Whether you’ve read my other articles in the early childhood education category or researched this topic online, you probably have questions about how the terms “brain friendly” and “learning styles” fit into your work with your preschooler. Surely the goal of both is to help your child learn, so what’s the difference? Is one better than the other?
‘Learning styles’ is the older concept and represents the results of several research studies attempting to determine how we learn. For a summary of these findings, see my article Learning Styles – Should I Test My Child? (The answer is NO.) These concepts were essentially conjectures, based on behavioral observations, of how the brain perceives and stores information. Assumptions about how the brain learns.
I encourage you to read this article to become familiar with the terminology, as you will likely come across some or all of these concepts as you delve further into early childhood education. You may even encounter teachers in your child’s future who still hold these concepts. Some of these attempts to explain how we learn are more valuable than others; there is some truth in everyone; but none provided the full answer. The concept of learning styles has lost popularity in education. In researching this article, I was surprised at how many articles and videos refer to “debunking” this concept of learning styles.
After teaching in public schools in the ’90s, when we were encouraged to test our students’ learning styles and often placed students in classes where their learning style matched the teacher’s style, the idea of learning styles seemed “debunked “ to have, at first impossible. However, this changing attitude towards education is the result of new developments in brain scanning technology, brain surgery and brain research. We no longer have to guess how the brain learns. We have a lot of research and practical verification of techniques that have been proven to be effective for learning.
The field of brain-based education and learning is only a few decades old; and the field is not without its critics; but even Harvard University now offers masters and doctoral programs under its MBE (Mind, Brain, and Education) program. Studying brain-based education is about learning what techniques parents and educators should use to best engage the brain in learning.
Now that we know how the brain actually learns, it’s important that you use brain-friendly techniques when working with your preschooler. You don’t need a teaching degree to use brain-friendly techniques. I summarize here what you need to consider when working with your child. The brain needs color, exercise/movement, a variety of activities, novelty, processing time, music, stress control, information in ‘bites’, plenty of rest, introduction to ‘the arts’ – dance, acting (acting things out) and art, frequent repetition, good nutrition and more. There are many specific techniques that teachers use in their classrooms, but this list will give you a good start for working at home.
There are a few things to note from the list:
- These activities actually use all the different concepts of learning styles, which is why you don’t need to test your child and why I didn’t list them. Using Brain-Friendly Techniques addresses what you need to know about learning styles.
- You already use many of these techniques. You are already working in short chunks of time, giving yourself time to process, lots of checking, exercise, different types of activities, watching your child to avoid stress, etc.
- Skill & Drill worksheets are NOT brain friendly. There are hundreds of websites on the internet that offer worksheets for your preschooler. However, if these worksheets are not full of colors, novel and varied activities, short, self-check to avoid practiced mistakes, and willing to monitor every moment of their use, you should avoid them!
If you want more information about brain-based learning, I recommend reading Eric Jensen, David Sousa, and/or John Medina.
The answer to the opening question is: “Brain friendly” is the learning concept that you need to incorporate into your work with your child. Note that I haven’t even mentioned math, as these techniques are for ALL learning. Remember to always be positive towards your child, be enthusiastic about learning and avoid boredom in your child. Boredom actually destroys brain cells, and we definitely don’t want that!
Thanks to Shirley Slick | #helping #preschooler #mathbrainfriendly #learning #styles