I remember seeing math problems in sentence form as a child and feeling that none of this made any sense. My dad, who was good at math, couldn’t understand why I couldn’t understand it. So I would secretly draw pictures of the problem and “lo, I got it!” Later I learned that I am a visual learner and I need to “see” the problem in order to understand.
Some children are talkative. To process information, these students like to discuss it with others. Once they have heard the words, they understand and generally remember the information. We call them audio learners.
Another group learns while being active and playing. If they can manipulate objects with their hands, they are able to grasp the concept and it soaks into their long-term memory.
There are many ways that professionals classify different learning styles and the procedure can be complex. However, the most widely used system divides all learning styles into three basic categories: Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinesthetic Learners.
Why do we need to know our child’s learning style?
When we realize that there are differences in the way children learn, we will not try to force them to learn like we do. Think how easy the task would be if parents could help out using techniques that are best suited to their children. If my father had known that I was a visual learner, he could have shown me how to draw the problem or make a visual graph to help me understand. I would have felt that drawing pictures was an accepted method of learning rather than being reserved about it.
Children often feel guilty if they cannot understand a problem when it is explained verbally. The child who needs practical activities becomes frustrated and cannot sit still during long lectures. Then their behavior is characterized as unacceptable and a different learning style becomes a discipline problem. Kinesthetic learners have a hard time adjusting to our expectations.
Think of the difference it could make if you informed the teacher about your child’s learning style earlier in the year. Many teachers don’t have time to analyze each child’s style. They generally teach according to their own particular learning style.
Children who have learned to recognize and understand their own learning styles are the most likely to be successful. They can use techniques that work specifically for them. I know of a boy who had had problems throughout school. She eventually made it to college and was overwhelmed by college professors who required copious note-taking. This was not his learning style. He needed to hear the information over and over again. He realized this and used a tape recorder to replay the information while repeating much of it out loud. As an audio learner, this was his successful learning method.
Children can use a combination of learning styles or be dominant in one. A child with diverse learning styles is often a more flexible learner. Read the characteristics of each learning style. See if you can recognize your own child’s style (s) from the following descriptions
Characteristics of visual learners (65% of the population):
- Learn through pictures
- Enjoy art and drawing
- Read maps, charts, and diagrams well
- He likes mazes and puzzles
- Use lists or charts to organize thoughts
- It is capable of detecting recurring patterns in the information.
- Remember where the information is on a page.
- See pictures or words in the “mind’s eye”
- He is able to visualize stories.
- It is usually a good spelling (they can see the word in their mind)
- Has a vivid imagination
- Gets impatient or withdraws when a lot of listening is required
- Color is important and aids memory.
- He likes to put things together
- Usually likes to read / write more than math / science.
- Doodle background
- Enjoy tracing words and pictures.
- Often accused of being a dreamer in class.
How can I help my visual learner?
Since mathematics is abstract, it is important to draw a picture or explain with diagrams.
Encourage and teach your child how to draw pictures to understand math problems. Visual children are generally very creative and can find a good memory technique to remember vocabulary or math procedures. They just need to know that it is an acceptable method.
As you read, suggest visual cues. Offer picture books of all kinds; When reading chapter books together, encourage viewing of stories and scenes at intervals. Provide colored pens for taking notes or writing. Suggest writing the syllables of new spelling or vocabulary words in different colors. Help them make lists or outlines of information. Suggest drawing a picture of historical information that needs to be remembered.
Characteristics of auditory students (30% of the population):
- Tends to remember and repeat ideas that are presented verbally
- Learn well through lectures.
- He is an excellent listener
- He is often the leader of a group discussion.
- You can play symbols, letters or words by listening to them.
- Likes to talk
- Enjoy plays, movies
- Can learn concepts by listening to tapes
- Enjoy the music
- Enjoy the question and answer sessions
- Retains information that is set to rhyme.
- Find small group discussions stimulating and informative
- You must hear yourself say information out loud
How can I help my audio learner?
These children learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, speaking, and listening to what others have to say. Talk to your child about homework and ask him to explain it to you. This reinforces learning. Audio learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.
Read math problems together and divide a word problem into smaller segments. Discuss what it means and talk about possible solutions. Why would this work or not work? The audio learner needs this kind of dialogue.
In each topic you need to listen to your child read the information aloud and then discuss it. This may seem like a long time to parents, but it is the best way for the audio learner to be successful. Also, build a closer relationship. Audio learners don’t work well on their own.
Audio learners absorb information like a sponge. They can listen to a stimulating educational video and remember most of the information, especially if there is a discussion afterwards. If there is information that needs to be memorized, put it to rhyme or music. Make it fun!
Characteristics of kinesthetic students (5% of the population):
- Learn by doing, direct participation
- Often fidgets or finds reasons to move
- He is not very attentive to visual or auditory presentations.
- Wants to “do” something
- Arrange things
- Likes to manipulate objects.
- Gestures when speaking
- Is often a bad listener
- Respond to music through physical movement.
- He likes to clap to the rhythm of the rhymes
- Use hand movements when pronouncing words.
- Often successful in physical response activities.
Kinesthetic / tactile children learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. Touching things, tasting them, and moving the body are ways kinesthetic children learn. They may find it difficult to sit still for long periods and are often distracted by their need for activity and exploration. These students have high energy levels. They think and learn better while moving. They often miss a lot of what is said during a conference and have trouble concentrating when asked to sit down and read. These students prefer to do, rather than watch or listen. They are often diagnosed with ADHD
How can I help my kinesthetic / tactile learner?
These students need many objects to work and manipulate. Physical objects are essential, especially for math. There are many practical materials available in educational stores and many teachers are happy to loan some of their teaching materials to parents. For example, if you are helping your child tell time, get an old watch and let him move the hands while you explain the idea.
Reading, spelling, and writing are often challenging for these children. Buy letters and have your child spell words using something he can touch and feel. Sometimes using the computer is beneficial as the keys move. Computer math games work well too.
Clapping syllables while reading words helps kinesthetic learners pronounce the word. If they forget punctuation at the end of a sentence, suggest hand signals such as a clenched fist for a period, an extended arm for an exclamation point, and a curved hand with an extended arm for the question mark. By using the body, information is internalized.
Use games to reinforce learning. To add and subtract, play dominoes or card games. Write unfamiliar words on small cards and play “Go Fishing” or “Concentration” to help the reading.
Benefit for all children
Knowing your child’s learning style is important! When you can help your child in a way that they can respond positively, you are setting a good tone for learning. Increase self-esteem. Your child is much happier because he feels accepted for who he is. They don’t have to learn like everyone else. They have special abilities. They are unique!