'Teaching for Success,
The Brain-friendly Revolution in Action'
by Mark Fletcher
Review written by David
Teacher Trainer at the BLC in Madrid
book is a series of ideas for the TEFL teacher and educationalists
in general and intends to cover almost any topic to do with
teaching, learning and the brain. The topics, laid out as
a collection of mini-texts and activities, are designed for
teachers to dip into, rather than follow chronologically and
are grouped around six chapters: Your Amazing Brain, The Treasure
Chest, Learning Styles and Memory, Affective Approaches, Applications
and The Way Forward.
The contents are laid out in
both a list and mind-map form. Each section ends with a "ponder
point" or a mind map which acts as a review. Because
of its lack of a strict systematic approach, personally, I
found it a bit difficult to usefully access parts of the book.
Some pages are quite text-heavy and could be livened up by
highlighting or more carefully laid out bullet points. Others
give the impression of being unnecessarily spread-out. A comprehensive
indexing system at the start of each section would have helped
along with more cross-referencing.
The first section, Your Amazing
Brain gives an overview of the makeup of the brain and then
mentions left/right hemisphere learning. There is a list of
characteristics but I think this chapter could have included
a quiz or questionnaire type activity to better exploit this
The Treasure Chest section deals
with " Methaphors at the heart of learning." It
contains a list of "symbolic reminders", for example,
The Business Card which reminds the author that he's a professional
or a (woman's) garter which symbolises the need for support
for the Teacher and Student. I appreciate the thinking behind
it but to be honest, I found this section to be the least
useful and the most lacking in useful content. As an awareness-building
activity it was moderately interesting but I prefer more practical
tips and examples. For example, a teacher's real experiences/
ideas, realistic case studies?
The Learning Styles - and Memory
section provides a focus on whether the teacher is a visual/
auditory or kinaesthetic learner, followed by some activities
and hints to do with memory. Some of these were useful reminders
but not 100% new. For example, you remember better if information
is linked together , if there's an emotional charge etc. Perhaps
this could have been linked to the actual classroom with some
specific ideas for areas like vocabulary learning?
The Affective Approaches section
contains a brief run-down of terms and ideas ranging from
brain waves to Humanistic Psychology to mind maps to Neuro-Linguistic
Programming etc. . These references are cross-linked to later
activities and it was nice to see the principles simply laid-out.
Again, I would have appreciated more practice activities and
more reference to actual classroom situations. Later on, there
is a useful section on Multiple Intelligence Theory with some
nice photocopiable activities but these are designed for teachers
to use by themselves or in training sessions as a kind of
test. For example, they have to match "jazz chants"
with "musical". There are more activities to do
with groups and references to Suggestopaedia. Again this material
is really for in-service training at a post-CELTA level but
I think that trainees at that level would need further input.
The Applications section deals
with areas like using images, colours, mind maps etc. There
are some useful ideas in this section. For example, for using
classroom drawings more effectively, relaxation and "brain
gym" activities. I was struck by the metaphor of considering
a lesson like a meal- formal banquet vs. pick and choose buffet
party vs. child's birthday party!!
In the final section The Way
Forward, an interesting "YES BUT" deals with possible
objections and the book ends with a rundown of the author's
top team e.g. Rita Rationale, Vera Visualise, Freda Fun and
Games et al and with a list of tips and hints.
My overall opinion is that Teaching for Success is a useful
resource book with activities and readings for a teacher trainer
to dip into for in-service training courses or for a teacher
to read for their own development. I felt the book was lacking
"meat" in some areas and personally, I wasn't 100%
enamoured of its style and layout. At times it seems to be
too highly pitched, in that it deals with quite dense and
useful ideas without the benefit of enough do-able and use-able
activities. On the other hand, someone wanting to investigate
areas like NLP, Multiple Intelligences etc. in more detail,
especially for use in the classroom might be better off starting
off with a book like Knowing Me, Knowing You (reviewed on
this site) or dive straight in with , for example In Your
Hands ( Jane Revell and Susan Norman) which covers NLP in
far more detail. Having said that, Teaching for Success is
definitely worth looking at.
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