For children, learning styles are like sunshine on a cloudy day. They can still play under the clouds, but the bright sun rays energize them to produce more activity. Teaching using materials and approaches that best capture the attention of different learners engages students and transforms information into a deeper level of understanding. This makes auditory, kinesthetic and visual learners most receptive to learning because they can focus on the content without a mismatched communication filter. Some children may show equal preference for two learning styles. But, most children have a primary learning style and a secondary learning style.
As parents, knowing the approaches to how your children learn best will empower you and your children to make the most of their education. Educational toys, study aids and lesson plans for each learning style make absorbing concepts easier with optimal retention. Thus, learning becomes efficient, effective and everlasting.
With this knowledge, you have valuable insights to share with your child’s teacher about how your child engages with information. Instructing using learning styles to teach to different students achieves more efficient and effective results. Yet, not all teachers, and quite frankly, many teachers do not take into consideration the learning styles of individual students. Doing what works best for an individual child is usually not connected to what is most efficient for the teacher’s classroom management. So, the more you can pinpoint techniques that help your children learn better and enjoy their education, the better quality education your child will receive.
Allow me to use a driving metaphor to illustrate the point of how these innate sensory learning styles engage regardless of motivation, environment, etc. Suppose you really want to go to this event, and you have heard wonderful things about it and its members. All the right people will be there that can assist with your future goals and plans. These are really great people and you can also develop a lifelong network of emotional supporters. You get directions to the event from one of the insiders. This person is someone who is “in the know,” and is your benefactor into the group. There is one problem. You are a visual person and your benefactor, let’s say Ben, is kinesthetic.
Ben is familiar with the location of the event because Ben has driven this direction many times before. As a result, Ben knows how to get to the gathering, but does not remember any street names. Ben is giving you directions. Ben begins, “You know the busy intersection on north Mopac where there is a shopping center in the upper left quadrant coming from the North.” Your benefactor is talking in coordinates because Ben’s brain functions in dynamic info. “You can grocery shop, get a drive through burger, and used to be able to take your kids to gymnastics,” Ben goes on to explain. These directions seem perfectly reasonable to Ben because he does not realize everyone does not mark locations based on the activities they conduct. For Ben, it is the movement and the intersection of the information that registers. Now, as a visual person, you are lost because your mind is picturing all the grocery stores along Mopac. You visualize every location of the first drive through burger joint that comes across your mind. The information about lower right quadrant sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking – whomp whomp. You are visual! These spoken directions are confusing. They have no steps to follow, no landmarks to visualize. With more probing questions on your part, and a mild to moderate degree of frustration, you ultimately arrive at your destination. But, when you do, you are not your best. In the back of your mind, you are preoccupied with the thought that you are going to be continually challenged to learn from your benefactor. If Ben cannot give simple directions, you start thinking the future possibilities of this gathering may not be all that they say. You find each time a gathering is scheduled that you are less enthusiastic about going because you know you will have to go through Ben to get what you need. You may ultimately choose to stop going to the gatherings altogether.
The reverse situation often happens for many kinesthetic (tactile) students, but the end results are similar. Students with kinesthetic learning styles are forced to sit in chairs all day with limited movement. This teaching approach diminishes their attention and renders them less receptive to learning. Because they have a quick grasp in applying knowledge, the introduction of concepts should be varied for these students. Their ability to process two or more math strands at the same time makes them candidates to be great math students. However, the same math concept is usually taught for four to six weeks. Consequently, school does not achieve the full potential of these kinesthetic students because subjects are presented in a static manner. Overtime, the students who lack support or motivation for school perform poorly and/or drop-out.
In looking at another example, suppose Vivian, your benefactor, is a visual person. Of course, you are not. Vivian starts off well with simple directions. Vivian instructs you to exit 610 at Sheppard, take a right, and go 6 blocks. Now, it starts to get complicated. Vivian, too, has traveled to these destinations many times before, and there is a street sign down at a crucial turn. Vivian says, “You know the Quickie, convenience store, on the corner?” You say, “No.” “The convenience store with the yellow sign that you pass on the way,” continues Vivian. You are silent. Vivian, being helpful, “You have to start looking because your turn is just past the convenience store,” says Vivian. Again, you interject, “I have never seen a convenience store in that area.” Vivian keeps talking because oral language often cannot compete against the visual images in Vivian’s mind. Vivian is still picturing the Quickie store. Vivian cannot fully comprehend that you do cannot picture the store as clearly as she does. “You have to start looking because your right turn is just past the convenience store,” finishes Vivian. As a naturally auditory or kinesthetic person, you never paid any attention to the convenience store because it did not have relevance for you. You are concerned along your drive that you may miss the turn. You proceed along because the directions given to you state the street to turn on is located after the convenience store. You arrive at your destination after anxiously looking for the convenience store. Thus, you are not a confident driver. Because you spent so much time looking for the convenience store, your attention was diverted from the route. You will not remember how to get back to this location on another occasion.
Many children muddle through assignments that could have been made simpler with learning style enhancements. They feel discontented with their education. The most dissatisfied students drop-out when the frustration of the educational system overcomes the promise of a bright future.
Our children depend on parents, teachers, administrators, curriculum writers and textbook manufacturers to get them to their destination. What often gets overlooked is that many children go through schooling not achieving their full potential. Their best is substituted for arriving at a precise answer or getting an acceptable test score. Instructions are given to children via textbook, classroom instruction, and so on that takes for granted the needs of different learning styles. As parents, we want our children to learn and enjoy their educational journey. During a journey filled with engaging examples and study aids that best fit how they learn, children thrive. Developing solid learning foundations early based on self-awareness of auditory, kinesthetic and visual learning styles will be helpful in school adaptions, doing homework, and studying independently later in life. Teaching to learning styles produce lifelong learners who actually enjoy learning.
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