Thursday, February 17, 2011

Do you think with your LEFT or your RIGHT?

Once teachers get out of their comfort zone of teaching the same way they were taught ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, the trend is to create lessons that reach students through the multiple intelligences: visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonl, intrapersonal, linguistic and logical-mathematical based upon the work of Howard Gardner.  Sometimes however, it may be better to make sure lessons are developed based upon the two halves of the brain. 

The students in any classroom will demonstrate very different characteristics in learning based upon the dominant hemisphere of their brain. 

If students are asked to write about the image above, Left Brain and Right Brain students will approach this assignment quite differently.

The Left Brain student will describe the trees themselves, discussing their arrangement, number and their height. The Right Brain student will describe the forest, discussing the colors, patterns and shadows.  The Left Brain student will  recall news reports on deforestation. The Right Brain student will recall a calendar of cute forest animals.  The Left Brain student will want to know how many sentences the paragraph needs to include.  The Right Brain student will want to know if they can listen to music while they write. 

Both students are approaching the assignment on the side of the brain they are most comfortable.
Niether student is incorrect, they are simply working in their comfort zone.  Whether, that is an statistical appraisal of the trees or recalling a family vacation to Yosemite.  Students must be given the opportunity to explore this learning experience in the method that best allows them to associate their brain preference with the task at hand.

 How well, do you know your students?  How well do you provide opportunities for your students to experience success in the comfort zone of their brain and it's ability to learn?

Do you spruce up your organized sytematic outlines with symbols and pictures?
Do you talk about the details of an idea or the possibilities for it's completion?
Is music in the background while students work in small groups?
Are pieces of art viewed for their overall imagery or the techniques used in their creation?
Are students encouraged to read aloud in order to hear the words for greater comprehension?
Is the classroom environment safe for all students in clarity of rules or boundaries?

 Left Brain Strategies

  • Write an outline of the lesson on the board. Students with left-brain strengths appreciate sequence.
  • Go ahead and lecture! These students love to listen to an expert and take notes.
  • Discuss vocabulary words and create a crossword puzzle.
  • Discuss the big concepts. Left-brain students love to think about and discuss abstract concepts.
  • Assign individual assignments so students may work alone.
  • Ask the students to write a research paper that includes both detail and conceptual analysis.
  • Keep the room relatively quiet and orderly. Many students with left- brain strengths prefer not to hear other conversations when working on a stimulating project.
 Right Brain Strategies 
  • During the lecture, either write the main points on the board or pass out a study guide outline that students can fill in as you present orally. These visual clues will help students focus even though you are lecturing.
  •  Use the overhead, the white board, or the chalkboard frequently. Since the students are apt to miss the points discussed verbally, the visual pointers will help the students “see” and comprehend the points.
  •  Have some time for group activities during the week. Right-brain students enjoy the company of others.
  • Play music, students with right-brain strengths are intuitive and like to get in touch with their feelings during the day. Music creates associations between what they hear and see and what they feel. This enhances transfer from short to long term memory.

  • Let the students create a project (such as a poster, a mobile, a diorama, or paper mache model) in lieu of writing a paper. Right-brained students enjoy the process of creating something tangible.

  • Bring in charts and maps and allow students too find cities, states, countries, planets, galaxies. Way. Maps and graphs make use of the students’ strong right-brain visual-spatial skills.
It is human nature to find comfort in the familiar.  Educators are no different.  We teach in the manner that we feel most secure.  But it is not the teacher's learning that is important.  It is the students who must find safety and security in order to most effectively learn. 

Good teachers grab their pupil's attention.
Great teachers KEEP their pupil's attention.
Don't be a good teacher!                                                            
  -Matthew Schmigel

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