Right-Brain Learning: What Does it Mean?
There are specific characteristics that define the right-brain learner and set them apart from their left-brained counterparts. Right-brained learners are identified by how they take in information, how they process it, and how they most easily remember what they learn. When we speak of right-brained learning, then, we are referring to what is most natural for them in terms of how they process information.
What Right-Brained Learning is Not
You might be wondering, "How does the left- and right-brain impact learning?"
If you are a right-brained person, it does not mean that you only use the right hemisphere of your brain for learning and remembering. It also does not mean you are inferior in some way in your native wiring. It also doesn’t mean that if you are fortunate enough to have access to learning materials that are designed in a way that makes sense to how you take in, process, and remember information, that somehow that is cheating or somehow not legitimate. If you have access to right-brained friendly learning resources, it just means that the people who are teaching you honor and respect your unique wiring and care enough about you to offer you an opportunity to learn in a way that makes the most sense to your brain. It means the ways you learn and remember are unique and are different from how left-brained people take in, process, and learn information, but those ways are good!
What is a Right-Brained Learner?
In defining a right-brained learner, again, we are referring to how they learn most easily and naturally. It is vital that we understand this so we can be most successful in our efforts to teach them. Left and right-brained learners learn opposite of each other, actually, and when we understand deeply and care deeply that all learners have an equal shot at success in school, it will come to matter very much that we offer them learning experiences that make the most sense.
This chart shows how left-brained and right-brained learners take in, process, and remember information:
Traditional Methods are
Because I see relationships within the whole, I might skip details, but I will reach the goal by making my own steps.
How Does a Right-Brained Person Learn and Remember?
When we talk about kids learning, we, of course, are referring to learning new information. We are talking about how to get new concepts to the child’s brain in a way that it can be understood, used, and remembered.
Teaching Strategies That Don’t Work for Right-Brained Learners
In a nutshell, if we teach by standing in front of the class and talking, explaining, giving steps for working, we are appealing to left-brained learners who represent a minority of our children. Most teachers present information in small bits organized in a sequence that kids are to practice and mostly memorize. The child’s primary role is to pay attention and listen. Lots of repetitions and practice is involved, but for a large number of children, this approach does not produce satisfactory results.
Teaching Strategies That Work for Right-Brained Learners
We can take the content we need to teach and teach it once and still reach our right-brained learners successfully. The joyful result will be that our classrooms will be filled with children who are achieving to their highest potential.
We don’t have to worry about left-brained learners because content is already designed in a way that makes sense to them. They are the kids who most often have no trouble learning new information in the classroom. This is wonderful because if we can retrain our focus, it should be to this: "What is right-brain thinking?" and “What can I change in how I teach so that I bring all my right-brained children along?”
First of all, this is the role Child1st plays. We have designed ALL our resources so you can pick them up, teach them, and reach both left-brained and right-brained learners. But it is so helpful for us to understand what best practice is, what makes the most difference, and why.
The blessed result of including right-brain strategies in our lessons is that the transformation for these children will be dramatic. It will seem to you that you have just flipped a switch and the lights have come on. Read a personal story about a student who was completely transformed in one semester in school.
State your goal first
Show the global whole
Example: If you are teaching three ways to spell Long A, show them ALL the ways to spell Long A and then zero in on the three you are focusing on today.
Example: If you are going to learn the facts to 7, show them all the facts at one time and then begin the lesson.
Here is an example of a chart that represents “the global whole” for the facts to 10 taken from Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction:
What this means is that you will use many examples of the concept you are teaching, so children can see a pattern emerging.
Example: If your phonics concept for the day is that EE says Long E, show many words that share that same sound spelling. Rather than saying, “The EE in SHEEP sounds like (Long) EE,” you will say, “Look at this column of words. What do they all have in common?” You will display many words in a column that all use EE in them: free, tree, bee, see sheep, cheese, wheel, and so many more.
Right-brained learners learn from seeing patterns and if they see a whole string of words sharing the same phonics concept, they will be able to visualize that pattern and recognize it again when they come to a new, unknown word. Using patterns requires lots of examples, but learning is quick and permanent for right-brained learners.
Expand content to allow for relationship-seeking
The temptation we all have when teaching children who might have been struggling is to cut lessons in half, limit the number of items we want them to learn, dumb it down, shorten it, chop it off. But doing these things actually makes it harder for right-brained children to learn. They need to see the relationship between details. How are they similar, how do they relate, how are they connected, what else are they like?
Avoid the reliance on repetition, memorization, and review
Right-brained learners don’t remember by any of those activities. Those strategies for learning just bore them to tears and don’t result in memory because right-brained learners rely on visual memory for learning. Anything you want them to remember needs to be related to a visual that will go instantly into their visual memory.
Right-brained learners are visual learners who snap a picture of content and store it in visual memory… forever.
Provide hands-on activities
Right-brained learners are tactile and learn by doing. This is how they work out how something works.
Example: In Alphabet Tales, after the children have enjoyed images and stories to connect letters with their sounds, they have the opportunity to deepen their learning by means of engaging, hands-on activities.
Right-Brained Math books are full of tactile activities that replace memorization of facts.
Example: In working with sums to 10, children can use "My Two Hands" to show, feel, and see the combinations of numbers that add up to any number under 10. This is a very powerful strategy for learning addends or number trios.
Involve the body in movement
Movements that mirror learning are critical for the right-brained learners who are also kinesthetic learners. Purposeful movement enables kinesthetic learners to store information in body memory and then retrieve it effortlessly.
All Child1st learning resources rely on all these elements, which is why we can collaborate with parents and teachers in bringing the thrill of success to right-brained learners everywhere.
What Can I Expect if I Follow These Tips for Teaching Right-Brained Learners?
Right-brained learners too often get the reputation of being slow or not able to learn or being disabled in some way. What is misunderstood is that different wiring is not bad wiring. There is no such thing as “good wiring” or “bad wiring.” The brain is beautiful and works beautifully for learning. We just need to be a bit more familiar with how people learn who are wired differently than we are.
The truth is that while we are attempting to lead a flaming right-brain processor through detailed, sequential learning steps, what their brain is doing is getting hijacked by the burning questions, “What is this for?” “What am I going to make out of all these little pieces?” And they might stare at you blankly at times. Most frequently those blank stares are interpreted as the child’s inability to learn, but really, the blank stares are the signal that they are unable to process new information the way we are teaching them.
Let’s work together so that children everywhere will love learning!
Do You Have Questions About Right-Brained Learning?
We are happy to help! Just reach out and someone on our team will be happy to answer your questions and point you in the direction of more information, or to learning resources you can use to teach specific skills.