Tips for the “Three” Kinds of Learning Styles
(This post is taken from my “Let Me Read” literacy curriculum resource in the section of notes for how to teach reading effectively in a “Peppermint Stick” style. It summarizes the commonly-known learning styles for the parent(s) while offering tips for how to understand and teach each “type of learner.” It is reproduced in this blog for your interest.)
A child may have one (or more) favourite ways of how he/she learns best and how he/she best communicates what he or she knows. This is known as a child’s “learning style”. And even if you think you have your child’s strengths figured out, they may even change, depending on the day or subject area (e.g. some days being more reflective in wanting to write, other days more active)! Remember, your child is alive and unique and is not always predictable. 🙂
Hands-on/Visual Learning Style Tips
– This type of student might say, “Let me SHOW you what I know about…” and then use drawings, photographs, 3-D items, charts, diagrams, graphs, posters, crafts about the topic, or act out something dramatically. So, a teacher or student can add props, visuals, or models to written projects/ oral presentations to make the assignment more creative and appealing.
– Colour-code things to help to visually organize and retain information (rather than writing things over and over).
– Use building models, puzzles, or play word games that involve using the body (e.g. jumping up and down when a certain sound is given in a list of words or hopping from word cards placed on the floor to match compound words, or pairs of synonyms or antonyms).
– Post posters on walls or doors. However, don’t post too many different kinds of items at a time or it becomes too busy visually for someone who is extra sensitive to visual learning.
– Use chunky letter pieces to manipulate with when building words. YOU SHOULD AIM FOR ABOUT 50+ letters for one child. Unifix ® Cubes have some letter sets (not currently sold by us) or you can make your own with some sticky labels, a marker, and the plain cubes or even with Lego® blocks (not sold by us). Avoid thin paper letters because they are harder for little fingers to pick up and move around to make words. (I’m repeating that last sentence: Avoid thin paper letters because they are harder for little fingers to pick up and move around to make words. This includes cardstock – it can frustrate or bore even a hands-on student.)
Written/Visual Learning Style Tips
– This type of student might say, “Let me WRITE about what I know…” For “free play” time, offer a journal, sketch book, or a little notebook to keep pretend grocery lists for their play, write a note to Grandma and Grandpa, a poem, a song, or record a short (sometimes silly) story.
– Use rebus drawings in a posted schedule so that a young child can “read” what is planned next for the day. Making your “schedule” large print allows your child to read it and, as a bonus, makes it easier for you to read it too while holding a baby or a broom!
– Use regular-sized crayons or thick pencil crayons to colour the pictures in this book. Thick crayons are great for large page-size pictures but will not be as accurate as the regular-sized crayons for these pages. Occasionally, you might like to use markers if your child has not been scribbling much. (Paint is another option but it should be used carefully and with an older student or teacher to help to put the colour on the paintbrush or Q- tip®.)
– For repetitious work such as printing a word over a few times, go over the same letters with a few colours of pencil crayon. This is also known as “rainbow printing” and children generally like the idea. It cuts down on the amounts of paper used and looks great too!
– Be sure to draw attention to the double-underlined letters on each colouring poster and their sounds. (This comment was directly related to the Let Me Read curriculum for Step 1.)
– Rather than pointing to each word, use a plain bookmark under the line or simply slide your finger across to encourage a smooth (not jerky) reading. A child with a strength in writing might also tend to sound out a word letter by letter (like writing it out) and you want him/her to blend the letters together to see it as a whole word, and also to see whole words in a row as whole sentences which are read in one breath. Encourage smooth habits for better fluency. (Like holding a toy in a family photo shoot, a bookmark will also help to keep fidgety fingers busy since they are holding something.)
– Choose age-appropriate books to read. As your child grows, include a variety of genres (non-fiction, historical fiction, fables, poetry, etc.) and formats (newspaper article, tourism brochure, e-mail, etc.) I like to purchase books (new or used) for our own shelves instead of relying on library books. This way, the books can be read over and over for longer opportunities and this long-term repetition helps reinforce strong literacy.
– When a child knows how to print (or write) and is interested, show them how to do a little copywork. Have the child print under your printing for a really short story of 1-2 lines.
Auditory Learning Style Tips
– This type of student might say, “Let me TELL you about what I know….” He or she might retell experiences in great detail, thrive on giving verbal answers to written or verbal questions, share sentences for a teacher to write down first in an experience story, love oral presentations, like to spell words aloud rather than writing them (maybe even forwards and backwards) and making up songs.
– Include informal discussions about your child’s interests at meal-times and while travelling.
– Add a special listening time to your day where audio stories and/or music plays in your home. You may be able to find good children’s books with accompanying audio CDs.
– If there are opportunities to be involved or view appropriate dramas or musicals in your community, consider it.
– Listen to the audio CD stories that teach the sound alphabet of course. 🙂 (Again, this comment was directly related to the Let Me Read curriculum for Step 1.)
– When a child reads in a reader but mumbles or skips over a word, it is a good idea to have him or her go back to the top of the page and try again for better clarity and to slow down. (My mom used to allow us only 3 mistakes before she’d start us back at the beginning page of the story. I just usually repeat the page that the child is on and that seems to work fine. Keep your attitude gentle and encouraging rather than impatient and grumpy.)
Train the ear with music in your home! Sing together! Make a song list of ones you know yourself which have simple and/or interesting words and phrases. You may want to find the lyrics and enlarge them for your child to sing along. Make up your own rebus drawings to help him/her to follow along quick enough with the music (because pictures are recognized faster than letters/words). (a optional partial song list followed)
The Exceptional Student: “A Square Peg in a Round Hole”
I was an “exceptional student” in school, so are many in my family. (We still are!) Thankfully, most of my teachers and peers accepted and embraced my unusual learning style. But to this day, I’m not exactly sure which one of these 3 learning styles would be my strength so I just say, “Variety is a spice in life!” 🙂 My own opinion is that exceptional students are bored if not enough variety is offered in the learning style and learn best when they have the freedom/flexibility to learn and express what they know in an individual, unique manner. They desire (and are determined) to be different than the “crowd” and want to make sure that what they are learning matters in real life. They are very strong thinkers although may be either outgoing or shy in personality (or ability to communicate). With such high expectations for what they anticipate “school” is, they can be super-sensitive to things that they feel are “missing”, for example, in a standard curriculum that is writing-based and very repetitious/busywork, they miss the hands-on and real life connection; in a flashy curriculum with action and full-colour, they miss the simplicity and are easily distracted in looking at the details in the little bugs that are in the border of the math worksheet. I really think that there are more “exceptional” students today, however, if the best methodology to teach the exceptional student is indeed, a variety, then that means the other learners who fit into just mainly one of these styles, should also be able to learn with the same materials that the exceptional learners thrive with.
The student who is a different style than the teacher – a “problem” to “fix”? Let’s think about this…
Most of the curriculum in the past has focused on a strong written aspect of education. If a student was not a strong writer, then it was assumed that he/she had not mastered the content. Some children may be thought of as having an attention disorder if they refuse to give in to another style or simply are too distracted or bored with it or cannot actually understand clearly the format the teacher wants them to do their work in. When provided with a format they can understand, they can learn the material, be attentive to the activity, and show that they have learned the content. The big test (in my opinion) to see if the exceptional student has a true attention disorder/problem or is simply someone who is more sensitive to a particular communication style(s) for that topic is to see if the child can be attentive in at least one way of learning. For example, can the child spend a long time building a model of something at a set-up learning center? Or can the child spend a long time retelling in detail about an educational film they watched?
If it is not a “problem”, then rather than trying to “fix” it, the teacher/parent needs to accept it and work with it. It does not necessarily need to be seen as a lack of diligence or perseverance either. These “challenging” students can actually be brilliant, gifted, inventive, and helpful in teaching peers or younger children how to do something right. They can find school delightful if given the freedom to be the people they have been designed to be. Some may call them failures because they do not always “fit” into a standardized learning environment – like a square peg in a round hole.
Flexibility in teaching a variety of ways is really helpful for these “challenging” students. Our curriculum aims to offer this kind of flexibility.