The eyes have it when you think aloud

31st October 2003 at 00:00
A tactic used to detect criminals is being introduced in some Merseyside primary schools to raise standards of education.

Classroom walls are being covered in posters and prompts to stimulate and consolidate pupils' learning. The method is based on research showing that when a person recalls data, their eyes look automatically to the left.

But when people are thinking creatively or trying to solve a problem, their eyes scan towards the right. The findings have been used by police forces in the United States as a lie-detecting tool when questioning suspects.

In Knowsley, it is part of a new teaching style, mind-based learning, which encourages pupils to use both sides of the brain.

Medical studies have shown that the left-hand side of the brain processes language, sequence and analysis. The right-hand side deals with patterns, rhythms, images and imagination.

Children take regular breaks from their work to rest their minds, and do relaxation exercises during the course of the day. Lessons have also become more interactive, with greater use of role play and music.

At Evelyn community primary, children are encouraged to train their brains as they enter the school. "The more you learn, the more you can learn" a poster tells them.

Walls are covered with messages ranging from what to eat to feed the brain - nuts, fish, fruit and lots of water - to ideas about careers.

A class of Year 6 pupils working on compositions was prompted with ideas on how to make their stories more interesting.

While examples of their work hung on the right-hand side of the board, signs on the left asked "What makes a good story?", and "Is it interesting to the reader?"

Headteacher Carol Arnold said: "Teaching styles have changed. These methods engage pupils with special needs and even those who can be disruptive."

At Blacklow Brow primary, children's display work has been removed from classroom walls and replaced by posters which prompt and help pupils to remember what they have learned.

Headteacher Sheila Walmsley said: "Their work is still celebrated but it is hung up in the corridors and hall." In one classroom, difficult words hang above the left-hand side of the board, as that is where children's eyes automatically stray when they are processing data.

On another wall, figures are placed in numerical order from one to 10 to enable pupils to assimilate number sequences more easily.

A recent Office for Standards in Education report into standards in Knowsley education authority recognised that its primary schools were successful in stimulating improvements in learning.

The authority had been criticised in an Ofsted report in 1999. It had said that the authority's considerable weakness was in school improvement, where it seemed unwilling to upset relationships with schools.

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