Q. I have started volunteering in an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) Program. That is, of course, not like going to a regular classroom every day. How does this different program help the brains of children learn?
A. Every brain learns "differently" because every brain is different. Some brain do not do very well in mainstream traditional schools. They may just get by or may not get by at all. My guess is that ALE students just exemplify (perhaps at a deeper level) how brains learn differently. Some young people thrive in mainstream education, others just get by in regular schools; they definitely "learn" but not always what parents and teachers wish they would learn. Still others can learn but do so most effectively through alternative educational opportunities.
With ALE students it's important to give them whole brain and multi-sensory learning opportunities. That way more associations are created in the brain, which increases the likelihood of storing and retrieving the information. It takes a bit of thought to teach non-sequentially and integrate all three sensory systems in the process but it can be done; that style, of course, would also benefit non-ALE students.
If they can read and articulate, it can be very helpful to read to them AND have them read aloud for a few minutes in each class. That truly stimulates the whole brain and can be very helpful for learning. Have the whole class read a couple paragraphs together and have each child read a paragraph at a time aloud while the other children listen, etc.
Depending on their age, you might have them complete the Sensory Preference Assessment (home page under Taylor's Assessments) and talk about the sensory data that registers most quickly and intensely in each brain. You can emphasize the importance of using all three systems by design to enhance learning and to communicate more effectively, etc. Have fun with it! When an activity is fun, human beings are more likely to remember it and use the information.