The Left-handed Student: Tips For Teaching New Activities
by Shelia R. Wadsworth (2012). ©Copyright. All rights reserved.
In my previous article, I discussed why it is important to provide your left-handed student with supplies oriented to his or her way of working. Giving your student the necessary tools to work comfortably can help make learning enjoyable and productive resulting in less frustration for both of you. But supplies are only part of the whole picture in terms of academic success. It also takes some adjustment on the part of yourself (and the teacher) when you are showing your leftie something new.
There are some tips for adjusting how you engage in teaching your leftie new things. First, because lefties have a different perspective when learning or doing an activity, it may be helpful to stand facing them when showing them something. For instance, if you are facing them when teaching them to tie shoes, they can “mirror” your actions. A suggestion I have is that if you are teaching a group of students something, provide the whole group instruction first, then take the few left-handed students (they are the minority!) aside and show them the activity through the mirroring technique.
Another consideration is to arrange seating so that the left handed student is not bumping elbows with his or her neighbor. In addition, if possible, Lance (2005) suggested arranging seating so that light is shining in from the right (this may not be as applicable in the classroom setting as lighting is typically overhead). This is to minimize shadows that can interfere with their reading or writing. Tips from Lance (2005) for teaching handwriting to lefties can be found here.
Why one tends to use his or her right hand or his or her left hand is a mystery. Again, there are various theories on this, but the point is to make your student’s work environment as comfortable as possible, so employing some of these strategies may alleviate some of the hardships they encounter to help them be successful.
Our brains are wonderfully complex organs! There are a number of good books on the topic. If you would like to learn more I suggest reading Teaching with the brain in mind by Eric Jensen or The owner’s manual for the brain: Everyday applications from mind-brain research (3rd ed.) by Pierce J. Howard, PhD.