Recently, I had the great privilege of taking part in a workshop held by Mark Fletcher, Academic Director of English Experience in England. I would like to share some of what I learned at this workshop and introduce some of the basic ideas and an example exercise that Mark presented to us. This approach stresses the use of both the left and right hemispheres of the brain and employs information from theories of multiple intelligence, suggestopedia, and neuro-linguistic programming.
The underlying foundation (greatly simplified) of this learning/teaching theory is that there are many factors which need to be integrated into the learning process
The right brain and the left brain
- The left hemisphere is concerned with logical and analytical skills
- The right hemisphere is the center of visual, rhythm, "artistic" abilities
The reflex brain
- Stimulated by activity, the "reflex brain" makes sure the brain has the oxygen it needs to function well.
The limbic system
- Links memory with emotion and is stimulated by "self investment" i.e. personal involvement
The new brain
- The new brain is the area of the brain that creates new material
Different learning styles
- The idea that language is best learned when presented and worked on through a combination of the ear (auditory), the eye (visual), and by movement (kinetic)
In this style of learning/teaching, any given exercise stimulates many of the above areas in order to involve as much of the brain as possible in the learning experience, thereby producing more effective results.
Now, let's take a look at an example of an exercise which illustrates some of the above.
- First draw a map on the board with a picture representing the subject of the reading in the center and key words surrounding the picture. Have students copy the map on to a piece of paper. (The right brain is artistically stimulated)
- Place an article you want to read on the floor. Have students get up and walk across the room to get the article (in this way the reflex brain is put to work pumping oxygen into the brain thereby making the students more alert).
- Have students quickly read through the article. Make sure that they do not stop to look up new words - a quick scan is all that's needed. (The left brain works furiously to understand and put things into place).
- Get students to then fill out the map by writing in all they can remember under the key words. (the limbic system is already investing itself by making a commitment to go back to the article to find out any missing information)
- Have students pair-up and share and discuss their maps (new brain activity as students try to come up with explanations to their maps)
- Have the pairs go back to the article to compare their maps with the information in the article (the limbic system has made an investment and the left brain can not wait to get back and fill in all the holes)
Let's practice the above exercise with a mind map here on the Net.
What time of year?
What equipment is used? Why?
Any problems? Which?
Make a copy of this map on a piece of paper and go to the reading at Mountainzone.com. Quickly read the article and then return to this page and fill out the map you have made. Go through the steps above and I'm sure you'll find that your interest has been aroused. Of course, the clicking of a mouse button doesn't do much to stimulate oxygen intake (you might get up and walk around the room, though!). However, seeing the beautiful pictures, drawing your own map, and investing your imagination to help you remember help to make this learning experience useful.
This feature is, of course, just a superficial introduction to the ideas at English Experience as presented by Mark Fletcher, but I hope it served to interest you in this type of exercise/teaching/learning experience. As a teacher, I find them very stimulating and look forward to getting into the classroom to try these techniques out. Many thanks to Mark for a great learning weekend!