehension. Sometimes the questions would be spelling words, math facts or even questions from previous studies.

They were also allowed to move their “brains” forward for making the right choices in difficult situations, for being “caught” being good or for winning an in class spelling bee. When I complimented someone in the hall for following proper procedures, he promptly asked if he could “move his brain!” They wanted to move if everyone in their group turned in their homework on time, if they were the first ones to get quiet after a call back, etc.”

 One day my colleague had to leave for a few minutes and I covered her class. I set up the game as a competition between the two classes. I asked them questions from the end of year math test and spelling words for review. We wrote and diagrammed sentences and I even challenged the kids to create their own questions. They loved it! ALL 40 students, in one room, were on-task and quiet! They cheered when the questions were answered and provided encouragement when someone didn’t know the answer. It was amazing! When my colleague returned, the kids didn’t want to go back! (She promptly purchased the game as well!)” –Charrel.

Teacher Feedback.

“Tried BrainSavvy today.  It was fantastic.  It was so easy to put up, used my own questions.  Kids stayed focused for 25 minutes (that’s a group of 10 boys, 3 girls!!).  They listened to others and were very excited about the game. They asked when we would play again.  This is tremendous!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! “ – second grade

“BrainSavvy is a good way to practice skills. It is very motivating and when kids are motivated they learn better” – kindergarten

“I have been using it faithfully everyday with both of my classes.  They love it!  Great motivator” – 4th grade reading, social studies, and English.

“My students absolutely loved the friendly competition as we did quick reviews of math concepts before starting a new chapter” - 4th grade math, science, and spelling. 

“The kids really enjoy playing, and beg for additional math problems!  They are not happy when it is time to leave.” 4th grade math.

“Playing BrainSavvy keeps students on their toes. They are definitely motivated.” -elementary gifted and talented

“The teammates were there for support, and even those who normally lack confidence were comfortable and did well.” -K-2 reading.

“The kids have really enjoyed playing.  I have noticed that they pay more attention and they get excited when we review for tests.” -3rd grade – all subjects.

“The kids enjoy it and I enjoy it too.” We will review for final exams with it.” – 8th grade literature.

Administrative Support

Jean Hendrickson, Executive Director of Oklahoma’s A+ schools wrote the following (March 31, 2008):

“The Oklahoma A+ Schools network focuses on collaborative, research-based practices committed to experiential learning and enriched assessment. Brain Savvy is a vehicle for students to work collaboratively with classmates and teachers to make sure everyone learns and grows. It provides a method of assessing students’ learning capacities and competencies while structuring learning experiences for students of multiple intelligences. This method creates a positive, encouraging classroom climate where students take responsibility and accept challenges to learn as much as they can to contribute to their team’s success. Brain Savvy provides a fun way to creatively present, review, and assess learning materials. It provides a short feedback loop for students and teachers to observe and evaluate retention and understanding both individually and in groups.” 

Differentiated Instruction

Classroom teaching is a blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction. For optimal learning to occur, teachers must take into account that each student is a unique individual with personal interests, varied life issues, and their own particular style of learning. These considerations can be addressed through differentiated instruction.

Differentiated instruction is a teaching theory based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms (Tomlinson, 2000). The cookie cutter approach to teaching just does not work.  Teachers need to be creative and flexible thinkers in order to adjust the curriculum presentation to reach every student. BrainSavvy is a tool that helps teach
ers creatively assess and address each student’s needs.  One of the creators of BrainSavvy is Dr. Kathy Goff. Goff (2000; 2001; 2002; 2004; 2005; 2007) is one of the top authorities on creativity, the creative mind, and learning.  BrainSavvy exercises the brain while making learning fun.

The research by Judy
Willis M.D., a neurologist and teacher at Santa Barbara, suggested that when students have an enjoyable experience (fun), the brain is able to better retain information. Brain scans showed that when middle school students collaborate with classmates in joyful cooperative learning activities it enhances the passage function of the brain, which moves information from the intake area to the memory storage regions of the brain (Willis, 2007).

On the hypotheses that students of all ages are motivated by fun and games, and given the research that shows collaboration and joyfulness increases long-term retention; not to mention the positive feedback from teachers, BrainSavvy is an effective tool in the classroom.  An unbiased and comprehensive long-term study by the University of Tulsa is now underway to provide the needed evidentiary support for using BrainSavvy in the classroom.


BrainSavvy is not a consumable product.  It is an economically friendly way for schools to utilize their resources.  BrainSavvy not only makes good use of school resources, it saves natural resources, too. Students do not need paper or pencils to answer questions with BrainSavvy.  It rolls up and goes into a protective tube for storage when not in use. The uses of BrainSavvy are infinite and only limited by a teacher’s imagination. (


Goff, K.  (2007). Differentiating standard curriculum using BrainSavvy.  OAGCT News,   29(4),


Goff, K.  (2005).  Everyday creativity (3rd ed.).  Mannford, OK:  Little Ox Books

Goff, K.  (2004).  Women’s creative development.  In Fryer, M. (Ed.).Creativity and

  cultural diversity (p. 99-108).  Leeds, England:  The Creativity Centre Educational Trust.

Goff, K. & Torrance, E. P.  (2002).  Abbreviated Torrance test for adults manual. 

  Bensenville, IL:  Scholastic Testing Service, Inc.

Goff, K.  (2001).  Creativity for Success.  Stillwater, OK:  McGoff Creativity LLC.

Goff, K. & Torrance, E. P.  (2000).  Brief demonstrator form of the Torrance Tests of

  Creative Thinking.  Bensenville, IL:   Scholastic Testing Service, Inc.

Hendrickson, J.  (personal correspondence, March 31, 2008).

Tomlinson, C. A.  (September, 2000).  Reconcilable differences?  Standards-based teaching   and differentiation.  Educational Leadership, 52-55.

Willis, J.  (2007).  Brain-friendly strategies for the inclusion classroom.  Alexandria, VA:

  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.





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