The journey of learning is sometimes challenging for any child. We often face the perplexing problem of why some children need help to absorb the information we, as parents and educators, strive to impart. The solution lies within the unique concept of ‘learning styles’. Each child distinctively interacts with the world, and when we tailor educational experiences to each child’s learning mode, it can have excellent results.
Why does you child’s learning style matter?
Why does this matter? Understanding the concept of learning styles isn’t just an academic exercise; it plays a pivotal role in a child’s development. By equipping ourselves with this knowledge, we can unlock vast potential, enabling our children to engage more effectively with their educational journey and, in the process, discover their unique talents and abilities.
Learning styles refer to how individuals gather, interpret, organise and think about information. Just as we all have our favourite flavours of ice cream or colours that we are drawn to, we also have ways of learning that feel more comfortable, more ‘us’. Understanding these styles can significantly enhance how our children learn, offering a personalised approach to learning that matches their natural preferences. Let’s delve deeper into understanding these learning styles and their implications on a child’s development.
Understanding Your Child’s Learning Styles
Human beings are intricate creatures with multifaceted abilities and preferences, and children are no different.
Regarding learning, we typically categorise these preferences into four main styles: auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, and visual.
Let’s explore each of these learning styles in depth.
Auditory learners are the ones who find comfort in sounds and voices. They learn best through hearing and can pick up nuances through changes in tone or rhythm. These learners may have a knack for languages and can easily follow oral instructions. They’re often the ones who enjoy stories being read aloud to them and may even prefer to read the text to themselves aloud.
Next up, kinesthetic learners embody the phrase “learning by doing”. They thrive in environments where they can engage physically. Kinesthetic learners learn best when they can move around and engage their bodies. Their idea of learning a dance step isn’t hearing the instructions; it’s getting up and doing it.
Third, some tactile learners learn best through touch and texture. They need to handle materials or manipulate objects to grasp the concept physically. They’re the children who can spend hours building intricate structures out of blocks or find science experiments involving various materials exciting.
Lastly, we have visual learners who interpret and remember information best when it is presented visually. They often gravitate towards diagrams, maps, pictures, or written words.
Visual learners are likely to forget oral instructions unless some visual cues or reminders support them.
Learning Styles and Play
Play is a critical component of a child’s development. More than just a means for fun and enjoyment, it is through play that children learn to interact with their world, explore, express themselves, and, most importantly, learn. Different types of play cater to various learning styles, allowing children to learn in a manner that suits them best.
For instance, a kinesthetic learner might enjoy physical play, like sports or dance. This type of play engages their bodies, allowing them to learn new skills or concepts through movement. A tactile learner, on the other hand, might enjoy playing with building blocks or playdough, where they can handle different materials and shapes. Visual learners might prefer games that involve patterns, pictures or colours, while auditory learners may find joy in musical games or story-telling activities.
The Role of Parents in Identifying and Supporting Learning Styles
As parents, our roles extend beyond recognising our children’s learning styles. We must watch how our children express themselves. For instance, auditory learners may express themselves best through words, visual learners through facial expressions, and kinesthetic learners through body language.
Understanding our children’s interests is also crucial. Auditory learners may be interested in music and sounds, visual learners reading and watching, and kinesthetic learners in physical activities. Observing how our children solve problems can also give us clues. Auditory learners might talk through difficulties, visual learners might visually identify issues, and kinesthetic learners may try to solve problems with their hands.
Parents should also take into account genetic factors. While it is important not to make blanket assumptions, evidence suggests that learning styles often run in families. Hence, the learning style of one or both parents might provide insight into the child’s probable learning style.
Ask yourself, how do you learn best as a parent?
Practical Examples of Applying Learning Styles
Practical applications extend to matching the child’s learning style with teaching and studying techniques. Auditory learners can benefit from verbal instruction, reading out loud, and incorporating songs or music into teaching. Visual learners can be taught effectively through visual aids, flashcards, and educational videos. Kinesthetic learners thrive when they engage in hands-on projects.
When teaching children how to study, parents should adapt strategies based on the child’s learning style. Auditory learners can create rhymes or record lectures for later playback. Visual learners can use flashcards and textbooks with graphics, and kinesthetic learners can also use flashcards but may need to take regular breaks when studying.
Fostering Your Child’s Learning Style
While it is essential to understand and cater to your child’s dominant learning style, it is equally important not to limit them to a single learning style. Some children may have a combination of learning styles, and a well-rounded individual needs to acquire and utilise information in various ways. Hence, learning styles should be seen as flexible, and children should be exposed to other learning styles.
Parents should find educational programs that complement their child’s learning style. Traditional educational programs or those with a strong music department might be ideal for auditory learners. Visual learners thrive in programs focused on visual and performing arts. In contrast, kinesthetic learners might do well in a Montessori program with a more hands-on learning approach.
Understanding our children’s learning styles is a dynamic process that continues to evolve as our children grow and develop. As parents, our role is to observe and understand and adapt, adjust, and continually create an environment that enhances their natural abilities and nurtures their love for learning.
The most common style of learning is the visual learning style, with statistics showing that approximately 65% of any learning group, or almost two out of three individuals, prefer this method. Visual learners often thrive when information is presented in the form of pictures, graphs, charts, and illustrations.
- Use Graphic Organisers: Draw mind maps, flowcharts, or diagrams to organise information visually. This helps understand the connections between ideas more effectively.
- Colour Coding: Use different colours for different types of information when taking notes. For example, you can use one colour for definitions, another for examples, and another for important dates.
- Flashcards: Use flashcards with images to study. Draw a picture on one side of the flashcard and write the corresponding word or phrase on the other side.
- Educational Videos: Watch instructional videos or documentaries that explain concepts visually. YouTube and Khan Academy are great resources for this.
- Visual Metaphors and Analogies: Using visual metaphors and analogies can help to understand complex ideas. For instance, comparing the structure of a cell to a city where different parts have specific functions.
- Record and Replay: Record lectures or instructions and replay them later to reinforce the information.
- Read Aloud: When studying, read the material aloud. This can help you remember the information better.
- Use Rhymes and Music: Create rhymes or songs to remember information. This can be especially useful for memorising lists or sequences.
- Join Study Groups: Group discussions can help you understand and remember information more effectively.
- Use Mnemonic Devices: Create acronyms or phrases where each word or letter can help you remember a piece of information.
- Hands-on Experiments: Conduct physical experiments. For example, if you’re learning about physics, you might build a small catapult to understand force and energy.
- Role-Playing: Acting out historical events or scientific concepts can help make abstract ideas more concrete.
- Physical Activity while Learning: Try walking around or bouncing a ball while studying. Physical activity can help stimulate your mind.
- Use Real-Life Examples: Incorporate real-life examples in your study sessions. For example, try dividing a pizza or a pie if you’re learning about fractions.
- Build Models: If you’re studying a tangible concept, build a model of it. This can work for everything from molecules in chemistry to architectural structures in history.
- Manipulatives: Use physical objects to learn concepts. For example, use counting blocks or coins to learn math concepts or magnetic letters to learn phonics and spelling.
- Crafting: Build models or do crafts to understand concepts. For instance, constructing a 3D solar system model can help understand planets’ relative positions and sizes.
- Writing and Drawing: Taking detailed notes or sketching can be beneficial. The act of writing or drawing is a tactile activity that reinforces learning.
- Interactive Activities: Use touch-based tech tools, like tablets or smartboards, that allow for interactive learning.
- Field Trips: Direct experiences can be constructive for tactile learners. For example, a visit to a historical site, a science museum, or a zoo can provide opportunities for hands-on exploration