God has a wonderful sense of humor, I believe. He wants
us to grow and stretch, and one of the ways He does this is to give us
children who are very different from each other. Just as it is
very likely that a right brain person will have a left brain spouse,
so it is likely that if our first born is left brain dominant, the
next child will be right brain dominant. This brain dominance
affects both personality characteristics and learning styles.
How do you determine if you are teaching a right brain child?
Children tend to display these characteristics at an early age.
All children are creative, but your right brain child will seem to be
even more imaginative. The right brain learns things in
"wholes" rather than parts, so that child will get math
concepts well, but may struggle with the "details" like the
math facts, or checking work. In thinking styles, the right
brainer often goes by "gut feel" whereas the left brainer
prefers multiple facts before coming to a conclusion. In test
taking, the left brainer prefers the black and white choices presented
in multiple choice questions, while the right brainer may prefer essay
questions, where the whole picture can be given.
Eighty percent of the struggling learners I see are right brain
dominant. Does that mean that being right brain dominant is a
weakness? Not at all!! As you know, Einstein was a flaming
right brainer. Then why the discrepancy? It is that most
curricula is designed to teach in a more left brain style.
Workbooks, worksheets, rote memorization (math facts), timed tests,
lecture, learning facts from a test, learning vocabulary by looking up
the meanings of the words in a dictionary and writing them out, are
all left brain activities. If you have a child at home who is
"balking" at doing the schoolwork that fits the description
above, you probably are working with a right brain dominant child.
To help this child become successful doesn't require an entire change
in curriculum but rather a change in your teaching strategies for this
child. It isn't as hard as it sounds. In fact, it's easy,
fun, and inexpensive.
Let's look at the teaching of spelling words. We all want
our children to be good spellers, and are very frustrated when our
methods aren't working. The most common complaint I receive, is
that the child learns the words for the test, but continues to
misspell them in other writing tasks. This is one of the easiest
problems to solve, and I have regularly seen two years spelling growth
in one year using a simple method.
Have you ever seen a picture in the newspaper of a Spelling Bee
winner? If you have, you may have seen the student with his eyes
in an upward position. In other words, it looks like he is
looking at the ceiling for the word he is spelling. This makes
sense in light of the recent brain research that tells us that we can
cause our right brain, the hemisphere that houses our photographic
memory, to become more
responsive by looking up with our eyes. In other words, we use
our eyes to help us think, as well as to see. When the student
is looking up, he is "seeing" the word in his head.
Because he is seeing the printed word, he can spell it backwards, as
easily as forwards.
You can train your child at home to use this very efficient
strategy. Not only will it be painless, but you will find the
that the right brain is responsible for visual memory and long term
memory, so your child will remember how to spell his words long past
the week of the spelling test. This efficient right brain
spelling strategy is simple.
1. Give your child a
pre-test from a short list of words from the "most commonly used
2. In the words that were
spelled incorrectly, take the letters that were wrong, or left out,
and color them and "weird" them up.
For example, if he spelled "Saturday as Saterday" put
the Sat-r-day in black marker on a card, since he knew those letters.
Put the "u" in blue, with wavy lines in it to represent
water, and a stick figure diving into the water. You can add a
story, like, "They all sat around on Saturday and one of them got
bored, so the brothers decided to go swimming.”
3. Hold the card straight up in
front of your child so his eyes are looking up. (Make sure his
chin isn't up, but only his eyes). Have him glance at it, then
bring it down while his eyes remain looking up, where the card had
been. Flash this card in the air, five or six times until your
child can "see" it in the air, and easily spell it forwards
and backwards. If your child can't easily "see"
it in the air, show it more times, or put more "velcro" on
it by putting in more color, or a more detailed picture
4. Review the card each day of the
week for a few minutes.
5. Your child's "photographic
memory" will become stronger and stronger as you use this method.
Remember that your child's visual memory is his greatest
strength. As you help him develop that, using spelling words,
math facts, or anything, you will see learning and memorizing become
much easier. The success a child feels when he can "see
it" is priceless.
Craft has a Masters in Special Education and is president of the
clinic Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, CO.
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