When we take in information, we have a preferred input modality. So, as a student is learning a new topic, they may learn more, faster or better using that preferred modality. In fact, in 1994, there was a study that showed that kids that were taught to their preferred modality scored in or above the 70 percentile. When a teacher or student (or preferably both) understands and teaches to a student’s preferred modality better learning is achieved.
Once the information is received however, how it is processed depends largely on the hemispheric dominance of the student. Our brains are made up of two hemispheres – the right and left sides. Both sides contain identical sections (lobes) which perform specific functions. However, fMRI studies show that each side processes things differently and we use both sides. However, we typically have a preferred side. The right side of the brain functions in a “whole to parts” method. The left side learns things “parts to whole.”
|A beautiful ad from the Mercedes Benz company showing a visualization of the difference between left and right brain hemispheres.|
I am the left brain.
I am a scientist. A mathematician.
I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear.
Accurate. Strategic. I am practical.
Always in control. A master of words and language.
Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers.
I am order. I am logic.
I know who I am.
I am the right brain.
I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion.
Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter.
I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feet.
I am movement. Vivid colors.
I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas.
I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel.
I am everything I wanted to be.
Depending on your preferred side, you may store data in your brain differently. Left brain learners store information in stacks (nicely organized). Right brain learners store information all across the brain, building global connections (spread out, yet still connected.) As someone learns something, depending on their preference, the web related to that learning experience either builds vertically (left brain) or horizontally (right brain).
A visual left brain thinker needs to see details building up to a whole and visual right brain thinkers need to see the big picture and then have it broken down. Think left brain thinkers need pieces to build up to “whole” understanding and right brain thinkers need to see the “whole” picture and take it apart to understand something. So while both are visual, how the information is given must be considered also: Whole to parts (right brain) or parts to whole (left brain.)
Here is an example. Perhaps you want a child to work on math facts . Right brain children need manipulatives, starting with the end in mind, dissecting the math process to arrive at the equation. For example, if you want the right brain child to learn their addition facts, start with the answer (10) using manipulatives. Then, have them see all the different ways they can make the answer (10 -> 0+10, 1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5). Whole to parts, not parts to whole. It doesn’t make sense to a right brain child to learn all the 1+ math facts. Whereas a left brain child learns math facts best focusing on a part at a time (1+ facts, 2+ facts, 3+ facts, etc.) Or in learning place value, a left brain child builds on learning each set of numbers in the units, then learn about tens, then hundreds, etc. A right brain child might need a set of blocks with a “100’s” cube, “10’s” sticks and single cubes. Giving them a bunch of blocks, you then break it down into how many 100’s, 10’s and singles there are instead of starting from the singles and back up again.
Left brain and right brain kids also develop so completely different from one another. Left brain kids understand two-dimensional thinkers focusing on symbolic and word concepts first, then learn three dimensional thinking, focusing on creative and global concepts later. Right brain kids are, in contrast, three-dimensional thinkers first learning the world through creative and global concepts, then evolving their two-dimensional thinking skills much later learning things first symbolically, then word development follows last.
Next, we'll look at how this affects reading...stay tuned.