The Right-Brain Teacher and Student

The Right-Brain Teacher
Teachers with right-brain strengths generally prefer to use hands-on activities over a lecture format. In concert with the right-brain preference of seeing the whole picture, these teachers incorporate more art, manipulatives, visuals, and music into their lessons. They tend to embrace Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. They like to assign more group projects and activities, and prefer a busy, active, noisy classroom environment. The classroom of a strong right-brain teacher will typically have materials and books scattered all over.

The Right-Brain Student


Right-brain students prefer to work in groups. They like to do art projects, industrial arts electives in middle school, and graphic design. They would prefer to design and make a mobile rather than write “another tedious term paper.”

Sam scores “strong right” on a brain preference test for children. His left hemisphere, though healthy, is significantly weaker than his right. Though Sam does not have a learning disability, he has difficulty processing information that is presented verbally. When the teacher lectures, or talks in compound, complex sentences, Sam gets anxious and overwhelmed and shuts down. The teacher’s words run together, and the meaning becomes garbled. Sam’s drawings comfort him; they are something he knows he can do well. Right-brain activities such as painting and drawing are activities that he can do easily and with pride.

Taking the solar system example, here are some right-brain teaching techniques that will help Sam, and other students with moderate to strong right-brain strengths, get the most out of your lesson:

  • During the lecture, either write the main points on the board or pass out a study guide outline that students can fill in as you present orally. These visual clues will help students focus even though you are lecturing.
  • Use the overhead, the white board, or the chalkboard frequently. Since the students are apt to miss the points discussed verbally, the visual pointers will help the students “see” and comprehend the points.
  • Have some time for group activities during the week of the solar system study. Right-brain students enjoy the company of others.
  • Let the students create a project (such as a poster, a mobile, a diorama, or paper mache planets of the solar system) in lieu of writing a paper. Students like Sam often have excellent eye-hand coordination.
  • Play music, such as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Discuss how space might feel to an astronaut. Students with right-brain strengths are intuitive and like to get in touch with their feelings during the day.
  • Bring in charts and maps of the universe and let the students find the Milky Way. Maps and graphs make use of the students’ strong right-brain visual-spatial skills.

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