In Learning Is Your Child an Inchworm or a Grasshopper?

by Yafa Crane Luria

Grasshoppers vs. Inchworms
Guest post by Sara Kuhl M.Ed

Does the thought of returning to school this fall make your child shudder?
Do you find it hard to understand why your smart kid underplays his or her hand at school?
The reason may not be lack of effort – but lack of awareness of how to learn.

Over more years than I’d care to mention, I’ve worked with bright kids who do not perform well in traditional school settings. Even when they put the time in, there can be disappointment and frustration because the study methods they used produced spotty, unpredictable results.

What I’ve found is that once students understand their natural preferences for taking in information, and how their brain is hardwired to process that information – they find the learning process easier, more fun…and are more successful.

Of course, because we’re all hardwired differently, there is no cookie-cutter formula for teaching kids how to learn.

I suggest that about 35% of all students, and probably 99% of ADD/ADHD students are right-brain dominant and also kinesthetic learners.  These are people with creative imaginations who learn in leaps – more like grasshoppers than inchworms.

The thoughts of our right-brain dominant, kinesthetic learners come randomly rather than sequentially. They come up with the right answers intuitively, but get frustrated when they have to show their work. They’re big picture thinkers, not much into details, so they frequently miss the fine points of an assignment since they quit listening once they got the general idea.  They think in pictures rather than words, so often have trouble telling you what they learned.

Unfortunately for them, school is geared to left-hemispheric learning that is language-oriented, sequential, and time-based, typically rewarding analysis over creativity.

The learning challenge boils down to engaging the whole brain by bringing the right hemisphere off the sidelines and into the game, to participate productively in the learning process…rather than de-railing it!

Here are some suggestions for ways to engage the whole brain and minimize distractions:

Fidget to Focus:  Movement awakens and activates mental activity causing information to pass between the two hemispheres of the brain.

  • Use a stress ball or silly-putty will keep hands busy while energizing thinking.
  • Read on an exercise bike or listen to a foreign language walking on a treadmill.
  • Sit on a large exercise ball or a chair with rollers at your desk to open mental connections.
  • Stand-up desks allow movement, flexibility and increase energy levels & focus.

Pick a Color: Color keeps the eyes from wandering, focuses attention and releases endorphins that can make many people feel more comfortable and stronger for an extended period of time.

  • Limit visual distractions with a desk blotter in a favorite color on your desk.
  • Transparent color overlays on top of reading materials draw the eyes to the page for longer.
  • Color-coding notes includes the right hemisphere in the processing – great for memorization and test prep.

Add a Soundtrack Music can intensify learning by engaging the right side of the brain and prevent it from wandering.

  • Choose “audio wallpaper” that creates an inviting study environment, blocking out other noise.
  • Pick carefully as music can become the focus – if you can’t stop singing along, the effect are lost.

Maximize your Prime-Time We all have an internal biological clock that regulates our energy rhythms and makes some of us early birds and others night owls. It’s easier to deal with distractions when you’re feeling alert and strong. Be aware of the best time for you – and use it to tackle your most challenging work.

Practical strategies for building concentration and focus can be especially empowering for ADD/ADHD kids. But discovery into how-to-learn successfully should not end there. Choosing the right strategies for retaining & retrieving information, physically & mentally preparing for tests and time-management skills are all essential for today’s students.

Summer break is a good time to help your child calmly reflect, regroup and develop some skills that will help turn their future efforts into great results.

Sara Kuhl M.Ed, creator of Brain Camp





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