What are Learning Styles?
Every child is born ready to learn. Yet children (and adults) generally have a preferred style in which they learn best. A child might learn through a combination of styles, but usually there is one learning style he or she favors over the others.
- You may be able to spell by visualizing a word, but your child may not be able to memorize his or her spelling words unless he or she writes them down first.
- Your child's incessant pencil tapping may actually help her or him stay on task.
There is no right or wrong learning style. Your primary learning style may be different from your child's. To work effectively with your child, you need to understand both your own learning style and your child's.
When you identify how your child learns best, you can help your child have more positive learning experiences.
The Most Common Learning Styles
The three most common learning styles are:
- Physical (Kinesthetic)
Visual Learners learn by watching. They use images to remember, creating a picture in their heads. To learn spelling, for example, they may picture the way a word looks.
Visual learners may also:
- Enjoy art and drawing
- Read maps, charts and diagrams well
- Like mazes and puzzles
Teaching methods for visual learners include:
- Making flash cards for key information
- Drawing symbols or pictures
- Visually highlighting key words and pictures
- Making charts to organize information
- Translating words and ideas into symbols, pictures and diagrams
- Using to-do lists, assignment logs and written notes (also benefits physical learners)
Auditory learners benefit from traditional teaching techniques. They learn well when directions are read aloud or information is presented and requested verbally. They remember facts when presented in a poem, song or melody.
Auditory learners also like:
- To tell stories and jokes
- To play word games
- To use tape recorders
Teaching methods for auditory learners include:
- Reading out loud together
- Encouraging them to read out loud when they study, so they can "hear" the instruction
- Studying with a partner, so they can talk out the solutions to problems
- Writing out a sequence of steps to solve a problem, then reading the steps out loud
Physical learners learn best through movement and physical manipulation. They like to find out how things work and want to touch, feel and experience what they are being asked to learn. Most kindergarteners are physical learners, but by second or third grade their learning styles may change to visual or auditory. However, half of all students in high school and beyond remain physical learners.
Physical learners may also:
- Need to manipulate, handle and try things out
- Have a short attention span
- Need to be moving to learn
- Show you things rather than telling you about them
Teaching methods for physical learners include:
- Letting them participate in science or math laboratories
- Creating and participating in dramatic productions
- Going on field trips
- Creating and performing skits and dances
- Encouraging them to take notes and draw diagrams
- Having them make models.
How to Discover Your Child's Learning Style
You can discover your child's learning style by watching how your child tackles new tasks and interacts with her or his world.
The visual learner:
- Notices details
- Is aware of similarities and differences
- Often has good eye-hand coordination
- May be quiet and deliberate
- May have a vivid imagination
- May have trouble remembering verbal directions and messages
The auditory learner:
- Talks to him or herself
- Hums and asks lots of questions
- May want to make a lot of noise if it is too quiet
- May be distracted by having too many sounds at one time
- Is very social and loves to talk about what he or she is doing
The physical learner:
- Seems to be in constant motion
- Needs to handle and try things out to understand them
- May actually need to be moving to learn
How Understanding Learning Styles Helps Your Child
If a subject in school is not taught using your child's preferred learning style, he or she may struggle to understand it. You can help your child grasp difficult material by practicing at home using your child's best learning style.
You may also be able to talk with your child's teacher about how your child learns best. This can help both your own and other children in the class. In the past, most instruction was delivered verbally (although only about 10 percent of secondary school students are auditory learners).
Many teachers are now aware of the need to deliver instruction in ways that accommodate all learning styles.
Understanding your child's learning style also helps you:
- Keep expectations realistic
- Help your child at home
- Become an advocate for your child at school
- Teach your child coping skills for situations that are not geared to his or her learning style
- Prevent your child from feeling frustrated when he or she is not doing work that is up to his or he potential
- Experiment with different learning styles and environments to improve your child's accomplishments and feelings of achievement
It is important to avoid negative labels for learners. All children are born ready to learn.
For More Information:
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.