Teaching for Success

Title: Teaching for Success
Author: Mark Fletcher
Publisher: English Experience 2000
Reviewed by: Rose Schaefer
Review date: May 2004

Teaching for Success, by Mark Fletcher, is a "Brain Friendly" approach to teaching and learning. The subtitle for this book is, "The BRAIN-friendly Revolution in Action!" The brain friendly approach uses neurological research to find the best teaching and learning applications in the class room. The author illustrates different methods using audio and visuals to use all parts of the brain so the students will be motivated and successfully learn. It’s an innovative approach that will help you take the classroom out of the "old school way of teaching."

At first glance, I thought it was too "off the wall" for me. I’m a teacher who barely has time to finish lesson plans much less spend time reading this book that I thought didn’t apply to me. Besides, I’m a psychology major, I know how the brain is supposed to work. However, as the author points out in the opening pages, you need to "give it a fair chance before you make judgements." And I did and was fascinated.

Once I began reading the book (and it’s definitely not a textbook, but a wonderfully illustrated book), I realised how wrong I was. I was going to give the ideas in this book a chance. The book reminded me of what I already knew but forgot or didn’t know how to apply to the classroom. It was inspiring and informative. It reminded me of why I want to be a teacher.

Mr. Fletcher begins the book with "big questions". The first one is, "Can we be better teachers/learners by getting more of the brain involved? If so, how do we do it?" Excellent question!

Because people learn in different ways, the author uses lists and mind maps throughout the book. The book is wonderfully illustrated by Mr. Fletcher, as well. He also uses "ponder points" throughout the book to encourage the reader to think about ideas.

The author begins the book by giving details of the parts of the brain and how it works. This is crucial to understanding how to motivate and teach your students. In a lesson-planning checklist, he outlines how we can use all parts of the brain by looking at our lessons.

The book continues with learning styles and memory. Can we correctly identify the learning styles of our students so we can present the information to them in a way in which they will actually retain it? If our students don’t seem to be improving, what can we do to assist them? I have a wide range of ages for students. From 20 (learned English from an early age) to 50 (who are beginners). I need to treat them differently, of course, and this book has given me new ideas in how to successfully get my older students to learn.

Mr. Fletcher suggests, as I think most of us know but maybe don’t use very much, that the use of colour, pictures and music enhances the learning process. He gives many examples of how to use audio and visuals in the classroom, even if the environment isn’t optimal.

The book can be read in parts or in its entirety. I highly suggest reading it in its entirety first, without spending time doing the exercises. This worked for me so I had a sense of what this was all about. Then, I went back and started working on the exercises and re-reading the parts that stood out or I didn’t quite grasp the first time. This is a great resource book that can be referred to as we come across problems in the classroom.

This book should be read by all teachers, whether you have a psychology degree or not. It’s inspiring and informative. It reinforces what we already know and gives wonderful new ideas on how to "Teach for Success." Do give it a fair chance.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesRose Schaefer is a Business English teacher and Key Account Manager in Beijing, China.