5 July 2009 – Gathering Data Through All Your Senses – By Karen Boyes
In Art Costa’s book Discovering & Exploring the Habits Of Mind he suggests intelligent people gather data for evaluation, problem solving and learning, using many of their senses – not just one.
When faced with problems to solve, it is important to look at many options engaging your senses. This is illustrated well in Aron Ralston’s book, Caught Between a Rock and A Hard Place, where Aron finds himself in a slot canyon with his arm jammed between the canyon wall and a rock. He evaluates his situation using all his senses and eventually amputates his own arm for survival.
There are six main pathways for information to enter the brain – all sent by electrochemical signals to individual brain cells for storage and retrieval. These pathways are visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory.
How do these senses work?
Over ninety percent of sensory input coming into the brain is through the eyes. The sense of touch is from the largest sensory organ, the skin. Hearing is the only sense fully developed at birth so while this sense cannot be improved, the ability to listen can be. Smell, the olfactory sense, is the only sense not filtered by the brain. Smell goes directly from your nose cavity to the emotional centre of the brain, releasing chemicals and endorphins into the body causing an emotional or physical response. Humans have four taste receptors, sweet, salty, sour and bitter.
The more you can engage and develop each of these senses, the greater to opportunity for learning to occur. Dr Vernon Magnesen affirms this with his statement; We remember 20% of what we read, 30% of what we hear, 40% of what is seen, 50% of what is said and 60% of what is done. He continues to say, “If you see, hear, say and do, the brain will remember 90%.”
Art Costa states “to know a wine, you must drink it; to know a role, you must act it; to understand a game, you must play it; to achieve a goal, you must be able to envisioned it. An ancient Chinese proverb says, “To know and not to do, is still not to know.” When planning your lessons, engage as many senses as possible. Encourage students to use other senses, rather than the most obvious ones. When the senses and dull and sluggish, thinking will also be dull and sluggish. Many studies show arts and music have a huge impact on improved mental functioning. Through the arts and music develops strong vocabulary; patterns, texture, colours, shapes, rhythms, tone, tempo, which in turn affects the ability for higher order thinking.
Developing the senses…
Improve visual literacy by using pictures, video clips and photographs. Show the image and then remove it from sight and ask questions about it.
Write instructions of the board for visual reference.
Discuss what life would be like without sight, hearing, taste etc.
Invite students to listen to a track of music and hear particular instruments
Explain a task to a friend without demonstrating
Use a ‘feely bag’ activity to touch and describe objects such as sandpaper, soap, chalk, steel, silk etc.
Invite students to move to the rhythms of a piece of music.
Act out or dance a poems or prose
Provide students with different fragrances to smell such as cloves, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon, perfume etc.
Teach students to smell with small sniffs and their mouth open for a different sensation
Incorporate the senses into story writing and telling
Blind fold your students and put different tastes on their tongues: sugar, salt, lemon juice and vinegar. Cleanse their palate between tastes with water or plain crackers.
When problem solving, encourage students to visualise
Enrich language by using multiple senses: a waterfall of ideas, loud music slapping my ears.
Provide a tactile environment with a ‘hands on’ approach
Give students a choice in which mode they present ideas
Ask questions to evoke different senses: What would it look like? How might that sound? What smells would you associate with this situation?
Use real examples or analogies to enhance the learning
Add more physical participation into your lessons. For example, saying the times-tables while bouncing a ball on the wall.
Go on field trips
Encourage students to draw visual representations of an experience
There are many books that can be used to introduce the idea of using all your senses. These include:
The Blind Men & the Elephant – Robert McCloskey
Little Read Riding Hood
There’s a Nightmare in my Cupboard – Mercer Mayer
Charlotte’s Web – EB White
James & The Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
Anne Frank – The diary of a young girl
Student love finding out how there brain works. Where the different senses are located in the brain and ways to maximise this learning potential. Frank Smith has been quoted to say, “If children find learning difficult, it could well be that there is something the matter with the way we are asking them to learn, rather than something the matter with their innate capacity for learning.”
Discovering & Exploring the Habits Of Mind – Art Costa and Bena Kallick:
Creating An Effective Learning Environment – Karen Boyes:
Caught Between a Rock and A Hard Place – Aron Ralston
Teaching with The Arts In Mind – Eric Jenson
Study Smart – Karen Boyes
Boys Education & Homework – Ian Lillico