Saturday, August 11, 2001

Children today are different

That's why teaching methods must change, educator says

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        WILDER — More than a generation gap makes it difficult for teachers to reach students.

        Changes in children's brain functions also present obstacles, an international education consultant told more than 250 Kentucky educators at a seminar Friday in Wilder.

        Dr. David A. Sousa, an author and a former New Jersey schools superintendent, told seminar attendees that today's environment has programmed students' brains to function differently than in previous generations.

        Specifically, Dr. Sousa cited constant multimedia bombardment and diet as key brain influences.

        For instance, too much TV may cause children to lose the ability to envision images, thus requiring more visual stimulus be provided to hold students' attention.

        Also, diets heavy in processed foods can change behavior. Studies are finding that certain allergic reactions in children mimic the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

        Too many schools, he said, still use the teaching techniques of 100 years ago in which students were expected to be quiet and listen. Auditory or passive learning will no longer work for most children, Dr. Sousa said.

        Instead, teachers should combine traditional methods with modern techniques that are tailored to the individual.

        Gregg Frank, principal of A.D. Owens Elementary in Newport, agreed with what he heard.

        “I've seen a change. Unless the kids are engaged, they're not interested in sitting and getting,” Mr. Frank said.

        Dr. Sousa gave several suggestions on how teachers can deal with the changing minds of students:

        • To combat the effects of too much TV, Dr. Sousa suggests that teachers use imagining exercises.

        • To combat lethargy and to increase brain functioning, he suggests two minutes of physical exercise before an exam.

        Boni Schultz, who has taught at Yealey Elementary in the Boone County school district, said her school has already implemented some of Dr. Sousa's theories.

        “It does work. It's based in science,” Ms. Schultz said. “(Students) are wired completely differently and they do have to be addressed that way.”

        Elizabeth Grause, superintendent of the Ludlow School District, said brain-based learning is not just another teaching trend.

        “It would be the same as saying to a physician, "You don't need to know about the body in order to treat it,'” Ms. Grause said.

        To learn more about brain-based learning, e-mail Dr. Sousa at He is author of How The Brain Learns and How The Special Needs Brain Learns.


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