Saturday, January 05, 2008

Right Brained Learners -- Troubleshooting

This is the last section of the notes I took for the Right Brained Learners in a Left Brained World book. I don’t remember, to be honest, why it is called “troubleshooting”, but it looks like the notes are to do with tutoring or helping a right brained child at home. It looks like some of the suggestions are duplicates from my other notes, but that’s OK.

Use rewarded incentives — stickers or prizes

Let them move

Give them time

Have them close their eyes to make pictures, if they are having trouble visualizing

Boredom is often a shutdown or defensive mechanism to avoid failure.

Expect cycles or slumps

Don’t scare or discourage them by threats or low marks

Take care of yourself, the parent

Don’t compare child with others; start small, look for progress

ORganization TIps for Daily Life

Visual schedules for younger kids or teach older ones to visualize out their day ahead of time.

Limit TV time — tell them it comes after academics, chores, family and friend time, and exercise on their priority list.

Use music and exercise as mood-lifters and energizers

Monitor oneself to make sure one is receiving visual images.

In commenting on one of my earlier note-posts, Steph wondered about HOW to teach an RBL to turn auditory input into visualization.

I found this PDF article, a how-to by Jeffrey Freed who wrote the book I’m taking the notes from. It has some ideas and encouragement.

When I was a child, I think one of the most helpful things for me as a right-brained learner was that my mother read to me regularly. I was motivated to visualize the action in the story as I heard it in auditory sequence. But I am not sure I am exactly the “typical” (usually BOY) RBL who struggles with traditional academics. For one thing, learning to read came easily to me because my visualization process was symbol-oriented. I do not think this is so much the case for more active, concrete-thinking kids.

My second son, a strong RBL, got great value from the picture-intensive Dorling Kindersley type of books. He also loved Dover coloring books, the realistic kind. These helped him build up a library of visualizations so that eventually he could put auditory input into images. But it took plenty of time. He didn’t enjoy fictional read-alouds until he was twelve.

Like many RBLs, he has extremely acute hearing and is often distressed by noises that don’t bother anyone else. So though he enjoys music, he is very careful about what musical input he allows into his brain. My daughter is a different type of RBL — she loves music and this has been a good way to learn to process auditory input into visual. Movies work this way for her too.

In general, whenever I am expecting something from my RBLs I try to attach a visual help and provide a whole visual schema that is accessible but not required. That probably is too vague to be helpful. I am trying to point out that while visualization is important to RBLs, so is the “big picture”. Visual clutter is very difficult to deal with in my experience. Teaching them to find a “key” image or idea and then arrange the others accordingly is useful. That is why many people recommend mind maps for RBLs. For me, even these are too cluttered. Making them can help me order my thoughts; looking at them later is overwhelming. One thing that does rather help me is the “mind mansions” that were used by the ancients and Renaissance thinkers. The technique of pegging facts and concepts to mental “loci” might be helpful to some.

My son liked Dorling Kindersley books but not Usborne ones. The DK books are usually organized with one main theme on a two page spread and a lot of subordinate ideas, and realistic pictures. The Usborne ones were usually smaller, less distinct, and more “horizontal” — less visual prioritizing. Probably this differs from RBL to RBL, but I do think it also says something about the need for a big-picture conceptualization along with visual details, for the classic RBL thinker.

I like Jeffrey Freed’s books because he acknowledges that RBLs are often gifted and learn in a quite different way than ASLs (audio-sequential learners). A lot of the Trouble-Shooting ideas above are to do with expectations, if you notice. Here are some things to be expected from RBLs that can be discouraging to teachers and parents and the child himself if they don’t understand this particular learning style:

—Cycles — learning well on one day and poorly on another.
—Jumps ahead — a child understands something “advanced” but struggles with something supposedly less advanced.
– Slumps — affected by mood or what is going on in the environment.
– A need for nurturing — both for the parent and the child — providing support and “scaffolding” but not a lockstep routine.