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Helping Your Pre-Schooler With Math-Brain Friendly or Learning Styles?
Whether you’ve read my other articles in the Early Childhood Education category or researched this topic online, you’re probably wondering how the terms “brain-friendly” and “learning styles” learning” fit into your work with your preschooler. The purpose of both is certainly to help your child learn, so what’s the difference? Is one better than the other?
“Learning styles” is the oldest concept and represents the results of several research studies aimed at determining how we learn. You can find a summary of these results in my article “Learning Styles – Should I Get My Child Tested?” (The answer is NO.) These concepts were essentially assumptions, based on observation of behavior, about how the brain absorbs and stores information. Guess how the brain learns.
I recommend that you read this article to familiarize yourself with the terminology, as you will likely come across some or all of these concepts during your studies in early childhood education. You may even encounter teachers in your child’s future who still cling to these concepts. Some of these attempts to explain how we learn have more merit than others; there is truth in everyone; but none provided the full answer. The concept of learning styles has fallen out of favor in education. In my research for this article, I was surprised at the number of articles and videos referring to “demystifying” this concept of learning styles.
Having taught in public schools in the 90s when we were encouraged to test our students’ learning styles, and students were often placed in classes where their learning style matched the teacher’s style, l he idea of learning styles being ‘demystified’ initially seemed impossible. However, this change in attitude towards education is the result of new developments in brain scan technology, brain surgery and brain research. We no longer have to guess how the brain learns. We have plenty of research and hands-on testing of techniques that have proven effective in making learning happen.
The field of brain-based education and learning is only a few decades old; and the field is not without its detractors; but even Harvard University now offers master’s and doctoral programs through its MBE (Mind, Brain, and Education) program. The study of brain-based education is about learning what techniques parents and educators should use to better 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 will now summarize here the things you need to consider when working with your child. The brain needs color, exercise/movement, varied activities, novelty, processing time, music, stress limitation, information in small “chunks”, plenty of rest, an introduction to the “arts” — dance, drama (acting), and art, frequent review, proper 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 from home.
There are a few things you should notice in the list:
These activities actually use all the different learning style concepts, which is why you don’t need to test your child and why I haven’t listed them. Using Brain-Friendly Techniques addresses what you need to know about learning styles.
You already use many of these techniques. You already work for short periods of time, allow time for processing, lots of review, movement, different types of activities, watch your child to avoid stress, etc.
Skills and exercises worksheets are NOT brain friendly. There are hundreds of sites online offering worksheets for your preschooler. However, unless these worksheets have lots of color, new and varied activities, are short, are self-checked to avoid practice errors, and are prepared to monitor every moment of their use, you should avoid using them!
If you want more information on brain-based learning, I recommend reading Eric Jensen, David Sousa, and/or John Medina.
The answer to the original question is that “brain friendly” is the concept of learning that you need to incorporate into your work with your child. Note that I didn’t even mention math because these techniques are for ALL learning. Remember to always stay positive with your child, be enthusiastic about learning, and keep your child bored. Boredom actually destroys brain cells, and we certainly don’t want that!
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