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"Witness" My Students Get Smarter

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Research has demonstrated that the human brain does much better in the long term if it is exposed to activities such as brain teasers and logic puzzles. In fact, research has shown some of the benefits regarding such activities:

• Boosts brain activity

• Provides emotional satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

• Enhances memory and processing speed

• Helps slow the decline and reduce the risk for dementia

• Improves concentration

The human brain is no different than any other muscle in the human body. If an individual wants developed bicep muscles, they need to do arm curls with weights (i.e. an arm workout). Henceforth, if one wants to develop and maintain a healthy brain, it too must be allowed to exercise, which is the foundation of this guide.

Most of these activities within Sane in the Membrane incorporate material from the phenomenal video game, The Witness, by Jonathon Blow and the team at Thekla Inc. So, have fun and get ready for some head scratching!

Keep in mind . . .

1. I buy the game.

2. I play the game.

3. I make the videos after playing the game.

4. I create the educational activities, which correlate with the game's concepts.

5. I complete the unit guide.

6. I contact and talk to the game's creators to get their blessing on promoting my guides.

Note: Before I began working with this in class, I let the students know that the goal is not necessarily to get all the puzzles correct . . . they most likely won’t. Regardless of their success rate, the students are exercising their brains, and thereby reaping the benefits, which is the important factor.


How I Teach with the Guide

First I have my students complete the three brain warm up activities (within the guide).

-Complete one puzzle or analysis activity (page) per day. Since I utilize these as mini-lessons, it equates to about 10 minutes daily.

-Have the students complete the provided puzzle with a pen, pencil, or highlighter. MAKE SURE THEY TIME HOW LONG IT TAKES THEM!

-Show the students the solution in the embedded video clips (on my YouTube channel). As some of the videos show multiple puzzles, look to the correlating frame you’re on (top right) to see what time marker you can slide to, to view a particular solution.

-Have the students fill in whether they were correct or not.

-Finally, fill in the explanation/evidence prompt in the middle of the page. After completing an entire area (i.e. The Swamp), the students should fill in their “My Data” page.


My students are getting ready to enter the Glass Factory section of The Witness and my Sane in the Membrane guide. Below are a few images from this section.


At certain points throughout my unit guide, my students must complete an analysis based on some of the puzzle principles they've ascertained through their trials and errors. One such example is provided below.





One of my favorite moments so far, while working with my Sane in the Membrane guide has been the Glass Factory section (from The Witness). Within this portion, I let my students know that they must use both hands at the same time. Each hand has a designated color.

At the culmination of the Glass Factory section, I have my students complete an analysis portion. Within the video below, you'll see one of my students taking notes (from the Smartboard) on how using both your hands simultaneously benefits your body and brain.

After my students finish analyzing a particular puzzle, we usually debrief and discuss their successes and many times . . . their failures. However, it's important to note that failure is not a bad thing. Failing is a just an opportunity to learn something new and investigate new directions with upcoming puzzles. Additionally, failing at a puzzle is not a waste of time. In fact, the students know that their brains are still reaping the benefits of attempting and analyzing these activities, regardless of their outcomes. The video clip below shows one of my students debriefing one of their puzzle attempts.

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