May 18, 2008

Rules for working with right-brained children

(Rules taken from Jeffrey Freed's book Right-brained Children in a Left-brained World, comments, thoughts and interpretations my own.)

Don’t pressure – these students tend to be very perfectionistic and will self-sabotage or give up if they don’t perceive they will do well.

I can remember being in middle school and high school and getting good grades in every class except math. I didn’t even try to get good grades in math. I wouldn’t do the homework, I wouldn’t study. Why not? Because I had it in my brain that it didn’t matter how hard I tried, I would not be able to get an A. I couldn’t get it perfect. So why bother trying?

I see the same thing in my students day after day. If they think that it is unattainable, whether the “it” is fluency or a good grade, they won’t even try.

Use positive reinforcement – reward effort not necessarily the right answers. The results will come later, after the foundation has been laid. If you don’t help them gain confidence, they won’t get to the results.

TPRS has this covered because we insist on the silent period and have such a small emphasis on output. They don’t need to get the right answers.

Aim high – believe in the child’s abilities. Don’t give up on them just because they aren’t the standard “A” student. These kids have amazing potential if somebody just has the patience to help them unlock it. They will do anything for somebody who has faith in them.

Also, just because these students can’t necessarily show you all the steps they used to get to the result doesn’t mean they don’t get it. Sometimes, if you have them slow down to write out each step as they get to it, they lose their train of thought and can’t get it back. If you absolutely need to see the steps they used, have them solve the problem, and then go back and retrace their steps.

Pick a quiet place – these students can be highly distracted. If they need to concentrate, make sure they have a quiet place to do it in. (Ironically, they are often the loudest students, thus ensuring that once they are done nobody else can concentrate)

This is one of the areas that TPRS gets dinged for, but I think it’s really about classroom management. Just because we are having fun while we are learning does not mean that we let the kids run wild, be undisciplined or disrespectful.

Don’t insist that he sit still – especially if the child has ADHD, he may actually need to move in order to be able to think well.

Kinesthetic. How much more kinesthetic can it be than to have your students up and acting out your stories as you tell them?

Of course, that whole sitting still thing is one of my pet peeves. During quiet class instruction, I despise when kids fidget or tap…. The best I can seem to do is provide time in class where it is permissible to get up and move.

Choose material that is novel and relevant – right-brained children often shut-down when they are bored or find the material too predictable. They can often rise to the challenge of something even a few years ahead of where they are, if it is new and pertains to them in a meaningful way.

Isn’t this everything that TPRS stands for? Personalize what we are teaching so that it is relevant. Use student ideas so that it is novel…

Give him the big picture – it’s hard for right-brained children to see details, or to care about them much even if they do see them. Trying to get them to learn detail by detail is a painstaking process much like pulling teeth without Novocain. On the other hand, if these children can see the big picture, they can often either pick up those details, or see the need for them and go back to learn them. These kids may pick up sorts by watching others play for a while until they have internalized a lot of the rules.

This is a principle idea of TPRS as well. We don’t teach the language detail by detail. We teach the language through speaking it and reading it, and then we pull the details out through circling or pop-up lessons.

Use humor – Laughter is a good de-stressor. Right-brained, gifted, and ADHD kids often have a very mature sense of humor – they get jokes and puns that many of their peers don’t. By incorporating humor liberally, we can help reduce the stress in the class, and lower affective barriers.

This ties in to Krashen’s theories about affective filters and how students cannot learn if their affective filter is high. We need to find a way to get students to relax and enjoy the process. The only thing we really have to be careful of is not to be mean-spirited or overly sarcastic in our humor. Not only do we have the fact that not all students will be able to find the humor in our jokes, but as human beings, I think, we tend to be more self-conscious when we are stressed. So, if a student is not feeling confident in class, and there is a joke directed at him, then he is more likely to take it personally. Of course, I don’t have any research to back me up on this one, just my own theories of life.

Teach him how to make a mental picture in his head – We’ve all heard about visual learners versus auditory learners. One of the things I learned from Jeffrey Freed is that it isn’t about how information is input as much as it is about how it is stored. A visual learner can learn from an auditory lecture, if he pictures what he is hearing. If words are a weaker area for these students, doesn’t having them build a picture to TL word correlation make much more sense than going from TL to first language to picture?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for outlining Freed's advice here. Plus, juxtaposing it with your own work makes a very helpful "real world" comparison. This is a great reference!


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