Working Memory, Hemisphere Integration and Attention Building Activities

Successful learners are fully engaged, can
maintain attention and they activate both hemispheres of their brain.  However, many young learners go through their
daily classroom activities without being fully conscious of the task at
hand.  They are constantly distracted by
external stimuli as well as their own internal thoughts that take them on
“little trips” outside of the classroom. 
Although their bodies are present, their minds are elsewhere.  What’s more, when these students eventually
become consciously involved in the classroom, many have missed important
instruction and they may only be activating the dominant side of their
brain.  So, for example, if a student is
only using the right hemisphere, reading can become a difficult task, as for
most
people, the left hemisphere of
the brain is dominant for language.  For
students that fall into this profile, learning can become difficult, frustrating
and taxing.   

What Can We Do to Help Students Improve Memory, Activate Their Whole Brain and Improve Attention?

The key to developing these skills lies in improving three areas of cognition:
  1. Working memory
  2. Hemispheric Integration 
  3. Attention

What is Working Memory?

According
to Google definitions, working memory is the part of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate,
conscious, perceptual and linguistic processing.  The development of working memory is
fundamental to helping students to be present and mindful while in the
classroom.  It also helps them to encode
information as well as perform mental manipulations.

What is Hemispheric Integration? 

Hemispheric Integration is the activation of both
the left and right hemispheres of the brain. 
When hemisphere integration is poor, there is decreased communication
between the right and left sides of the brain. 
Electrically, the two hemispheres
are not communicating, there is an imbalance between the right and left sides of the brain or one
hemisphere is activated, while the other remains largely inactive.   Multisensory integration is essential for almost every activity that we
perform because the combination of multiple sensory inputs is essential for us
to comprehend our surroundings.  Dan Seigal (see link below) suggests, “A healthy and productive mind “emerges
from a process called integration.”  Both Dennison (see link below) and Hannaford
(see link below) offer
physical activities that integrate the brain through movement, but this
publication offers quick printable activities that can also activate both
hemispheres and train the brain to be mindful and present for improved memory
and processing.

What are Attention Building Activities? 

Attention building activities require students to maintain attention in order to complete the exercise. Without being fully focused, the drills are virtually impossible.  If instructors or learning specialists slowly increase the number of activities that the student completes in a single session, they will be training the brain to concentrate over longer and longer periods of time. 

Why I Created and Use These Activities with My Students? 

We
live in a society that is constantly bombarding children with stimuli to the
point that when there is no stimulation, many kids get bored.  In addition, many children do not know how to
activate their own cognition and take control of their own thought
processes.   I
created these fun, game-like activities to help students become mindfully
present, develop working memory, engage both hemispheres of the brain and improve
the capacity to sustain attention.  Many
of the activities were created with the Stroop Effect in mind.  The
effect is named after John Ridley Stroop who first researched
and published the effect in England in 1935.  Later, his findings inspired a test,
The Stroop Test.  The Stroop Test is
purported to measure selective
attention, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, and
executive functions.  If you would like to learn more about these activities as well as see some sample pages, Click Here




Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com, www.learningtolearn.biz  
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