The 6 Perceptual Thinking Patterns: How Does Your Child Learn Best?

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Updated on Aug 29, 2012

Does your child have trouble remembering something you told her if there's a lot of noise in the room? Can she only seem to focus if she's tapping her foot? That's because we each need certain stimuli to help us learn. Learning is a process, and one of six possible thinking patterns works best for each of us. If your kid has ever gotten a bad grade, had trouble paying attention or received a poor progress report from school, it may be time to check how she learns before you ground her or send her to tutoring.

Unfortunately, many schools and teachers assume that all of us learn the same way. We don't. "One of the biggest miseducations we suffer from is the assumption that all human beings use the same process for thinking," says Dawna Markova, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and educator. We usually assume that kids’ minds do or should work in the same ways as their teacher's mind does, which can spell trouble if your kid's learning pattern is different.

According to Markova’s book How Your Child is Smart, everyone processes information differently. There are six possible ways we can understand what we're taught. When you realize how your child learns, you understand that she isn’t unintelligent; she is, in fact, very smart. Markova breaks down the way we think into three channels and three stimuli. Each type of stimuli triggers one of three channels in your child's brain, resulting in focused attention, the ability to put ideas together, or a relaxed state that fosters creativity.

  1. Conscious channel. In this channel, children easily pay attention, absorb information, express themselves comfortably and can be logical or organized. It's a short-term memory place, where thought is stored until it can be sorted out.
  2. Subconscious channel. Children can sift through ideas and fit them together in this state. They are aware of input from the environment as well as their own inner frame of reference. They can move from attentive to "spaced out" while trying to understand a concept. This is a crucial channel, allowing kids to flow between conscious and unconscious easily.
  3. Unconscious channel. No, your kid isn't asleep here. This is the channel that is responsible for relaxation, creativity and seeing the big picture. It's a stress-free zone where kids giggle and play, invent games and make up songs. This is also a place where long-term memories are made.

Your kid needs to use all three of these channels to learn effectively. Think about how you best absorb information. When a child first learns something new, it needs to be taken in and remembered long enough (conscious channel) for her to figure out where it fits in with what she already knows (subconscious channel). Then, she can make it a part of her reality, seeing it in terms of the big picture (unconscious channel). Once that is done, the information is stored for the long term. How do you get your kid to move through these channels? You have to know what stimulates these states of mind. According to Markova, your child predominantly uses one of three stimuli to trigger each mental channel.

  1. Kinesthetic stimuli. Movement or body awareness.
  2. Visual stimuli. Pictures, visual demonstrations or written words.
  3. Auditory stimuli. Verbal directions, songs and sounds.
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