How to figure out and work with various learning styles
By Lorraine Peoples
Once you have identified how your student learns — by seeing (Visual), hearing (Auditory) or by doing (Kinesthetic), discuss what you learned with your child. If you need some checklists consult the book, You Can Teach Someone to Read. Throughout this article, I will use the term he to indicate a male or female. Here are some tips to help you relate:
The Visual Learner
If the child learns best by seeing (a visual learner), he will observe every little facial expression you make to figure out how you are responding to him. If you are a visual learner, be very aware that you are sending messages, both positive and negative. Your smiling eyes or smile will be recognized as approval of what he’s doing, and encourage him to continue. A frown, however slight, will make your child look away from you, sort of like a head-down pouty look. If that happens, acknowledge the feelings, talk to him. By the same token, you can easily read his facial expressions to figure out how he is responding to what you are teaching. If you are not a visual learner, and your child is, you will need to deliberately send visual messages through facial expressions. You will also need to deliberately study his facial expressions to see how he’s reacting or feeling. Pictures, videos, TV and people watching are important to him and a good way to teach him. Visual images can distract him from concentrating.
The Auditory Learner
If the child learns best by hearing, (an auditory learner) he will be very sensitive to your voice tone and inflections. If your voice is too firm or you raise the pitch, he may sense you are angry or frustrated with him. When you acknowledge his successes, he will know how sincere you are. If you correct or tell him what to do repeatedly, he may think you are nagging and “turn you off.” Think of this student as having a tape recorder in his head. He will hear what you said over and over, even after the lesson is over. Even something that you might have thought he didn’t understand, will “replay” for him, and he’ll “get it”. This child doesn’t have to look at you to understand what you are saying. He even hears you mutter or speak in the adjoining room! . If you’re visual, it may bother you that he doesn’t look at you when you’re speaking. You need that; he doesn’t. This may drive you nuts. It’s OK to explain to him that you know he learns best by hearing. Tell him you know he doesn’t have to look at you to understand. Share with him that you are visual, and you do need him to look at you so you can understand. You might tell him that more people are visual learners than auditory learners, so it’s a good social skill for him to learn to look at people when they speak to him. Lessons on tape recorders or other equipment that requires wearing headphones will be especially good for him. Noises can distract him from concentrating.
The Kinesthetic Learner
If your child learns best by doing, (a kinesthetic learner) he will seem to have some part of his body moving constantly. He’ll be a wiggler, a toucher, and want to be close to another person whether that person wants it or not. He’ll drum his fingers, rock, switch positions in a chair often, and have a high capability of being inattentive. So, since you know he needs to touch, wiggle and be active, your lessons need to provide that. He gets weary of being told to sit or stand still. Allow him to take an active part of your lessons. If you’re giving a lesson on paper, give him a pencil or crayon to use. . If using a lesson printed on a transparency, give him a temporary marker to use — that’s usually a different tool for him and feels very special. Give him specific directions, such as underlining the vowel as you say the words, or put the whiskers on the cat. If he needs to listen, give him something to hold while he listens, and can feel. If your student is a girl, give her a bracelet to wear so she can feel it when she feels a little wiggly. It’s OK to tell your student how he best learns, so he can understand that his wiggliness may prevent him from paying good attention to his lessons. Let him know you’ll try to teach him in the way he learns sometimes, but that you’ll also have him practice listening without wiggling or touching, because it’s a good social skill to learn. This child’s learning style is his distraction!
For more activities to use for the different learning styles, consult the book, You Can Teach Someone to Read. Feel free to write me at [email protected]. Give me the lesson you wish to teach and tell me the way your student best learns and his interests. I’ll write you back within a week with some ideas for that particular student.