How to Teach BrainWise

“It is exciting to see the students use their new thinking skills to stop and think and avoid problem situations. The concepts are retained, too—even by students who took the course three years ago!”


The BrainWise program’s 10 Wise Ways make it easy to understand complex concepts about the brain and why it is important to learn skills that help build connections to the prefrontal cortex/Wizard Brain. The program is divided into two stages, learning the 10 Wise Ways and practicing/using the 10 Wise Ways.

Instructors receive scripted lesson plans, age-appropriate worksheets in English or Spanish, checklists, bookmarks, cards and posters for teaching and reinforcing the skills inside and outside the classroom. They also can request a monthly newsletter, and have access to BrainWise instructors, evaluators and assessment tools.

The teaching lessons are scripted for group lessons, and a separate curriculum is available for teaching individuals. Instructors can teach the 10 Wise Ways, and easily integrate them into classroom or workplace activities and other educational programs. Because BrainWise provides a comprehensive understanding of the process required to learn problem solving skills, the program serves as a foundation for all behavioral health initiatives, from bully proofing to suicide prevention, and from gossiping to anger management.

BrainWise allows me to put my own creative twist on how I present it.  The feedback I have received from students and teachers has been very positive. Thank you!

School Counselor

I think the model of having a "prevention specialist" come in and teach the lessons completely and intentionally with the teachers listening in so they can learn the language and reinforce the skills throughout the year is a successful one. Teachers say it really has helped in their classrooms and have also integrated it across the curriculum.

School Prevention Specialist

Thank you for creating a language to help my students and me understand each other better.

Elementary School Counselor, Colorado

I love the BrainWise curriculum because it explains the skill and gives fun activities to teach the skill, but still allows for creativity in delivering the lesson. My 5th and 6th grade student respond really well to the program and activities.

Elementary School Social Worker

One hundred and fifteen staff and faculty members attended the BrainWise training, and the evaluations were the highest we have seen from them. 94% said they gained knowledge that they could use with their students, 91% said the presentation was helpful to them, and 97% said they would share what they learned with others.

High School Administrator

The Modules

Each BrainWise curriculum is a self-contained teaching tool. The program is broken into 16 modules and each module begins with clear-cut goals and objectives, followed by a complete list of materials needed for that session.

Some of the 10 Wise Ways involve multiple concepts and take more time to teach. Shorter modules may be combined, and longer modules will take more than one session.

Teachers decide how much time is needed to teach each of the concepts. Some teachers give an overview of all 10 Wise Ways before they teach each one individually. Others introduce each thinking concept as a new topic, and tie them in with one another as they introduce them to their class. Every teacher has his or her own teaching technique, and the BrainWise program can be adapted to fit an individual’s style.

As teachers become more familiar with the language and meaning of the concepts, they are able to find ways to infuse them into activities inside and outside the classroom. The way the material is presented makes this easy to do.


Background Material and Scripted Dialogue

All modules in each BrainWise curriculum contain background material on the thinking skill to be presented. Teachers are guided through teaching the concepts with scripted dialogue, which can be read aloud or paraphrased to suit a teacher’s own conversational style. Instructions and suggestions are given along the way to guide a teacher through the curriculum

Teaching Time

How long does it take to teach BrainWise? The answer depends on the ages and backgrounds of the students. Not surprisingly, experience has found that students with little or no awareness of the concepts need more time than students whose behaviors indicate they already are familiar with these thinking skills.

Ideally, the BrainWise terms should become part of the classroom culture, and students should be able to examine any problem using the 10 Wise Ways.

Creating a BrainWise Environment

How one chooses to teach the program can vary. The BrainWise program can be taught daily or weekly, covering material separately or infusing it into the class. Each Wise Way can be taught as a separate class, but some teachers teach two or more concepts together. Each module builds upon the foundation of those preceding it, and this process can be easily integrated into any classroom or program.

Activities are presented that can be used daily and can be easily integrated into other subjects. Reinforcing the 10 Wise Ways ensures that they will become part of a student’s “automatic” thinking so they will be able to rapidly assess and analyze a situation using these thinking skills. As with any learning, the more practice, the better the performance. If teachers are able to create a teaching environment that infuses the 10 Wise Ways into everyday activities, their students will learn skills for a lifetime.

Teaching Aids

The BrainWise program includes colorful posters and bookmarks, simple craft projects, fun activities, review aids, skill sheets, a workbook, worksheets, and a certificate of completion. Most of the materials needed to teach the modules are contained within the curriculum. The remaining materials used are common, easily obtained items.

The BrainWise curricula, posters, checklists, BrainWise CPR problem solving worksheets, and teaching aids provide instructors with materials for teaching the program with fidelity. The monthly BrainWise newsletter offers additional examples and teaching tips, and instructors have access to master BrainWise instructors for advice and training. They also can request the BrainWise Knowledge Survey and information about assessments that measure executive functions.

The examples, scripted dialogue, and sample activities provided in each curriculum are guides. Teachers and counselors are encouraged to customize the materials to fit the students or the subject matter being taught. As teachers and counselors becomes familiar with BrainWise, they can recognize how easy it is to apply the thinking concepts to all problem situations a student may encounter, both inside and outside the classroom.

Today, impulsive and irrational thinking may seem to be the norm, but students can learn to see life differently. Mastery of these skills is obtained with practice, and behavior that demonstrates responsible decision-making is an indicator that critical-thinking skills have been learned

Order BrainWise Books and Teaching Aids

  • Are there support materials available?

    Yes! Here is a list of Support Materials and Training:

    1. Scripted BrainWise curricula for children, youth and adults. Each curriculum includes reproducible worksheets.
    2. The BrainWise Knowledge Survey, a pre/post measure and scoring rubric, is available upon request.
    3. Optional teaching aids that include coated bookmarks, laminated classroom posters of the 10 Wise Ways, and card-size sets of the 10 Wise Ways.
    4. Companion book for teens, parents and other adult program users that summarizes and reinforces the 10 Wise Ways.
    5. Optional training that can be conducted on-site or off-site.
    6. Pre- and posttests that measure knowledge of the BrainWise concepts.
    7. BrainWise CPR Problem Solving Worksheet helps students apply their skills.
  • Can BrainWise be integrated into other teaching materials and programs?

    BrainWise is praised by instructors for how easy they can integrate into other programs. The program’s universal framework is key for its adaptability, as it enables instructors to discuss problem situations appropriate for the ages, academic abilities, and cultural backgrounds of whomever they are teaching. Even though its foundation is rooted in complex brain processes, the program uses concepts and words that are easy to understand. The BrainWise approach can be used to assess personal problems, as well as the problems of characters in stories, movies, videos, TV shows, advertising, and current events.

    “Be BrainWise with Money” is an example of how an instructor incorporated the 10 Wise Ways into a money management curses. BrainWise has been integrated into behavioral health courses, substance abuse prevention, leadership classes parenting courses, and others. Instructors teach BrainWise as a foundation, and apply the 10 Wise Ways to whatever problems their students and clients need to address. The program’s thinking skills help them solve problems affiliated with family, relationships, school, work and community.

  • Is BrainWise culturally relevant?

    BrainWise is a universal program — everyone needs to learn how to build brain connections to stop and think. Its framework for teaching decision making concepts can be applied to anyone. The program’s cross-cultural relevancy is demonstrated by its use in cultures ranging from illiterate women in China targeted by sex traffickers to Native youth and families Alaska at-risk for suicide, substance abuse and violence. BrainWise is being taught to individuals of all ages, educational levels, and mental abilities, as well as cultural backgrounds. In a Colorado high school that serves students from 80 countries, a BrainWise instructor teaches the class to special needs students. BrainWise has been approved by the U.S. Indian Health Services as a program that works to improve the health and well-being of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. This recognition is difficult to obtain, and further proof that BrainWise is culturally relevant.

  • Can I teach BrainWise?

    We welcome all who want to learn how to teach others the skills that underlie problem-solving and making good decisions! Our caveat is that they teach the program with fidelity. This means that they teach each of the 10 Wise Ways in the order they are presented – easy to do with the scripted curriculum and problem solving worksheets. Each chapter clearly sets forth the goal and objectives of each lesson and provides the instructor with age appropriate group teaching activities. The flexible lesson plans allow for individual creativity and also show how to infuse the thinking skills into other subjects and activities outside the classroom.

    For lasting results, it is important that students and clients practice using the skills by applying them to problems inside and outside the classroom for a minimum of 50 hours.

    Training is available, but is not required. Arrangements can be made for groups interested in obtaining specialized practice, and others can attend training sessions offered throughout the year.

    We have found that the best instructors want to teach BrainWise and are committed to teaching it with fidelity. The BrainWise staff and volunteers/instructors are available to help answer questions. Please contact the BrainWise program at

  • How can I make BrainWise work for me and my agency or school?

    Thank you for recognizing the importance of having the support of your colleagues to teach BrainWise at your school or agency! If you can create an organization-wide culture where everyone knows and uses BrainWise terms, the critical reinforcement needed for retention will be a given. Every location is different, but the following suggestions used by BrainWise champions have helped them get support for the program:

    • Understand the benefits of BrainWise. Share this information with others, and identify those who are interested in teaching decision making skills.
    • Target behaviors important for your potential allies and highlight how BrainWise provides tools to achieve them.
    • Identify individuals who will be receptive to teaching or reinforcing BrainWise. Send them our newsletters and links to the webpage.
    • Insert the BrainWise language into your vocabulary. Even people unfamiliar with the program will quickly pick up on using the “wizard brain” vs. the “lizard brain,” the “constellation of support”, “red flags” and “exiting the emotions elevator.”
    • Make a short presentation on BrainWise. You can contact us for support.
    • Talk about the changes in behaviors that you have recognized. If you administered pre- and posttests, share the results.
    • Share BrainWise success stories that are pertinent to your colleagues. The monthly BrainWise newsletter has these kinds of stories, as does the web page.
    • Engage parents or families of clients as BrainWise advocates.
  • Do you have any suggestions/ideas that might help orient me to the task of presenting BrainWise to a more educated adult population?

    You are teaching BrainWise because you recognize that the program is for everyone, and that its simple terms make it easy to remember and apply complex skills that change behaviors. The challenge is that the use of these same terms can be interpreted by some who say that the program is “beneath their students” or that their clients “already know it.” However, just because a concept may be labeled or described by a simple term—think of a “black hole”—doesn’t make it simplistic or easy to understand or master.

    Here are some ways these issues can be addressed:

    • Replace “Lizard Brain” with “limbic system”, and its components, the hypothalamus and amygdala. You can also call it the “emotional brain.”
    • Replace “Wizard Brain” with “prefrontal cortex.” You can also call it the “thinking brain.”
    • Replace “Relay Center” with “thalamus.”
    • Replace “Constellation of Support” with “support system.”
    • Emphasize that research conducted by university professors and research experts with private companies and government agencies, found that teens and adults who completed BrainWise showed significant improvements in behaviors that included executive functions (planning, working memory, and impulse control) and social and emotional learning. Program graduates consistently credit the program with teaching them skills that help them make better choices and decisions.

    Use the term “BrainWise CPR” to present the 10 Wise Ways as “first response” skills that help prevent problems.  Present the BrainWise CPR problem solving worksheet as an effective way to assess and analyze problems they want to prevent or manage.

    Give each client his own copy of How to be BrainWise to keep and use outside of class. Present the 10 Wise Ways in one or a few sessions, and have participants immediately start applying the concepts to their own, and others, problems. Ask class members to share how they used their thinking skills, and how they are teaching them to others.

    Reinforce the material by customizing games like Jeopardy! and Who Wants to be a Millionaire with sophisticated questions and categories infused with the 10 Wise Ways. (There are templates for the games online.) The BrainWise team has been impressed with how effective games are for reinforcing BrainWise. Continually tie in the BrainWise concepts in your other neurobehavioral material, and more educated clients will have fun while learning important skills.

    Check our website and newsletter for updates and post questions to get suggestions from other BrainWise instructors