My child doesn’t fit nicely in any of the categories! Help! What sort of learner is he?
No worries! That’s normal. The learning styles simply identify your child’s dominant learning pattern. They are helpful because they give you some idea of his strong and weak points, and how to adapt his learning habits.
Most everyone learns visually, auditorily and kinaesthetically: ALL THREE. But they will find one or two styles dominating the way they approach learning. For instance, my visual student (who taught me so much about visual learners and made me lose sleep too!) has some auditory abilities: when we do poetry, he imitates my intonation very well. I was surprised that he didn’t mind following my intonation to the letter.
And while my student is dominantly visual, he also has kinaesthetic strengths: when it comes to math problem sums, I have long since learned to cut out the explanations (yes, as much as I love to talk, hehe!). We work like this: first, he watches me do it (visual); then, he tries it out on his own (kinaesthetic) with minimal coaching from me. After we go through three or four problems like this, I can let him take off on his own. He’ll manage!
PERFECT FIT, ANYONE?
From personal experience, it’s rare to find someone with only one clear-cut learning style. Most of us are a mix. Another student of mine, a primary-schooler, has an interesting mix of auditory and visual skills. He learns best if he can talk (and boy, does he talk!). But I don’t mind it, because I can almost see the new information cementing itself in his long-term memory as we discuss it!
By the way, while we’re talking about this… If you have a chatterbox of a child, take time to talk to him and answer his questions. That’s when most of the information will cement itself in his head. The table time (when he’s doing homework) and the learning time (especially if it requires self-learning) will never be as effective as talking about something while his interest is focused on it. That is when the information makes the deepest and most permanent impression.
OK, enough lecturing. Where was I? Oh yeah, the phonics student. While I do talk and let him talk (ooh, sometimes we have loooong fruitful discussions!), I also use flashcards drills with him. My reason? It is triple impact: he hears it, talks about it, and sees it all at once. So that the next time we talk about the suffix -ing in pointing, or whatever, he can remember how we said it (“-ing in pointing, i-n-g, ing, ing, ing“), hear it in his head and see the picture in his head.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
How would that apply to the way we teach? Maybe it’s time for a story here. One year (and a few days, now) ago, I earned my driver’s license. My time in driving school was particularly interesting to me, because it put me back into a student’s shoes. By observing how my instructors taught me, and how I learned best, I discovered the advantage of mixing the teaching styles.
Some of them used visual aids: they drew the car on the road, complete with arrows and stop lines. When I was actually on the road after that, I could picture that drawing in my head. It helped. Others were more auditory. They explained the sequences thoroughly… sometimes too thoroughly when I irritated them by making the same mistakes multiple times! :P These helped too, if I was allowed to ask questions and talk through my confusion. Then there were those who simply showed me by doing it themselves first, and then asking me to do it and learn by trial-and-error. Kinaesthetic learning worked best for me in driving school, though all the teaching styles were effective.
What was my point? It’s best to use a good mix of all the styles. Not only does it address all your child’s learning styles, but it also strengthens his weaker areas by letting him practice learning through other approaches.
I might mention here, that younger children tend to be more kinaesthetic. This is something that affects all children, visual and auditory included. As they grow older, their brains are able to process information better, and they will be able to rely on other methods of learning. Of course, our truly kinaesthetics won’t lose it, though.
We’ve been on a long journey through this labyrinth of learning styles. Thank you for reading and learning along with me! It’s been great. So, now that it’s over, it’s my turn to ask, how has it been? Have you discovered your own learning style? (that’s always interesting!) Found any successful methods? Now perhaps you understand better, why your child does he does, and how to help him learn better.
Remember always, teachers sometimes give up on students because they get frustrated… but not parents! Don’t give up! Every child can be successful. It’s just a matter of how you help him. All the best; let’s keep learning!
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