Right Brain vs. Left Brain

A RIGHT BRAIN LEARNER STUCK IN A LEFT BRAIN CURRICULUM

You may have noticed that your children have totally different learning styles. Your left brain child tends to like workbooks and working on his own. The right-brainer, on the other hand, likes discussion, prefers projects to workbooks and tends to be a little higher maintenance during the school day, requiring more of your interaction time.

Since most curriculum teaches in a more left brain manner, focusing on auditory and sequential aspects, as well as writing, our children who are more right brain learners often feel left out, and even struggle with learning and retaining material using this same curriculum. Once we have identified the right-brainer who is struggling because he is stuck in a left brain curriculum, then we can tweak our teaching process to help these right brain children get in touch with the “smart part of themselves.”

Before we explore these many different teaching strategies, let’s identify the common learning styles of these children.

COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF A LEFT BRAIN LEARNER

  • Tends to seek structure in the school day.
  • Memorizes best by repetition (auditory or writing).
  • Likes to know the plan for each day, week, etc.
  • Tends to work well independently.
  • Likes to make lists, and check them off as tasks are completed.
  • Thinks things through with multiple pieces of evidence before coming to a conclusion.
  • Tends to find math interesting, and is very good at it.
  • Likes the predictability and conciseness of workbooks.
  • Can do well with self-paced and computer curriculum.

COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF A RIGHT BRAIN LEARNER

  • Likes spontaneous events, versus planned events each day. Seeks change.
  • Memorizes best by using meaning, color, pictures, story, or emotion in material.
  • Does not plan ahead regularly.
  • Prefers much involvement with parent while doing daily lessons.
  • Does not do items sequentially, but skips around in his or her work.
  • Makes quantum leaps when learning. Figures things out from scanty evidence.
  • Finds math quite repetitive and somewhat boring.
  • Prefers projects and discussions rather than workbook learning.
  • Does not do well with self-paced or computer curriculum, but rather one that requires more parent and teacher involvement, such as unit studies, or any curriculum that is more hands-on and interactive with the adult.

Many right brain dominant children can adapt to left brain curriculum without much effort. If that is the case, then no changes need to be made for this child. However, if a child is struggling to be successful in learning, then some accommodations need to be made. Sometimes just putting the struggling child in a more right brain friendly curriculum makes all the difference in the world in how easy his/her school day goes.

Other times a child needs a totally different strategy to make learning easy. That is when we turn to right brain teaching strategies.

WHO NEEDS RIGHT BRAIN TEACHING STRATEGIES?

  • Children who have underdeveloped memory skills.
  • Children who have an auditory processing glitch.
  • Children who have a focusing or attention issue.
  • Children who have a visual/motor (writing) glitch.
  • Children who dislike school work.
  • Children for whom the more common methods of teaching are not working.

WHAT ARE RIGHT BRAIN TEACHING STRATEGIES?

In 1981 Dr. Roger Sperry received the Nobel Prize for his split brain research. Prior to that, little was known about the separate responsibilities of the two brain hemispheres. President George Bush declared the 1990s as the Decade of the Brain. Much brain research came to the forefront during that time. It has been a very exciting time in beginning to understand the processes of learning.

The right brain is responsible for long-term memory storage. Ultimately, we all store learned material in our right brain, for easy retrieval. Generally this process of storing material in the short term memory (the left brain’s responsibility), and then transferring it to our long-term memory (the right brain’s responsibility) is automatic, and we don’t even think about the intricate process that is taking place. However, when the left brain methods of repetition (either orally or in writing) are not transferring to the right brain long-term memory storage unit, then we need to look at ways to make this transfer more efficient. This is where right brain teaching strategies comes in. When we use right brain teaching strategies with our children, they are required to use much less energy to store learned material. Both right and left brain learners love these techniques!

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