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Left vs. Right Brain Teaching Techniques

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson we discuss left-brained versus right-brained teaching techniques. This includes identifying both the traits and differences of both types of learners so that the educator can utilize the appropriate teaching methodology.

Which Side of the Brain?

Have you ever heard somebody say they were a 'left-brained thinker' or a 'right-brained thinker'? You are probably aware that the two hemispheres of the brain are responsible for different human abilities. However, did you know that there exist various techniques for teaching students that prefer either a left-brain learning style or a right-brain learning style?

It should be noted that most neuroscientists believe that virtually everybody uses both sides of their brains, but one side of the brain tends to dominate over the other.

Traits to Identify in the Classroom

It is crucial that educators first know these traits so that they can identify them in their students.

Left-Brained learners tend to be:

  • Analytical in nature
  • Based in reality
  • Linear and logical
  • Sequential and symbolic
  • Objective and verbal

Right-Brained learners tend to be:

  • Based in fantasizing
  • Holistic in processing
  • Intuitive in nature
  • Random and visual
  • Subjective and non-verbal

Teaching Techniques for Left-Brain Students

For left-brain students, try the following left-brain teaching techniques:

  1. Try to keep the noise down in the room. Left-brain students tend to prefer less auditory distractions when working.
  2. Try to keep the classroom tidy and orderly. These students tend to prefer this over chaos.
  3. Draw outlines on the chalkboard or whiteboard at the front of the class. These students tend to prefer sequential, logical learning, for much the same reason many left-brainers like math.
  4. Introduce lists of vocabulary words. These students tend to favor lists and structure.
  5. Have the students do a crossword puzzle related to the subject the educator is teaching.
  6. Try to avoid too many group projects. Left-brainers tend to prefer to work alone on individual assignments.

Believe it or not, left-brain students actually love to listen intently to an expert expound on a particular subject. It is okay for the educator to go ahead and lecture, while the students simply listen and take notes without much interaction.

Also perhaps surprisingly, left-brain students do not really mind writing research papers, including analysis of concepts and detail. They do well discussing abstract concepts and ideas in a logical manner, even though they do not tend to think abstractly.

Teaching Techniques for Right-Brain Students

For right-brain students, try the following right-brain teaching techniques:

  1. Use lots of charts and graphs and maps. Right-brainers tend to have strong visual and spatial aptitudes and can look at these for hours.
  2. Use the chalkboard/whiteboard or overhead projector at the front of the classroom as often as possible. Right-brainers tend to need visual reinforcement because they sometimes miss what the educator says verbally.
  3. Right-brainers love study guides. These can be in the form of worksheets or on a board. This allows the students to have points of reference to look at during a lecture.
  4. Assign projects involving design. Right-brainers tend to be creative and they can actually learn concepts as they are designing.
  5. Right-brainers enjoy hearing music in class. It is probably best to play music without words, such as classical or jazz. These learners also tend to be kinesthetic (involving feel) and music can be a source of creative inspiration.
  6. Assign more group projects. Right-brain learners tend to enjoy companionship and do not tend to love individual assignments.

Differences to Consider in Learning Styles

It is important as an educator to know what type of learner the student tends to be. This way the student can be given more personalized instruction.

For example, Amy is a left-brainer. She likes and excels at math. She thrives on planning and a structured daily schedule, plan weeks or even months ahead. She prefers to work alone and copes well with workbooks or computer programs that are self-paced. She checks items off lists, plays detective to examine all the evidence, and memorizes by rote repetition.

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