From the HSLDA E-lert Service:


12/11/2008 11:42:28 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter

HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
December 2008: Right Brain Teaching Strategies
by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

In the animal kingdom, 50 percent of the animals are "right paw
dominant" and 50% are "left paw dominant." In the human kingdom, only
about 10-13% of us are "left paw dominant." (Stanley Coren, "The
Left-Hander Syndrome") However, close to half of us tend to be more
left brain dominant in our learning preference and half of us tend to
be more right brain dominant. (Shaun Kerry, M.D. neurologist, and
D.F. Beson, "The Dual Brain")

It seems that we have a tendency to marry people who are dominant in
the opposite brain hemisphere, if you haven't noticed. Apparently
that is part of God's sense of humor. It often happens that if your
first-born is a left brain learner, your second born tends to be more
of a right brain learner, in my experience.

Let's look at a model of the brain with its specialization of

(Plan A)

black & white
data only

(Plan B)

whole picture
story, pictures

As we can see, the left and right hemispheres learn in different ways.
We all use both hemispheres when we learn, but when under stress, we
tend to rely on our dominant hemisphere for learning.


Most curriculum is designed to teach in a more left brain manner.
Workbooks, worksheets, rote memorization (math facts), timed tests,
lectures, memorizing facts for a test, learning vocabulary by looking
up the meanings of words in a dictionary and writing it out are all
left brain activities. Many children thrive on this type of teaching
method. If you have a child who is learning well using these
strategies, then you would not change anything.

However, when a child is not "getting" the material (math facts,
phonics rules, sight word memorization etc.), often we continue to use
Plan A to teach them, but we now do it SLOWER and LOUDER and with many
more repetitions. This can bring frustration and tears to both the
mother and child. The parent can't understand why the child isn't
learning the material, and the child does not feel very smart.

Let's look at Plan B for teaching this struggling learner.


If a child is struggling with learning or memorizing information in
this left brain manner, right brain teaching strategies may help him
overcome this struggle. Does that mean that being right brain dominant
is a weakness? Not at all! As you know, Einstein was a flaming right
brainer. ("Teaching the Two-Sided Mind," Linda Williams).

If you have a child at home who is "balking" at doing the schoolwork
that fits the description above, you may be working with a more right
brain dominant child. If you have a child who dislikes school, or has
to work too hard to memorize material, you have probably noticed that
teaching the lesson more slowly, and repeating it isn't working very
well. For this child to succeed you need a "Plan B". This doesn't
require an entire change in curriculum but rather a change in your
teaching strategies. It isn't as hard as it sounds. In fact, it's
easy, fun, and inexpensive.


For example, let's look at teaching spelling words. We all want our
children to be good spellers and are very frustrated when our methods
aren't working. The most common complaint I receive is that the child
learns the words for the test, but continues to misspell them in other
writing tasks. How do we typically teach spelling? We have the child
write the word multiple times, or use workbooks that have the child
practice the words in several ways.

However, if the child's "writing gate" is blocked (see September's
Struggling Learner Newsletter at, then
the child cannot successfully transfer the spelling into his long-term
memory using the writing method. Many spelling programs utilize
phonics rules to teach a child to spell successfully. For the
struggling learner, however, often there are too many rules to
memorize, so they just become spelling "guessers".

So what is the solution? Do you just hope that spell check will help
them get through life? That is not your only option. You can help
your child store spelling words in his long-term memory by using right
brain teaching strategies. Your child's photographic memory can be
trained very simply, and you can use spelling words to help train this
in your child. We know that pictures are powerful learning tools, but
did not know how to apply them to the storage of spelling words.


Let's look at how resourceful spellers appear to store their words.
Have you ever seen a picture in the newspaper of a spelling bee
winner? If you have, you may have seen the student with his eyes in
an upward position. In other words, it seems like he is looking at
the ceiling for the word he is spelling.

We know that the physiological movement of the eyes upward helps to
stimulate the right brain, which causes our right brain (the
hemisphere that houses our photographic memory) to become more
responsive. When the student is looking up, he is "seeing" the word in
his head. Because he is seeing the printed word, he can spell it
backwards as easily as forwards. You can train your child at home to
use this very efficient strategy. Not only will it be painless, but
you will find the right brain is responsible for visual memory and
long-term memory, so your child will remember how to spell his words
long past the week of the spelling test.

When we put color, humor, stories and emotion to data, the right brain
stores it easily, in its long-term memory. It's like we put "Velcro"
on the data!


This efficient right brain spelling strategy is simple to use at home.

1. Give your child a pre-test from a short list of words from the
"most commonly used words" list, or any spelling program you are

2. Identify the words that were spelled incorrectly, and take the
letters that were wrong, or left out, and color them, make them into
caricatures--anything to make them appear "weird".

(An example: If your child spelled "Saturday as Saterday" put the
Sat-r-day in black marker on a card, since he knew those letters. Put
the "u" in blue, with wavy lines in it to represent water, and a stick
figure diving into the water. You can add a story, like, "They all
Sat around on Saturday and one of them got bored, so the brothers
decided to go swimming.)

3. Hold the card straight up in front of your child so his eyes are
looking up. Have him glance at it, then bring it down while his eyes
remain looking up, where the card had been. Flash this card in the
air, five or six times, until your child can "see" it in the air, and
easily spell it forwards and backwards. If your child can't easily
"see" it in the air, show it more times, or put more "Velcro" on it by
putting in more color, or a more detailed picture.

4. Review the cards each day of the week for a few minutes.

5. Your child's "photographic memory" will become stronger and
stronger as you use this method.

Remember that your child's visual memory can be his greatest strength.
As you help him develop that, using spelling words, math facts, or
anything, you will see learning and memorizing become much easier.
The success a child feels when he can "see it" is priceless.

Visit for more ideas about how to make
your teaching day easier.

HSLDA members may contact a special needs coordinators at, and ask to be emailed a "Daily Lesson Plan
for the Struggling Writer and Speller" for more details on this method
of learning.
-> How long are you in for?

Some families are facing what seems like a lifelong commitment to
homeschooling, with children at both ends of the spectrum -- some
graduating and some just reaching school age. If you're going to
be "in" for a while, consider a lifetime membership with HSLDA.
It's a good deal for families with more than 10 years of
homeschooling ahead.

More reasons to join HSLDA...

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