Learning Style for Every Mind
Three weeks into my daughter’s first grade experience, and I knew we were in trouble. Part of her curriculum involved a spelling test at the end of each week; we were given the word list on Monday and expected to help our student study it throughout the week. My attempts at getting her to write each word out three times, over and over, were met with, well, resistance, to put it lightly.
Afternoons became something both my daughter and I dreaded. As the low grades began to trickle in, I lamented to my former roommate, Kathryn Welch, who was a middle school teacher and reading interventionist for twelve years at Pearl Junior High School.
“Based off what you’ve told me, Gracie is a kinesthetic learner,” she said. “Have you tried pouring salt into a casserole dish, and have her write out the words with her finger?”
The tears and tantrums were replaced with giggles and smiles, and Gracie began asking to “play with the salt.” Homework time still isn’t something I get excited about, but once I implemented Kathryn’s suggestions, Gracie’s grades made a positive turn, and I keep a Pyrex dish of salt handy throughout the school year.
There are four learning styles: kinesthetic, auditory, visual, and reading/writing. These learning styles address how information is ideally processed by an individual. Everyone learns through all of these styles. But asking an auditory learner to read a book, as opposed to listen to an audio book, is like asking a left-handed person to write with their right hand. It’s doable, but it takes extra effort to process and remember that information. Kinesthetic learners are tactile; they enjoy hands-on projects. Auditory learners enjoy lectures, discussing topics and podcasts. Visual learners will gravitate to graphs, pictures, and prefer images over words. Reading/writing learners like taking notes and reading assignments.
If you don’t know your child’s learning style, take some time this summer to try out different activities that are tailored to each way of processing information. “Summer is unique time, because it presents learning opportunities that can’t happen in a classroom. Learning doesn’t have to end when school lets out,” says Kathryn. “Having enrichment activities makes them a better student, and a more well-rounded person.”
Kinesthetic learners will love collecting flowers or bugs! Give them a bucket of chalk and draw new words, Bible verses, or multiplication tables, and decorate inside the letters or numbers. At the pool, have diving sticks labeled with numbers, each corresponding to a fact or question, and have them answer each one after they bring it to the surface.
An auditory learner will love listening to summer reading in audio version (make sure they read it, too!). You can help them memorize the states and capitals with a song, or set up a pretend school so they can “teach” grade-level facts to their collection of stuffed animals. Giving them a recording device to use as a personal journal would be a great gift to an auditory-leaning teen, too.
A visual learner may enjoy creating a photo series of a family trip, or of a walk in the park. Hand your phone over and allow them to take pictures of the event; print the photos out and have them arrange them on a large piece of cardstock. They can present the project to family over dinner; you’ll be amazed at what they choose to include and the details they’ll remember.
Reading/writing learners are the most at home in the classroom, as they enjoy taking notes and reading for homework. You can change it up by giving your student a stack of post-it notes, and have them label items all over the house (in a different language, too, if they’re older!). Have them use Power-Point to give a presentation on which summer activities they’re most excited about.
“It’s important to know your child’s learning style, because everyone learns differently. Knowing how they learn allows you to tailor both formal and informal educational opportunities,” says Kathryn. One of the joys of parenting is learning about the little humans living in your house; each one is unique in countless ways. Discovering a child’s learning style opens the door to lessons that allow them to flourish, not flounder. Plus, it’s a great way to avoid some of those inevitable homework fights, too!
Sarah Lowman Reynolds is a freelance writer living in Brookhaven, MS. Visit her blog www.SouthernFriedLove.org to get to know her better.