Saturday, 7 March 2015

Right Brain Learning

Have you ever heard the term Right Brain Learning? I first heard about it on a homeschooling group about 2 years ago and reading up on it was one of the best things I could have done. You see it describes my son, and myself. 

The first thing you should do, to understand what Right Brain Learning is, is watch two videos that I have linked to. It's one interview (in two parts) that's about 40 minutes in length. It's one of those videos though that once you start watching, the time flies past and you don't notice the length because it's so informative.

These are the links to RIGHT BRAIN LEARNING PART 1 to watch and this is RIGHT BRAIN LEARNING PART 2 for you.

From the videos, the one thing that I remember the most was that 60% of children in this current generation need to learn using right brain teaching techniques. It's not just for the left handers, it's for anyone with a learning disability or with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

My child LEARNS best using a right brain learning approach. He is diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, has multiple learning disorders and is very ambidextrous - so he definitely benefits from a Right Brained approach!

I will admit, that prior to realising the differences, I would have described my son as being Literal, Scientific, very verbal, very analytical .... I still do. I described the left brain learner. However these traits are something that I have found are present in him AFTER his brain has been effectively 'switched on' using a right brain method. My son is very ambidextrous like me so it doesn't surprise me that he has traits from both sides. However if I approach teaching him, in a purely left brained approach, I am met with glazed over eyes, a brain off in another world, a child not taking in anything. While he might like to give ME lists and steps and plans, reasons and logic, those are a PRODUCT of his learning, the end result - NOT the way he starts off. His brain switches on, with visuals, colour, hands on, being given the big picture and working backwards. Finding the doorway to get the learning happening is the key.  Once you have that, then you can really get somewhere. 

How does it work for us? 

We have charts, posters, placemats, books, DVD's, interactive online programs, iPad apps, coloured workbooks, different coloured whiteboard markers even get more connection than a black one! 

If it's Maths we use a coloured workbook, coloured counters, coloured working paper, physical objects to count with, patterns and 'tricks' (pattern methods or shortcuts) and often completely out of the box ideas that my son comes up with himself. He will often draw (and I use that term loosely!) what he calls 'brain maps' or thinking plans on his little whiteboard, of what he needs to remember or the order to do something in. For anyone else to look at, it's often not clear what you are looking at, but it's his thinking put into visual form. It's often called Mind Mapping or Visual Thinking. Once he explains what you are looking at, it makes perfect sense.

He cannot learn times tables by 'rote learning' like a left brain learner. So it's 'tricks' and patterns and ways to work each one out. Once he has that connection and it's learnt, then he will be analytical and logical about them, but its a product of the process, not the way he learns it. 

For subjects like History and Geography, we take a holistic approach. We use timelines, charts and maps.  He needs to see the big picture first before we tackle each area. He needs to see each part learned come together to form the whole.  We use a subject blocking approach and unit studies are a big success.

Reading, Spelling and English are hard areas for my son. While being overly verbal with a very advanced vocabulary, he struggles to sound out a word.  He will prefer to learn a whole word as a sight word, rather than learn it by sounding it out. He see's the whole picture, not the separate parts. If he learns it in connection with pictures or actions then it's even easier. 

He would struggle to read a book and comprehend what he has read, but give him the chance to be silent and listen to someone else read it, while he closes his eyes and imagines it with pictures in his head and his comprehension testing scores increase and are at 98% and a level far beyond his years. He will remember the intricate details of a story 100 times more than being read to if he can SEE it. So learning via DVD or ipad is even better for him. Our literature units include us reading the book together so he can hear the book and comprehend better, we watch the DVD version if there is one, we do visual work using lapbooking/notebooking, we do activities to give him hands on connection to it. The traditional teaching methods of rote learning the alphabet, teaching spelling and phonics, reading comprehension by reading to themselves, all on paper, in a book, at the desk or sitting on the floor. It was pointless for my child. My son still to this day cannot sing you the alphabet song. He can tell you what a letter is if you show him, but to him, they are letters, not a song, and will often asked who picked them to be in that order for the song in the first place?  That isn't the way he sees them. Give him a visual and he does much better.  The letter 'b' is a bat with a ball when it comes to writing it. A 'd' is a dogs body, up for head, down for tail.  A 'c' is a curl.  That's how he learnt to write his letters, all with pictures to SEE in his head. Just looking at a letter and copying over and over has no connection for him. 

If you have a child who you know is bright, but doesn't seem to connect and struggles to learn, research Right Brain Learning.  It might be the key you need to unlock their potential. There is a LOT of information out there on the subject. The links I put above are a great starting point and told in very entry level language with practical examples and suggestions. 

Just on a side note, I wanted to post a photo as an example of how the same thing/process/photo can be viewed differently by a left and right brain thinker and how a 'wrong' can be so very right for someone of the other thinking style. 

Example: Stacking books from a series into a bookshelf, done by a left brain learner, is stacked from left to right. I've always stacked from right to left (I'm a right brain thinker). My son does it too. My partner (left brain learner) tells us we are doing it wrong. He says books get sorted from left to right, just like you read a page left to right. This is a photo of a shelf in our bookcase: 

As you can see, I stack from right to left. Now before all you left brain learners tell me this is the wrong way to do it. Listen to my reason why.

Look at the writing on the spine of the book.

Have you ever noticed that the writing is always facing the one direction. 

If the writing went in the other direction, then I would stack left to right. 


For me, when I turn my head to read the writing on the spines of books, and especially books in a series, if stacked from right to left, the first book in the series is then at the 'top' of the stack. That makes sense to me, having the first book on top.  Having the first book on the bottom (if stacked left to right) is not the way it should be in my view. I see THAT as backwards and confusing when I am reading the spines as I then don't read them in order.

So here is the SAME photo, turned on it's side, so you view it the way you would if you tilted your head to read the spines: 

For a right brain learner, this looks correct. You have the first book of the series at the TOP of the pile. All the spines can be read in order. 

THIS is correct for us. It has logic, it has reason, it has purpose and it is 'out of the box' thinking.  

A left brain learner doesn't see things the way we do, can call it wrong time and time again, but they don't think like us, and unless a right brain learner pointed this out, they wouldn't see it or contemplate that 'backwards' for them can actually be 'forward thinking' and another version of right. 

I wanted to post that example to show you that a change in view point, a change in the way you teach a concept, a change in the set up of a teaching environment and a change in our attitudes of what we consider the right and wrong ways in regards to work production, presentation and thought process - from left brain teaching to right brain teaching (for the child who is a right brain learner) can not only help the student, but it can help the parents/teachers understand the child, see things they've overlooked in the past and reduce stress significantly. Happy child = Happy mum = Happy Homeschool!  

Do you have a Right Brain Learner? Feel free to comment below and share any tips you have found work well. Thanks for reading! 

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