When I was in 3rd grade, the word "encyclopedia" was on my spelling test. I couldn’t remember how to spell that word no matter what I did! To help me along, my mom told me that when she was growing up, there was a character called Jiminy Cricket, who sang a song about the encyclopedia that included the spelling of the word. She sang it to me a few times. It just clicked. To this day, when I write the word "encyclopedia" I still sing that song in my head.
Think back to when you were sitting in a classroom. How did you learn things best? Could you listen to a teacher lecture and remember everything? Did you need to “see” what the teacher was talking about?
Some people are visual learners. Others are auditory or tactile/kinesthetic learners, and still others are a combination of two or three styles. Does your child learn differently than you did? Do you notice that when your child is trying to remember something she sings it in a song? Does she write it down and read it over and over again? Does he move around while trying to learn something? These are all indicators of how children learn. So how can you honor your child’s learning style without going nuts? Here are some ideas for dealing with each learning style:
Bend a Little
Kinesthetic learners may not be able to sit down and memorize something. Let them pace while trying to memorize. Sure, it may be different from how you did things, but a little pacing never hurt anyone! Of course, it’s not always possible for students to move around – if they need to do a worksheet, common sense dictates that they can’t walk around the classroom while filling it out. But at home, the environment can be tailored to meet their needs. And while certain tasks require focus and stillness, others may lend themselves to movement.
Keep Your Ears Open
Auditory learners understand new ideas and concepts best when they can take them in via hearing. Take a peek into a classroom – they’re the ones who can follow directions to the letter after being told just once or twice what to do. Some auditory learners concentrate better at a task when they have some white noise in the background. That doesn’t mean sitting in front of the TV with a stack of homework, but it might mean playing a little quiet music to help them to focus. With auditory learners, “talking it out” can have big benefits – hearing the words aloud helps them to retain new information.
Visual learners may need to be shown something a few times until the material clicks. For example, it may help to draw a picture of how to solve a division problem, then solve it with them several times using the picture. Many math textbooks include visuals for reference. For these types of learners, watching a problem done several times helps cement the picture in their heads of what needs to be done.
When it comes to learning styles, there’s a lot to learn! Just because you share some of the same genes, doesn’t mean that your children will approach things the same way that you do.
There isn’t a “wrong” way to learn, so be flexible. Try new things with your children to help them find what works for them. It may take a big shift in perspective, or it may be a string of little things. Who knows, you may even create your own “Jiminy Cricket moment.”