Whole Brained Teaching

whole brained teaching


Whole-brain teaching is an instructional approach derived from neurolinguistic descriptions of the functions of the brain’s left and right hemispheres.

Basic Element

Neurolinguistic findings about the brain’s language functions show that in the integrated brain, the functions of one hemisphere are immediately available to the other, producing a more balanced use of language. Whole-brain teaching emphasizes active learning, in which the learner makes connections that tap both hemispheres.

Another aspect of whole-brain teaching is managing the emotional climate, to reduce the “downshifting”–or primal thinking–that occurs during distress. To relax learners, instructors may offer clear, realistic predictions of barriers (such as, “Advancement may be sporadic”) and progress (such as, “Sooner or later, this will become easier”). Plus, instructors may try enhancing the learning experience with music or soothing colors.

In whole-brain learning, imaging is seen as the basis for comprehension. For this reason, learners are encouraged to visualize, draw, and use drama as they develop new ideas, in order to retain them. A reading teacher, for instance, might present new vocabulary words by building a story or skit that uses them–but doesn’t define them–in context. The teacher then might play music while reading the definitions, leaving time for listeners to draw images of the words. The teacher next might use guided meditation to build a relaxed state containing memories of success before the listeners hear the definitions again. And the learners might even act out the words’ meanings or construct stories of their own.


T. Buzan, Use Both Sides of Your Brain. NY: Dutton (1976).

G.L. Rico, Writing the Natural Way. Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher.

D.H. Schuster and L. Vincent, “Teaching Math and Reading with Suggestion and Music,” Academic Therapy, vol. 16(1), 69-72 (Sept, 1980).