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When most of us read “left or right,” we think of handedness or turn direction. However, in the educational world, this phrase usually refers to the brain.

What does this have to do with learning? We all have two sides in our brains – the left and the right. The left side of our brain is frequently referred to as short-term memory; the right side is long-term memory. For most of us new information enters the left side of the brain, lingers there for a while, and then either is discarded or passes to the right side for the “long term.”

Unfortunately for some the left side does not function properly. This results in a child – or adult – not being able to remember new information from one day to the next. The right side of the brain is not wired to retain new information; therefore, it is quickly forgotten.

In the classroom this is often interpreted as not paying attention, not properly doing the work or a myriad of other excuses. If left undetected, this situation may result in the child becoming frustrated or bored. Acting out can follow. The teacher, parents and the child all become upset.

I have had two students who recognized themselves that they could not remember information from one day to the next. One, only in kindergarten, was often in tears because of this.

This is not a condition that can be “fixed.” The solution is to teach the child using different methods. Just think about the massive amount of new information a kindergartener encounters! Now think about the child who is a right-brained learner. He or she watches as most of the other children in his class seem to be able to recall new letters, numbers, processes, applications, etc. fairly easily. The right brained child often instinctively knows something is wrong.

All children are sponges. They want to learn. Few situations sadden me more than seeing a five-year-old struggle because the information just won’t stay!

The most often-used successful method for these children is repetition. The danger is that repetition for a five-year-old quickly becomes boring. An instructor has to use multiple approaches to retain the child’s attention while doing the same thing over and over. Unfortunately the classroom setting does not allow for this.

Ding! Ding! Ding! That’s where I come in!!! We may take a while; say four to six weeks, to adequately determine what is happening. Once we do, the instruction is created specifically to meet each child’s needs.

Children want to learn. If your young child is struggling, don’t wait to see if it will get better. Why add frustration to the list?

Next post I am going to venture into the world of “Are We Teaching Too Much Too Soon?”