Teaching a group of kids is a little like juggling plates. You need to make sure that everyone’s needs are catered for, each child is being challenged sufficiently, and that enough support is shown for every skill level.
A big part of that is understanding the varying learning styles of your students — how they absorb content best, what activities suit them, and where they may struggle compared to others.
And if you’re a homeschooler, understanding the preferred learning style of your child is even more significant. You’ll be able to completely tailor your lessons towards their style, which can have a huge impact on their learning.
So let’s go ahead and break down the four learning styles every teacher needs to know.
VARK — the four learning styles
Commonly known as the VARK Model, there are four key learning styles. Each of these learning styles is independent and distinct. The best class lesson plans will, therefore, include elements of each approach to provide a well-rounded learning experience, and homeschool lessons will focus on the learning style of the child in question.
Here’s a brief overview of each learning style…
The visual learning style
Visual learners, as the name suggests, are students who prefer to learn with the support of visual aids. The use of images, mind maps, bright colors, and symbols can help visual learners more effectively understand new information.
If a child is a visual learner, you’ll notice that they learn well by relating certain colors or images to a topic. By attaching a visual meaning to a piece of information, you’ll improve their overall comprehension.
What’s great about visual learning is that it can often be fun, creative, and interactive, both at home or in the classroom. Color-coding, vivid mind maps, and creating memory-boosting symbols are great ways to make visual learning as fun and engaging as possible.
Some learning strategies for visual learners include:
- Redrawing pages of information from memory.
- Replacing keywords with symbols, colors or initials.
- Using highlighters to help the retention of important information.
- Using graphs, charts, and other illustrative devices.
The auditory learning style
Auditory learners are those who learn best by listening. These learners benefit greatly from traditional teaching methods like lectures, classroom debates, discussions, and audio content.
You might think that all students learn by listening. This is true to an extent, but some students really benefit from listening more than others.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that auditory learners shouldn’t be encouraged to take notes or complete worksheets — but it does mean that extra opportunities for listening should be provided.
The following tasks would suit auditory learners best:
- Ask them to record themselves speaking summarized notes, and have them replay the recording.
- Encourage debate and in-depth discussion around specific topics and themes.
- Ask students to reread their notes out loud.
- Offer them the chance to explain their notes to friends.
The reading and writing learning style
Students with a strong reading and writing ability learn best through the use of words. The traditional approach of note-taking, reading, and writing essays are helpful for these learners.
The reading and writing learning style is perfect for humanities subjects. So, you might find that students of this style do better in these classes, as retention will come more naturally.
On the other hand, learning math, science, and other data-driven subjects can be trickier for students who prefer to read and write. To help these learners with these subjects, encourage them to translate data into written text. This will help them both understand and retain the information.
Other learning activities suited to this style include:
- Lots and lots of writing!
- Translating concepts, diagrams, and charts into written statements.
- Rewording main principles into more detailed pieces of text.
The kinesthetic learning style
Kinesthetic learning — also known as tactile learning — represents students who best understand information by physical means. Kinesthetic learners prefer to ‘do’ and not just ‘see’.
Learners of this style benefit from physical activities and getting involved in the action. Although this can be fun and interactive, it can also be tricky to incorporate, as most lessons require more traditional teaching methods to get the point across.
That said, there are many ways you can incorporate a kinesthetic approach to your lesson plans. Here’s how:
- Use real-life examples and case studies to demonstrate academic concepts that can feel removed from reality.
- Include projects and creative activities in your lessons. When teaching math, for example, use money to explain a particular sum or method. This is a physical thing students can understand.
- Use pictures and images to create a more dynamic learning style that brings students into the action, as opposed to isolating them at their desks.
- Group work is a great way for kinesthetic learners to feel like they’re ‘doing’ and not just ‘listening’.
Which learning style does your child have?
Identifying the learning style of your child can be instrumental in supporting their education. Here is a quiz to get you on the right track:
1) Your child is struggling with a math question. Do they:
- Ask you to repeat the question, or keep reading it back to themselves?
- Lay out physical objects to help determine the sum?
- Use their hands to count out numbers?
- Write down the sum in written words to make sense of it?
2) You are reading your child a story, and ask them to read back a line or two. Do they:
- Ask you to repeat the line before attempting to speak it?
- Focus on repeating the illustrations they see instead?
- Zone out, and don’t show much interest?
- Read the line independently and with confidence?
3) When learning new information, does your child…
- Rely on you to explain it to them, before understanding it?
- Respond well to colors, toys, and pictures relating to the concept?
- Want to ‘do’ whatever you’re teaching instead of saying or listening to it?
- Write down the information in notes?
As you might’ve guessed, each answer directly corresponds with one of the four learning styles:
A = Auditory learning
B = Visual learning
C = Kinesthetic learning
D = Reading and writing learning
If you noticed a pattern in your answers, it’s likely that you’ve identified the learning style of your child. But if not, don’t worry. Some children require a more holistic approach to learning — taking a little from each of the learning styles — and that’s absolutely fine, too.
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