So we know that there are three types of learners. Let's take a closer look now so that we can help our little ones to learn better and easier.
In the last issue, we learned that there are three major types of learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. We also talked briefly about how to identify the different learning types. As you read through this issue, please remember that every person is a unique mixture of the three different learning styles with one or two dominant ones.
Let's look at them one by one.
Visual learners often think best in terms of pictures. As this is the way their brain works, they tend to do quite well learning from various forms of visual aids such as forms, diagrams, illustrations, videos and hand-outs used in the classroom.
They tend to have good visual memory, meaning they can more easily recall the specific colors, patterns or shapes of things that they have seen. Based on how their brain functions, they tend to create vivid static or streaming (like videos) images in their minds to help them retain, recall and synthesize information.
Overall, they tend to do quite well with visually focused activities such as solving puzzles, reading, writing, comprehending charts and graphs, sketching and even as far as coming up with visual-based metaphors.
As you can imagine, this type of learner has long been assigned the title 'Good Learner' especially in a school setting where the majority of the learning is visual based.
To help visual learners, it is important to provide a quiet learning environment where they can concentrate without being distracted. Use of various colored highlighters (or Post-It notes) is a good method as well. Also, it greatly helps to review the same material presented in visually different ways to aid in the layers of learning.
For example, a visual learner will have a much more complete understanding of a concept if shown a bar graph, pie graph and a chart to show the same set of data. This type of learner also do well with watching appropriate videos related to the topic at hand (e.g., Bill Nye the Science Guy, is he still around?).
For visual learners, a great life long tool is something called Mindmaps. It looks like a web starting from the center of the page with a concept word or phrase. Then as the brainstorming session goes on, the creator of the mindmap will draw lines to other related terms or ideas spreading out from the center and eventually connecting with multiple other terms or ideas. More information on mindmapping can be easily be found by going to http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newISS_01.htm.
One word of caution is needed for parents of visual learners. More often than not, depending on how visual a child is, they could exhibit signs of frustration, confusion or anxiety when having to take action before having read what needs to be done (for those in school). So whenever possible, try to give them plenty of time to read the material a few times.
Overall, the visual learner has a lot of things going for him/her as most of the school activities tend to be geared that way.
As the root word "audio" suggests, auditory learners are those who learn the best by hearing or listening to something. Given the option, they would prefer to listen to a set of instructions instead of reading them.
Auditory learners might, at times, have a difficult time comprehending what they read. However, they excel at comprehending when they are able to listen attentively. These learners are often labeled in the school system as the "attentive students" as they try to listen to the teacher's explanations of the concepts being taught.
Some of the auditory learners might exhibit exceptional skills or memories at recalling what was said along with the nuances of the conversations (e.g., tone, speed, etc...). They often have strong language skills, both receptive and expressive (listening and talking respectively). This is often supplemented by their extensive list of vocabulary, which often surpasses those of their peers.
If you have ever met a strong auditory learner, you'd easily recognize one. They can seemingly carry on interesting conversations easily and express their ideas well.
Of course, when we think of listening, most of us will think of music at one time or another. In fact, many auditory learners tend to have musical talents as they show above average skills in hearing tones, rhythms and identifying different notes.
These learners also might excel at learning foreign languages than other types of learners as they are better able to listen and intuitively understand the nuances of a language.
Here are a few things that might help your auditory learners. Try speaking with rhythm. Either speak with certain rhythm as in poetry or if that's too hard (it's too hard for me, anyways), you can try bobbing your head up and down slightly when speaking to them. I know it sounds silly, but when you are speaking to them with a certain rhythm, they will tend to pick up what you're saying more easily.
Another way is to have them do the movement. We often see kids sitting and swinging their legs as they talk. This is a good sign for auditory learners. They are getting into a rhythm for their train of thought. They often talk to themselves as they might find that this helps them to think.
You will often be able to ask an auditory learner to mimic a certain person's speech pattern or tone and they'll duplicate them with ease.
Generally, auditory learners could do quite well in the school system as auditory learning plays a major part in it(e.g., teacher talking to students with instructions and explanations or making presentations). However, auditory learners can face problems with math and writing (who know, the kids who can talk up a storm, but can't seem to write down a decent paragraph).
In terms of school, kinesthetic learners have the toughest part as the school system is set up mostly for the visual and auditory learners. As result, by Grade 5 or 6, a good chunk of kinesthetic learners stand the risk of being labeled an "underachiever".
This is most unfortunate since kinethetic is a form of intelligence too. Recently, the mainstream of educational institutions and bodies began accepting the theory of multiple intelligence which tells us that there are many different types of intelligence. Kinesthetic happens to be one of them.
Unfortunately, most people, including the majority of us, have been conditioned since childhood that kinesthetic intelligence is no intelligence at all. But there is hope. Kinesthetic learners can learn just as well as the visual learners and auditory learners, given the right tools and motivation.
The kinesthetic learners are those who are usually called the "athletic" ones. They are celebrated for their athletic abilities, but are often regarded as those who can't learn. But if you think about it, moving one's body takes place after learning. Ones has to learn to move the body and to exercise control over it. Controlling the body is a function of the brain and this is the area at which the kinesthetic learners excel.
For the most part, the kinesthetic learners do excel in physical activities as they usually how above average control of their physical bodies. They enjoy working with their hands and can be sometimes seen taking things apart only to have it back in the original form a few minutes later.
A kinesthetic learner with a dash of creativity might be able to do quite amazing things with a set of LEGO blocks. This type of learner will benefit most from using concrete learning tools such as manipulatives in learning math concepts.
For example, talks and diagrams of fraction might not be understood at all by the kinesthetic learner. But if you let them touch and 'play' with a chunk of clay, they will immediately understand the concept.
The good news is that the school systems are recognizing that these learners can do quite well and that it's a matter of providing the right kind of education that fit their learning type.
As result, more classrooms are being equipped with manipulatives for various subjects and teachers are trained to accommodate the different learning styles of students.
Perhaps the biggest trap for the kinesthetic learner is self labeling. It is a dangerous situation to see a child labeling himself/herself as "stupid" or "just not good at school kind of kid". This kind of thinking shuts down the child's motivation to do better and will often give up even when the right kind of help is offered.
For the parents of the kinesthetic learners, it is important to keep an eye on how the child identifies himself/herself. Take a note of his/her self-identity. Being athletic is great, but there is no need to shut away from academics. Contrary to popular belief, athleticism and academics are not mutually exclusive. You remember that kid in your highschool who was the star athlete and won all the academic awards? That is possible. It's just a matter of finding the right mix of educational tools and tricks that fit the child.
So how do I find out what my child's dominant learning style is?
Again, let's look through the three types separately. Look for these signs in everyday situations, but remember that seeing a few signs is not a sure way to determine the learning style of your child. Give it some time and observe the larger picture.
- After reading a story (either alone or together), they might retell the story with a strong focus on how the pictures looked like. Or for the older children, how the story "looked" like. They will often describe scenes, characters and events with great detail as if they have seen picture representations or movie clips.
- When they are recalling something or when asked to create something in their minds ("Describe the perfect pie" or "What would a friendly dragon be like?"), they will often look up and to the left. When the eyes point in this direction, the brain's visual area is being actively stimulated. Note that the questions or requests should not demand for visual cues ("...look like") as this would trigger anyone to activate their visual part of the brain.
- They will show great abilities to recall minor details of things that they have seen or imagined.
- When describing something, they will often focus solely on the visual ("The dragon breathed red fire from its nose").
- Can be often seen talking to self.
- They show uncanny ability to repeat back what they have heard down to the last detail (e.g., words, intonation, timbre, accent, etc... of the speaker).
- Usually are articulate and show above average skills in spoken language.
- Sometimes can be heard speaking in mild rhythms or with slight physical movements to match their speech rhythm.
- Remembers and follows spoken instructions well.
- Is good at memorizing by steps and procedures in sequence.
- When describing something, they will often include many auditory clues ("The dragon's fiery breath made the forest sizzle").
- Move all the time.
- Touch and feel everything (e.g., rubbing hands on the walls or brushing the wall or door frames as walking or passing by).
- Good with hands (e.g., construction type toys).
- Physically well co-ordinated and generally good at sports.
- Shows better comprehension when allowed to use concrete objects such as manipulatives.
- Has a hard time recalling sequence of items or instructions without aids.
Teaching methods for each learner types differ greatly depending on the degree of dominance. But an important rule to remember is that all learning takes place in layers. What this means is that the understanding of a concept after learning it once is spotty at best.
To fully understand anything worth understanding requires multiple exposures to the same concept in slightly different ways.
For visual learners, this might be reading a paragraph on how the elves made too many toys of one type while too little of another. Then they might see the incident expressed as a pie graph or bar graph. Seeing it in a line graph form might help them to understand the trend and so forth. The point is that seeing the same or related sets of data in different forms allows the understanding to become 3 dimensional and real in the child's brain.
For auditory learners, it usuall takes form of hearing the concept from the teacher figure (or a parent). It would obviously help to hear it a number of times or to hear it expressed in different ways. Another great way is to get them to use the rote method. While rote method has been frowned upon by some as encouraging limited level of learning, it could prove to be invaluable to the auditory learner. While repeating the new concept to himself/herself, the auditory learner not only speaks it, but listens at the same time. Have you ever had a time when you were talking about something and got a brilliant idea? That's what could happen more often with an auditory learner. Or though it might sound silly, encourage them to make up songs about a concept. This sound based method taps their natural strength and helps them to refine their understanding as they try to make the words fit into the song.
The kinesthetic learners, try linking any learning of new concepts with some kind of physical activity. For example, when learning about numbers, it might help to go 'play' on the hopscotch mat. Another great way is to play a guessing game with marbles or pebbles. To play, have 5 or less marbles, to keep it simple, in your hand and same amount in their hands. While shaking and rattling, you grab a few marbles into your other hand while keeping it hidden from view. Then have the child guess the number (or whether it's even or odd would work too) of marbles that you snatched. If the answer is correct, they get to take your marbles. If not, the turn is over and now they must do the same with you guessing. A simple game like this can be amazingly fun and promote concrete material based learning for the kinesthetic learners. Be creative. Even with this one game, you could teach the child about basic counting, even numbers, odd numbers, adding and subtracting.
I hope you have found this 2-piece article helpful in understanding your child's learning styles a little better. Each child is precious and need to be encouraged to explore and develop their talents.
At times, it might seem that odds are against certain types of learners, but in most cases, it's a matter of using the right combination of tools.
If you are trying to open a safe with a great treasuure inside, you need to find the right combination for the lock. The same applies, I think, to your child. To get to the treasure inside your child's brain, you need to concentrate on finding out the right combination.
Again, don't forget that each child is a mixture of all the different learning styles. Most people make the mistake of 'deciding' that their child is a so-and-so type of learner and begin to neglect other tools available.
Use all the tools in your toolbox. Like a safe combination, there are more than one number that you need to know and use. Did you notice what I did here in the last few sentences? I used metaphors.
Metaphors can be a powerful tool in getting through to your child even if their dominant style wasn't auditory because when you talk their language, it seems to register directly in their brain bypassing all obstacles.
However, this is a topic for a later issue.
Till then, enjoy your time with your little ones and take your time in observing their learning styles.
"education at play"