Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Whole New Classroom: Bringing Right Brain Aptitudes to the Classroom

One of the most influential books I have read since becoming an educator is A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. In fact, I have to admit that the books that influence my teaching the most are books that are not really for teachers at all; rather they are books targeted to the business crowd. With so many changes taking place in the world today, I feel that it is more important to know more about the world in which my students will work than to learn about yet another teaching strategy or technique to get more kids to pass a test.

What I like so much about Pink's book is that it not only describes the present and future world, but it also explains what skills workers will need to prosper in it. Pink's hypothesis is that they will need to develop right brain skills--design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning--to be successful.

What I'd like to do in this space is to explain how I have tried--knowingly and unknowingly--to cultivate these aptitudes in my classroom and what my efforts will be to do so this school year. One of my favorite right-brain skills to work on is design. Being a science teacher, it's easy for me to end most of my units with a project-based assessment--an assignment that requires my students to create an artifact that displays their knowledge of concepts learned in the unit. Most often this takes the form of a gadget. For instance, this past school year I had my students use their knowledge of open and closed circuits to create electric gadgets. Their task was to make the gadget work by creatively finding a way to complete a circuit to perform some kind of task. Batteries were the only power source they were allowed to use. With a little direction from me, and multiple examples from a book called Electric Mischief: Battery Powered Gadgets Kids Can Build by Alan Bartholomew, my students built incredible creations--cars, dice spinners, stop lights--that not only displayed their knowledge, but also often required a great deal of problem-solving and further learning to complete.

This project also required students to use the right-brain skills of symphony (combine their knowledge to form new product), and, I'm guessing, play (no test to assess their knowledge, but a fun project). I have planned similar projects for the coming school year. The one I'm most excited about is the Blue Man Group project--an assignment I will use to assess student learning of the properties of sound. I'm always looking for classes to collaborate with...

Check out: Rainforest Wequest | Alphabet Geometry | Future of Math

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