12 Strategies That Support Right-Brained Learners
1. Right-Brained Learners Need Hands-on Activities
Something I learned when working with right-brained children was that if I engaged the child’s hands in their learning, their learning deepened, they were more engaged, and their focus would go wherever their fingers went. Of course, visual, kinesthetic and tactile learners are also right-brained learners.
In a previous blog post, Teaching Strategies That Help Children Improve Focus, I shared stories about three students I worked with, each of whom had real problems with focus. Each of them had different issues: flickering attention, wandering attention, and attentional gymnastics, where the child just could not sit still. Focus can be an issue for right-brained learners because they are visual learners, and they learn through their hands and their bodies. This is why hands-on activities help. Read the blog for specific strategies that helped each of these children.
2. Right-Brained Learners Are Impacted by Their Environment
Children who are ADD and right-brained learners need to be enticed to learn what you believe they should. If their learning environment is sterile, drab, or uninviting, getting them to want to learn will be much more difficult. If you are teaching your child at home, it will be totally worth the effort to enlist your child in creating this environment. If you cannot paint the room, hang colorful images on the wall that appeal to your child.
3. Right-Brained Learners Need Relevance to Their Lives
Rather than teaching math facts using pencil and paper and sterile problems, find out what your child really likes and relate math to that. For example, teach him how to use money as you shop for groceries, or as he saves up for something he really wants. Set her up with a check register and as you teach her to use it, she will be learning to count money, to add and subtract, etc. Give him a real wallet with real coins to use. If you are studying measurement, study it as you build something that is interesting to the child. If she loves playing with construction sets, study the concepts of perimeter or area as she’s building a house.
4. Right-Brained Learners Need to Find Relationships
For instance, choose a topic from science, and relate all other subjects to that one theme. If volcanoes are your topic for science, add geography by finding volcanoes on the world map, read books and articles about them, go back in history to study Pompeii, bring math into the mix by creating word problems relating to volcanoes. Let your child have the chance to become totally immersed in the subject. He will do better if he’s had the chance to spend time focusing on one theme.
5. Right-Brained Children Need to Move While Learning
Any time you can structure learning so that your child is NOT seated at her desk, the better for her concentration. Instead of using pencil and paper all the time, affix a small whiteboard to the wall, door, or tabletop and let the child use dry erase markers to work out problems. If you plan for movement, it is going to be easier to channel the child’s energy. If you are practicing spelling, for instance, use the white board on the wall and try calling out a word. Say, “house.” Your child will write her word on the white board. Have her do a toe touch, and then jump back up to do the next word. Or she could do a body movement that the word reminds her of. For house, maybe it would be tenting her fingertips over her head as if making a roof on a house.
6. Right-Brained Learners Need to See the Goal and Mark Their Progress
Many right-brained children love to see not only where they are going, but they like to mark their progress along the way to reaching the goal. It would be great to decide on specific tasks for each day and write these on colorful cards with a cute picture drawn to illustrate the topic. Break tasks down as detailed as possible. You can attach magnets to the back and display the cards in the order you will accomplish them, or you could put them all into a little basket and let your child select a card that will tell him what his next task is. Each task he accomplishes will get him closer and closer to the goal. The goal should be something he really likes to do.
7. Strategies to Help Right-Brained Learners Focus
I know from personal experience that if I am having trouble settling down to start a “desk task,” it helps tremendously to have a lamp on my desk that shines light directly on the spot I should be focusing. If I am already having trouble focusing, then if the overhead light is on, every object in the room demands equal visual attention and it becomes very easy to go off on mental or tactile rabbit trails. This being true, most days find my office light off, but my desk lamp shining away valiantly, pointing my attention to the next task. Try this method with your child if she has trouble settling down to do a task at her desk.
8. Right-Brained Learners are Distracted by Clutter
I wrote in another blog (Confessions of an Adult Visual Learner) what clutter on my work space does to me. Every little scrap of paper, every object, screams equally for attention. So while I love a visually pleasing room to work in, the space also needs to be conducive to focus. So, in your child's immediate work area, have only the items needed for that task. What will help tremendously is to have places for everything that tends to accumulate on the desk. Part of getting down to work will be putting all extraneous clutter away: pencils in the pencil jar, other books in the to-do basket, etc.
9. Playing Mozart Can Benefit Right-Brained Learners
I read a long time ago that playing Mozart helps organize one's thoughts for work. A decade ago I was working on three manuscripts. Each time I sat down to write another chapter, the blank paper screamed at me in its whiteness, and its blankness mirrored my own mind. Even a little black dot on the page would have been preferable to seeing nothing on the page. The more time that ticked by without my being able to come up with something to start with, the surer I became that I would have nothing whatsoever to say on the topic. One day I decided to try the Mozart music theory. I actually tried this many times I had writing tasks to do, and while I never was aware of when the words actually started to flow, flow they did. You might consider playing Mozart while your child works.
10. Right-Brained Learners Need to Learn and Practice Visualization
For the right-brained learner, the ability to visualize is not only a gift, it is critical to success in learning. Visualization needs to be practiced and your child needs to understand how valuable this ability will be to him. Words and symbols are not going to be his strong suit, so capitalize on what he does so well already. For example, if you are learning a new word, let the child study the written word for a bit, and then have him close his eyes and see it in his imagination. Give him time to form that mental picture and when he has it in place, ask him what he sees. Have him spell it as he sees the word in his head.
Play Visualization Games
VISUALIZE, THEN ACT IT OUT
Something active children will enjoy doing, which will also help them in school, is playing visualization games. Start small and build as you see they are able to do more.
Say, “Close your eyes and make pictures in your head of what I say.”
Next say, “You are going to stand up, walk to the window and look out. Next you will walk to the door and close it, finally, you will touch your toes and then sit in your chair.”
When your child has visualized themselves doing this, ask them to do what she saw in their head. This game will greatly improve your child’s listening and following directions skills, while giving them a lot of practice in visualization.
VISUALIZE, THEN DRAW
Do a similar activity. Say a sentence that would be easy to see in your head, and prompt children to close their eyes and see it happening in their heads.
Next, have them draw what they saw.
This particular activity will help a lot with reading comprehension.
11. Right-Brained Learners May Need Help With Prioritizing Facts
Right-brained learners are global thinkers. This is a wonderful trait in that they are able to see cause and effect, can see how elements are related to each other and how they impact each other, can learn through detecting patterns from within the whole. However, global thinkers may experience challenges because of their global view.
One challenge is that when there are several tasks to be completed, children may find it difficult to put them into a sequence or order to be completed. We want them to learn to help themselves as much as possible, so giving them some tips to help them prioritize would be helpful.
They can write their tasks on little scraps of paper and then make a choice based on:
12. Right-Brained Learners Benefit from Drawing When Solving Problems
Many right-brained children have trouble with math because of how it is typically taught: in little steps with memorization, frequently timed, and children are often told they need to show their work. Remember that right-brained children are generally picture thinkers. This means they need time to translate abstract, symbolic content into images they can use to understand.
Try instead explaining the problem and then letting children draw pictures that represent the problem. Keep in mind, however, that some problems they may be able to solve in their head without being able to verbalize how they arrived at the answer.
The last time I took a math class, I was pretty stressed. I struggled with math in elementary school, and so taking a graduate level math class as an adult, many years removed from college days, really freaked me out. I would literally experience rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.
I rescued myself by drawing little pictures that showed me the question and helped me work out the answer. I drew very furtively because I was sure someone my age should NOT have to draw little pictures in order to solve problems. Even today, if I have to add or subtract relatively short numbers, I don’t instantly pull the answer out of my head, I SEE the problem as a visual which would take many words to explain to someone else. When this type of problem solving fails is when there is pressure to hurry and I cannot take my needed seconds to visualize.
Learn More About How Right-Brained Learners Process
Set time aside to observe your right-brained children, taking notes on what you see during times they are engrossed and displaying remarkable focus. Write down everything you observe about what they're doing, and when you have done this a few times, study your notes to learn what those scenarios had in common. Doing this will reveal your child’s learning strengths.
Ask questions that will reveal to both of you how the right-brained child processes. "How did you remember that?" "How did you figure that out?" "What did that remind you of?" Questions like these will help adults teach more effectively, but they will also teach children how to recognize and use their own learning strengths.
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