What Is Right-Brained Learning?
Keeping the term “right-brained” from becoming the next cliché or fad in education
It has been on my mind to dive into this topic for quite some time now, considering that the term “right-brained” is all over our blog and website. If we should want to be super-technical, saying that our products are right-brained is completely misleading! If that were the case, there would be no symbols in any of our products, no numbers, no letters, and no words! All we would have would be color, images, patterns, rhythm, and so forth.
To say our focus is on right-brained learners is completely accurate, but to say that our products are right-brained, not so much. That term is just shorthand for saying that our products are FOR right-brained learners: are designed to marry the functioning of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. To simplify, we have taken to just calling them right-brained.
Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction, Vol 1
For example, Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction (or Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction Vol. 2 or Right-Brained Multiplication & Division.) What we really should name our first Right-Brained math book is this: "An Approach to Addition & Subtraction for Right-Brained Learners that Integrates the Functions of the Left Hemisphere with the Primary Functions of the Right Hemisphere, which are the Right-Brained Learners’ Primary Areas of Strength." But if we attempted to name a book that way, we would run out of real estate on which to print such a title.
What does it mean to integrate left and right hemispheres in the learning process?
Let’s paint a scenario. Say you have a child who is obviously bright and creative, quick-witted, and sociable. Let’s also say that wonderful child is really having a hard time in kindergarten and cannot seem to remember letters and their sounds, or if she was successful with learning the sounds (possibly because they were embedded into a chant or song) she is now seemingly unable to progress much further than that.
She has trouble sounding out words, or if she does laboriously sound them out, she cannot remember having seen the word 10 minutes later. Say we conclude the bright, witty, creative child is actually right-brain dominant because she comes up with the most off the wall ideas, can draw amazing pictures, loves to make things with her hands, or is talented with anything that involves movement.
If we have concluded the child is dominant right-brain, would it help her if we laboriously translated everything strictly into pictures? Kind of a picture sign language of sorts? Or would that serve to further weaken the functioning of their other hemisphere, the hemisphere of their brain that deals with symbols, procedure, rules, steps, and all those intangibles that school is made of?
Our goal is to strengthen left hemisphere functionality by using right-brained elements to convey left-brained concepts
How does this happen? What we are doing is actually enlisting the aid of the right-brained talents and putting them to use to help left-brained concepts come to life. BOTH hemispheres are working at the same time. To get really technical, we are strengthening communication and collaboration of the hemispheres in learning. This can be done just like we can strengthen any muscle in our body through repeated use. This is the wonderful news!
The corpus callosum (see diagram to left) is like a bridge, a communication network between the various regions in the brain. The more we develop the networks between the hemispheres, the more and more information will travel between the hemispheres.
This is so great! Look at the functions labeled in the drawing. There is hearing, touch, speech, spatial visualization, language and mathematics, and calculation. When we set a task before our young children, the best outcomes result when they are drawing from multiple regions in the brain. If, for example, we take one of those pesky sight words (left hemisphere) and embed it in a picture (right hemisphere), and add a body motion and sentence, we are causing multiple regions in the brain to fire at one time. Is it not amazing how rich the learning experience becomes?
What if the communication via the corpus callosum is weak?
This is a reality for many children! If you have a child you have attempted to teach to read (for example) and he or she is just not getting it, it is not because he or she doesn’t have the capacity to learn. It is likely that communication in the brain can be strengthened, and there is help!
1. Get plenty of the right physical activity
Notice that the left hemisphere controls the functions on the right side of the body and vice versa. Any activity that comes naturally to children who have plenty of free time to play will help strengthen the corpus callosum. Running, crawling, going hand over hand on the monkey bars, jumping in a way that your left leg goes out as your right arm goes up in the air, using your right arm to reach around in front of your body to grab something, marching as you swing your arms opposite of how your feet are going, dribbling a soccer ball to the goal in the back yard, and so many more!
2. Use drawing and writing on a daily basis
Before beginning class for the day, provide your child(ren) with enticing coloring materials and give them time to draw a picture of whatever they want. When they have finished, they will need to write a caption and then talk about the drawing with you and their peers. In this way they will stimulate both hemispheres in the brain.
3. Use visualization regularly
Sometimes right-brainers have a hard time expressing themselves, and most particularly when they are under pressure. (Answering a question in front of the whole class, when they know they are in trouble, when they have to describe something using only words, when they are tired, etc.) It helps a lot to provide time for the child to visualize as a picture in their head what they are thinking of, what they have read, or what they have seen, and then give them time to retrieve the words they need to change from an image into words. When it comes to linking reading to comprehension, visualization is a powerful tool. The child needs to be taught this skill. Have him or her read a short section – start small! Next, close eyes and see what the words said as a picture in their head. Then, have them express in words again, what they saw in their heads as a picture. This may not go well at the beginning, but if you make a daily practice of doing this, the visualization “muscle” will strengthen and visualization will become an automatic process.
4. Praise and encourage your child in all his or her attempts
Make a pact with yourself to never criticize the child for any attempts he or she makes in the process of learning. Do not compare the right-brained child with any other child in class. Focus on the right-brained learner’s incredible ability to see what others don’t, to envision brand new things that have not been invented yet, to see the whole picture all at one time, and to learn a hard concept in one snap of his or her mental camera.
5. Keep an open mind
Don’t make your right-brainers have to learn like everyone else does just because we as adults feel “this way that I teach is the RIGHT way.” Gulp and swallow, and then just let your RB children learn whole words instead of sounding out words. Let them embellish plain words so that they LOOK like what they mean. (We have some of this done for you in all our resources, but if you want the children to come up with their own, wow, go for it!)