Few things frustrate homeschoolers more than trying to teach a child who won’t sit still, won’t stop talking, or won’t listen until the directions have been repeated twenty times.
However, our frustration could often be relieved if we simply understood differences in learning styles.
A child’s dominate learning style, or learning modality, describes how he or she receives and processes information.
- Auditory processors learn by listening or talking.
- Visual processors learn by seeing or making mental images.
- Kinesthetic or tactile processors learn by doing.
A child’s primary learning style is referred to as his or her “dominant modality”. The next favored learning style is referred to as the “secondary modality”. A child’s least favored modality is considered a “weakness”.
Some children can function equally well using two different learning styles. This is known as “mixed modalities”.
Because traditional classrooms cater to auditory and visual learners, children who are equally auditory and visual are generally labeled gifted. On the other hand, a kinesthetic and auditory child who learns through movement and sound may be incorrectly labeled hyperactive or ADHD.
As adults we have our own preferences as to how we receive or communicate information. Many times we want to teach our children in a way that makes sense to us.
However, it is counter productive to tell a kinesthetic child to sit still and listen, or to tell an auditory learner not to hum while writing. In doing so, we take away the very tools the child needs to learn.
Teaching to our child’s modality makes learning more efficient and enjoyable. It also limits conflict and helps children learn to maximize their strengths and use them to compensate for areas of weakness.
I came upon this website that enables you to determine your child’s learning style: http://parenting.quiz.kaboose.com/25-what-s-your-child-s-learning-style. After taking the online quiz, this was the result of my trying to learn which style RD prefers to learn in:
You’ve got a kinesthetic learner! Kinesthetic learners tend to learn best through doing. Words or pictures don’t mean much to your child – until he can actually start touching or playing with things, he won’t feel like he completely understands them.
Now that you know your child’s learning style, you can use it to help him maximize his learning abilities. For instance, when your child is learning about shapes and angles, have him actually create those shapes and angles with blocks. As part of a history lesson, have him recreate whatever event in history he’s studying. If you want to teach your child about the dangers of crossing the street, actually reenact a street crossing with a toy truck and plastic doll. It’s through actively engaging in an activity that your child will best absorb information.
Because of this need for activity and exploration, kinesthetic learners tend to have trouble staying still for extended periods of time. But rest assured … your active, engaged child is probably very good at sports, physical comedy, or mimicking others. With these special skills, he’s well on his way to being a famous celebrity someday!
When teaching children with different learning styles, it is not always necessary to use multiple programs. While that may work for some families, it can also lead to frustration and burn out. Try using the suggestions below to tailor your curriculum to meet your child’s needs.
Your Auditory Learner
Auditory learners receive information by listening or talking. They need to repeat information aloud or hear information repeated for accurate processing. This can take the form of repeating directions to themselves, saying answers aloud as they write them, and moving their lips while reading.
These children can be vocal and dramatic, and typically enjoy storytelling, audio tapes, reading aloud, listening to music, and playing instruments. They have a good memory for conversation, and thrive on group discussions, and asking and answering questions.
They usually follow oral directions well, and may frequently whistle, talk or hum to themselves. Homeschooling methods that involve reading aloud and group discussion may appeal to auditory learners. Consider unit studies, classical homeschooling or the Charlotte Mason method.
Tips for Teaching Auditory Learners
- Read information and directions aloud.
- Give your child the opportunity to discuss the directions before beginning an assignment.
- Use oral drill for practice.
- Encourage participation in spelling and geography bees.
- Provide opportunities for group study.
- Make a song or poem out of information that needs to be memorized.
- Have child record information and play it back in order to commit it to memory.
- Teach child to read or talk to self in a whisper.
- Motivate reluctant readers through the use of rhyming books, poetry, and audiobooks.
Your Visual Learner
Visual learners receive information by seeing and making mental images. They may think in words, such as reading and writing, or images, such as charts, graphs, maps and drawings.
These children may move slowly because they are paying attention to details. They sometimes appear to be daydreaming, and prefer to watch an activity for a while before joining in.
Visual learners typically enjoy reading, math, art, and visual stimulation in the form of television and computer games. They have a good memory for pictures and the written word, and are adept at noticing similarities and differences. In subjects such as spelling, they determine whether or not a word is correct by asking the question, “Does it look right?”
Children who are visually oriented are generally neat and organized. Your visual learner may prefer classical homeschooling, traditional textbooks and workbooksor computer-based homeschooling over those that require projects and group interaction. Book lovers may also enjoy a literature rich approach, such as theCharlotte Mason method.
Another group of learners, known as visual-spatial learners, thinks visually, but focuses on the big picture rather than details. These children learn complex skills more easily than simpler ones, and have difficulty with the step-by-step methods used in most curricula. For more information about visual-spatial learners, visitVisual Spatial Resource.
Tips for Teaching Visual Learners
- Teach your child to take notes so he has something to look at while listening.
- Put information in the form of diagrams, charts, maps, graphs and drawings.
- Highlight information to make it more prominent.
- Teach child to put information in the form of an outline.
- Give written, as opposed to verbal, instruction.
- Use flashcards and worksheets, as opposed to oral practice.
- Motivate reluctant readers with books that have interesting pictures. When books have been made into a movie, view the movie before reading the book to give your child a visual to refer to.
Your Kinesthetic/Tactile Learner
Kinesthetic/tactile learners receive information by moving or touching. The term “kinesthetic” refers to large muscle movements such as those required for athletics or dance. “Tactile” refers to touch, or small motor movements such as those involved in sewing, typing or craftsmanship.
These children express themselves through gestures and body language, and can have extreme mood swings. They need physical action, and can best remember information that learned while participating in activities or imitating movements.
Kinesthetic learners are typically coordinated and adept at building and taking things apart. Homeschool methods which involve projects, models, and experiments will appeal to these individuals. Consider unit studies and Montessori homeschooling.
Tips for Teaching Kinesthetic Learners
- Associate memorization of facts with bodily movement such as taking steps, jumping on a trampoline, swinging, etc.
- Take frequent breaks. Alternate short periods of seatwork with periods of activity.
- Let your child complete assignments while rocking or sitting on a bouncy ball.
- Let your child stack blocks, squeeze a ball, build clay models, or draw while listening.
- Record information to be memorized and let your child listen while swinging, jogging or engaging in physical activity.
- Use manipulatives to teach mathematical concepts.
- Use textured letters and alphabet magnets to teach spelling and reading.
- Have your child write in sand, shaving cream or pudding to practice spelling or letter formation. Your can also write on your child’s back with your finger or have your child use his finger to write in the air.
- Let your child write on a large chalkboard or dry erase board when studying. Have him or her erase information as it is learned.
- Let your child run his finger along the words or highlight information while reading.
- Motivate reluctant readers with pop up, scratch and sniff, lift the flap, push/pull tabs and other books that invite activity. Older readers may prefer, books that feature adventure or sports.