Brain Based Approach To
Learning And Teaching
New developments in cognitive
science are unraveling the mysteries of emotions; the findings
have much to teach us about how students do-----or do not
----learn. The body brain connection can work against us or for
us. It is our choice.
Learning is as natural
as breathing, and it is possible to either inhibit or facilitate
it. The conventional method (workbooks, flashcards,
lectures, sit down at a desk type work) is left brain teaching.
But not everyone learns best from the left brain. What
happens if we teach to the whole brain?
I. Hippocampus (part of the Limbic
Cortisol and the endorphins
can effect students behavior in the class room, and their
ability to learn. When our inability to fend off danger triggers
a stress response, cortisol is released by our adrenal glands.
It activates an important body/brain defensive responses. Our
stress responses do not differentiate between physical and
emotional danger. For example, a 2nd grader refuses to complete
an arithmetic assignment. The irritated teacher’s stress system
inappropriately responds by releasing clotting elements into the
blood, elevating cholesterol levels, depressing the immune
system, tensing large muscles, increasing the blood pressure,
and much more. It is normal human response, but a logical response only if the student was
threatening the teacher with a knife or a gun. But the adrenal
glands do not differentiate: they treat emotional danger the
same as physical danger. The same can be said for the student’s
response to the teacher.
It is important to note that
chronic high cortical levels can eventually destroy
hippocampus neurons associated with learning and memory.
Even short-term stress-related elevation of cortical in the
hippocampus can hinder our ability to distinguish between
important and unimportant elements of a memorable event.
Thus stressful school
environments ( too much emphasis on testing) reduce the school’s ability to carry out
its principal mission…to educate.
Regulator I: The Brain Stem and Limbic
The Limbic system, composed
of several small interconnected structures, is our brain’s
principal regulator of emotion and plays important roles in
processing memory. Just as cortisol can hinder learning and
memory, the limbic system can assist with memory. Learning
Memories formed during a specific emotional state tend to be
easily recalled during a similar emotional state later on. For
example, during an argument, we easily recall similar previous
arguments. Thus, classrooms simulations and role-playing
activities enhance learning because they tie memories to the
kinds of emotional contexts in which they will later be used.
The Thalamus and hypothalamus can
trigger a quick, emotionally loaded (but perhaps also life
saving) behavior before we fully understand what is happening.,
and it is the mechanism that underlies many explosive emotional
outbursts during a typical school day.
Regulator II: The Cortex
The cerebral has a left and right
hemisphere. The right hemisphere synthesizes the background or
contextual information (the forest); the left hemisphere
analyzes the foreground information (a tree in the forest). The
right hemisphere processes important emotional content of faces,
gestures, and language--how something was communicated; while
the left hemisphere processes much of the objective content of
language--what was said.
(Interesting side note:
A brain scientist,
Bolte Taylor, gives some
fascinating insight in to the functions of the left an right
brain as she explains her personal experience with a
Sensory lobes in the back
store sensory memories (the past). Frontal lobes focus on
critical thinking and problem-solving strategies. (the
present), with the front part of the lobes in charge of planning
and rehearsal activities (the future).
The frontal lobes
play a very important role in regulating our emotional sates and
judgments. It is the critical thinker….the
part of the brain that thinks about the consequences of an
action, and it is not fully developed until the mid 20s.
Children who are
hindered in developing this part of the brain can exhibit
So what did work? Developing the
frontal lobe worked. How? It was discovered that even
though we all have some degree o false ideas, criminals have
more. For example: criminals (like many children)
responded, "Well everyone is doing it". The response from the
psychologist was, "Well it depends on who your friends
are. Mine aren't doing those things." In other
words, to develop the critical thinking (frontal lobe) is simply
to replace a dysfunctional idea, and replace it with a
functional one ("As A Man Thinketh"). A healthy frontal
lobe helps one to override the execution of automatic behaviors,
and of potentially destructive illegal or immoral behaviors that
are sparked by emotional biases
SPECT Scan of healthy brain
SPECT Scan of unhealthy frontal lobe
Classroom Applications (People
have enormous difficulty learning when either parts of the of
the whole (left and right brain and emotions) are neglected.
Concentrating too heavily on the storage and recall of
unconnected facts is a very inefficient use of the brain. ).
Studies show that with
whole brain teaching (also known as
Total Physical Response) , children learn faster, retain more, drop
out rates decrease by 90%, and the health of the brain is
improved (use it or lose it).
1. Emotions simply exist; we don’t
learn them in the same way we learn telephone numbers, and we
can’t easily change them. But we should not ignore them.
Students can learn how
and when to use rational processes to override their emotions,
or to hold them in check. “Emotions hurt no one…it is
what we do with them that counts.”
2. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.
Emotionally stressful school environments (for either the
teacher or student) are counterproductive because they can
reduce students’ ability to learn.
3. Learning is influenced by the natural development of the body
and brain. According to brain research for example, there can be
a five-year difference in maturation between any two “average”
children. Gauging achievement on the basis of chronological age
is therefore inappropriate
4. The brain understands and
remembers best when facts and skills are embedded in natural
spatial memory. We
remember what we experience. Our native language is
learned through multiple interactive experiences involving
vocabulary and grammar. It is shaped both by internal processes,
and by social interaction (Vygostky 1978). That is an example of
how specific items are given meaning when embodied in ordinary
experiences. This same principle can be applied to every
Spatial memory is
generally best invoked through experiential learning (GAMES,
discussions, demonstrations, field trips, real life experiences,
...). Teachers should not exclude lectures, and sit
down at a desk type work; but they should make them part of a
Finland is now number one in education, and part of the reason
is because PLAY is a major part of teaching. ....(example: A
class of first graders scampered among nearby pine and birch
trees, each holding a stack of the teacher’s homemade laminated
“outdoor math” cards. “Find a stick as big as your foot,” one
read. “Gather 50 rocks and acorns and lay them out in groups of
ten,” read another. Working in teams, the 7- and 8-year-olds
raced to see how quickly they could carry out their tasks.
Aleksi Gustafsson, whose master’s degree is from Helsinki
University, developed the exercise after attending one of the
many workshops available free to teachers. “I did research on
how useful this is for kids,” he said. “It’s fun for the
children to work outside. They really learn with it.”)
For the activity to be
successful, it must be engaging (are the children excited about
participating), meet your standard objectives, and must produce
5. Each brain is unique. Teaching should be multifaceted
in order to attract different interests. Helping children find
their passion is a major part of future success.
What Schools Should Do
1. The objective of brain based learning is to move from
memorizing information to experiencing information.
2. Create a safe challenging environment for teachers and
students free of threat and stress.
to do what ever is in the best interest of
each individual child. One size does not fit all.
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How To Make Money
Using Ring Around The Phonics
(1) Many children are
struggling with their ability to read. So families have a need
for a tutor that can help. But the cost is often unaffordable
for those families. However, with Ring Around The Phonics,
you can easily teach up to 4 children at a time charging 10.00 per per
hour for each child....40.00 per hour for you. Now that is
much more affordable for those families, and lucrative for you.
Some of the students in the education department at the
University Of North Florida are doing this, and it is working
out quite well for them.
(2) If you have a
website, you can advertise this game/curriculum using Amazon Seller
Central, and earn extra income from every game sold on Amazon from your
site. You don't worry about the inventory, collecting money, or
shipping. It is all taken care of for you, and Amazon
sends you your commission. Ms. Names does this
on her website. If you have any questions about how to
do this, please feel free to
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If The Child Knows Their Phonic Sounds, But is Having Trouble
Today way too many children know
their phonic sounds, but struggle as slow readers,
difficulty blending the phonic sounds to form words, and/or
poor spellers). There can be many reasons such as
hearing problems or vision problems.
most common cause is as follows:
Computer games teach several of the
following phonic sounds incorrectly: B, C, D, G, H, J, K,
(occasionally M), P, T, W. Computers add an u sound at the
end of many of these letters to make them more audible to the
listener. We do not say Hu-a-Pu-Y for happy, nor to we say
Du-a-du-y for daddy. Think about how difficult it is to hear
happy when pronouncing it as hu-a-pu-y. Most of the
struggling readers I have helped were pronouncing one or more of
these sounds incorrectly.
For one child, it was simply the
letter w. Because she was having trouble sounding out
words with w in them, she concluded that something was wrong
with her. It became a self-fulfilling prophesy. She
freaked out every time she was asked to read from her early
reader books... proclaiming, " I can't". By using the game
"Ring Around The Phonics, I re-taught her the correct way
to say the sound of the W, and also used the board to help her
blend the sounds. Because games are whole brain teaching,
stress was reduced, and she quickly learned. However at
first the books still stopped her in her stacks. So once I was
sure she knew the phonic sounds, and could read words placed on
the board, we stopped playing the game and did as follows:
When she came to a word in the book
that stressed her, I simply placed that same word on the board
using the static cling letter cards provided. She could
read it on the board, but not the book. So I kept pointing
to the word on the board, and then to the same word in the book.
I repeated this process until she finally realized she could
read! She went from failing to top reader, and the teacher
even said it improved her spelling. So don't underestimate
the problems that phonic sounds learned incorrectly can
cause. It is important to get the basics right.
Therefore we recommend you, the educator, teach the phonic
sounds so that you are sure they are learning the basics
Click Here To
Hear The Phonic Sounds (video format for adults)
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Kinesthetic/Hands on Learners
Kinesthetic learners learn best by moving their
bodies, activating their large or small muscles as they learn.
These "hands-on learners" or "doers"
concentrate better and learn more easily when movement is
involved. The following characteristics are often associated
with kinesthetic learners-you may see some of these
characteristics in your child if you've been struggling with
typical phonics lessons.
1. Kinesthetic learners often wiggle, tap their feet, or move
their legs when they sit.
2. Kinesthetic learners were often labeled "hyperactive" as
3. Because they learn through movement, kinesthetic learners
often do well as performers: athletes, actors, or dancers.
4. Kinesthetic learners work well with their hands. They may be
good at repairing work, sculpting, art, or working with various
5. Kinesthetic learners are often well coordinated and have a
strong sense of timing and body movement.
Ring Around the Phonics is the perfect program
for teaching "hands on learners" how to read. The very
essence of the game encourages getting the child to move,
whether he is moving the game piece, rolling the die, or playing
the activity cards.
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History of the game
When I worked in the public school system as a teachers aid, I was given
eight children who had not learned to read as had the rest of their class. They were in the midterm of first grade, and were expected to be retained because of their inability to read.
Their self esteem was at a low, because they knew they had not performed as expected. As a result they showed many of the problems that go along with low self esteem. They were at the bottom of the class totem pole. I recall one bright child, who was simply a hands on learner. He was a farm boy who often helped around the farm by driving the tractor. His grandparents let him drive an old car around their property. He was having more trouble than the others with his reading, so he was at the bottom of the bottom of this totem pole.
We started out by using the curriculum the rest of the class had learned to read with. As this boy began to read, one of the other boys called him a dummy. His little face dropped, and not a sound came out of him. I replied, "Oh no, he is quite smart. Did you know that he can drive?" His eyes grew large as he lifted his head, and looked at me with a surprised look. This suddenly gave him status in this group. Most of these children were capable of learning to read. I could not give up on them.
The school curriculum was not working for these kids. What was needed was something that involved all the learning styles, was fun, brought quick results, and would be a win-win situation. Thus, (through a dream) evolved an early version of Ring Around the Phonics board game.
I began by telling them, they could belong to a secret club,
called the American Club, and it had a secret code that we were
going to learn. The secret code was the phonics sounds of
course, but they were not told that. They were also told that
once they had all learned the first eight letters, they would
read their first book together.
As they progressed along the board saying the sounds, they began to assist each other. Often I had to instruct them to keep quiet and let each player say the sound by themselves.
As they mastered some letters, they were anxious to read, and kept asking me to do so. I reminded them that everyone had to learn
eight sounds first. We would all do it together (It is not necessary to
make children wait for the whole group to catch up, but it seemed right for this group). When the time came, I moved aside the board, and passed them all a book. They were so excited!
I wish you could have been there to see. They took turns reading, and as each child read, they frequently paused, hugged themselves
, and giggled uncontrollably. I couldn't help but giggle right
along with them. As each one read, the giggles turned into group laughter. It was truly more fun than I can explain.
Because of Ring Around the Phonics, seven of the eight children (including the little farm boy) caught up with their peers and graduated that year with their class.
Many years later my daughter was looking for something to help her son learn to read, and wasn't finding
anything that worked for them. I told her about this game. She took it, added more fun activities and rewards (She is gifted that way), and taught her son to read. She also added specially designed first readers, and detailed parent guides. She shared the idea with several friends. You will find some of their comments on our web site www.ringaroundthephonics.com .
This learning game
was developed by a professional tutor, a home school mom,
a game designer, and an English professor (who edited the
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Learning to read with phonics verses word memorization
Children who are taught to read by memorizing the words, rather than being taught phonics may do well until about the fourth grade. At that time most begin laboring with their reading. In elementary school, I was one of those statistics.
I began having difficulty in the third grade. It was easy memorizing a few words. But as the number of words increased, so did the difficulty. By the time I reached senior high, I knew that I needed to do something before
college. My grades were fine, but it took me forever to read my lessons.
I did not like reading, and only did it because I was serious about my grades and education. So, I enrolled in a speed reading class. My speed in reading picked up only slightly, while most of the other students picked up a lot. It was very discouraging because I did not really understand what the problem was until I had to help my children learn phonics.
It was like the missing link in the chain. My speed in reading picked up tremendously, and it became less laborious to read.
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How to use this game in a class room setting
Ring Around the Phonics is designed to be very flexible. You, the educator, are in the best position to know what your children need. The following information will help you use this game in the classroom setting:
1. Please feel free to contact us if you need more pawns and rings.
2. Not all of the game cards are suitable in every situation. Some children are more active than others. Feel free to use the cards that are best suited for your class room.
3. Each level has custom designed books to go with that particular level. However, once all three levels are in your possession, feel free to rearrange the sequence of the static cling letters so that you can use any beginning readers you choose.
4. This game was originally developed for a group of public school children that were having difficulty learning to read. It works very well in class room reading groups. To build self esteem, you will find that there are several reading rewards along the way, and everyone is a winner as they progress along the game board.
5. To build confidence we have designed the game so children can begin reading quickly. If you choose to use books other than those that come with the game this may not be the case.
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Too often comprehension tests are used to teach comprehension. These tests are more effective in finding out the child's level of understanding what they have read, rather than teaching comprehension. Here are some important tips for teaching this skill.
The Activity cards enclosed in the game (Level I) teach basic
comprehension using the whole brain teaching method.
Once the child knows all their phonic sounds, and is able to
read efficiently, we recommending using role playing (using
their reading books) to teach comprehension.
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Thinking about a gift idea? Give the gift that lasts a life time . . . the gift of reading.
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Looking for a fund raiser? If your group is looking for a fund raiser, feel free to contact us. Giving the gift of reading is a great fund raiser for any type of educational group.
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Why should learning phonics be fun?
So many parents and teachers have used flash cards to teach phonics. If your child is enjoying this approach, then please continue. However, if you and your child are struggling with this method, you will definitely benefit from this game. Reading is the most important precursor to your child's education. Children who enjoy reading early tend to enjoy reading as teens and adults. The more your child reads the more he or she learns. Reading is fun and exciting and should be taught as such.
(See article 1 above: Brain Based Approach To Teaching And
Be leery of other phonics programs that claim to be games. Make sure they are not just glorified flash cards. We at Ring Around the Phonics take our fun learning very seriously which makes your job easier.
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Frequently Asked Questions
I have a question about your product Ring Around Phonics. I have a
son who is reading short vowel words. And I am trying to figure out
from your website what age this game is useful for. Does it teach
phonics or just beginning phonics? From the website It seems like it
more for learning the sounds of the letters and blending them
together, but what I am looking for is a game that helps to teach
all the phonics rules in a fun way. My son is in first grade and is
about to learn beginning blends like bl, cl, sh, etc. and long
vowels. Is this
something your product teaches?
Thanks for your time,