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Teaching According to Thinking Styles

written by: Deidra Alexander • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/2/2012

Teachers and students alike prefer a particular style of instruction dependent upon their own strengths and weakness. With that, segregated classrooms based on thinking styles should not be a goal. Involve students' whole brain to appeal to everyone's preference with these strategies.

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    Whole-Brain Thinking

    Most teachers prefer left-brain thinkers in their classrooms because it’s an easier set up and they are left-brain thinkers themselves. The few times this isn’t the norm is in an art class since right-brain thinkers are associated with aesthetics, which they get more out of rather than lecturing and recited facts. A school that is set up where “right-brainers" and “left-brainers" keep to their own would be fine, but that’s just not how education works or should work. Teaching students based on how they learn as an entire class is ideal and this is where whole-brain thinking comes in. Whole-brain teaching involves both sides of the brain through a set of activities for full development.

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    Who Are They: Right- and Left-Brain Thinkers

    This question is relatively easy to answer in broad terms. Thinking styles are categorized as polar opposites since either hemisphere of the brain is exercised most often based on neurological dependence.

    Right-brain students tend to look at the whole picture with a subjective point of view (visionary). They are more into the emotional side of things when discussing the topics at hand and are in fact deemed talkers (communicators). Left-brainers on the other hand are more interested in the facts with an objective and rational approach to things (logicians). They plan out their thoughts and ideas breaking them down into parts for analysis (organizer).

    Right-brain thinkers are more likely to daydream through a class lecture and have few notes at the end of a session. A lesson that involves reading heavily would be a letdown for a “right brainer."

    These weakness can be turned into strengths in each subject area.

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    Thinking Styles From Left to Right

    Incorporate the arts into class time the best way you can and when time permits. During practice, allow students to illustrate word meanings instead of writing them out or let them play music related to the topic during class. Take this a step further by permitting students to create stories on the information covered. If that is not suitable for your class’s needs, have students come up to the front of the group and present facts from the lecture using a study guide provided to them at the start of the session to help them gather their information. Use visuals as often as you can and bring in animations as well. You can carry over animations to class projects in groups or solo efforts for students who think more with their right-brain.

    In a class where left-brain thinking is favored due to either student- or teacher-thinking style, use these same ideas to provide a whole-brain education. There are many strategies out there that teachers are familiar with to help the left-brain thinker succeed causing them to heavily rely upon them because they have been deemed more important. This foundation of thought is a great disservice to both right- and left-brain students.

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    Diversify for Everyone

    Diverse teaching requires educators to step out of their comfort zone and challenge every learner they have been assigned to. Relying too heavily upon one brain hemisphere can weaken the brain causing underperformance in situations where the brain has not been developed enough. An example would be a case in which left-brain students must participate in an school theatrical production. The ignorance of the right hemisphere of the brain can breed fear at times when they must use creativity rather than objective thought.

    If you feel that you cannot switch back and forth very easily to appease everyone, give students choices when it’s time to turn in assignments. Students who groan at reports can be given the option of acting out a scene or creating a movie.

    These ideas can be used in any subject area and can break up the monotony of class time and grading time later on. Have fun and spice up learning with the facts and with aesthetics for a diversified teaching experience and learning environment to reap the benefits of students who are whole-brain thinkers and a more cohesive class.