Meeting kids halfway
Now that school is in full swing, parents should pay attention to their child’s preferred method of learning
With kids officially off to class, parents are already dealing with homework, lunches and all those after school activities.
One area that parents should devote their attention to is their child’s learning styles. A “learning style” is one’s preferred way of perceiving, conceptualizing, organizing and recalling information. It is influenced by genetics, previous learning experiences, culture and the society one lives in. Identifying and understanding your child’s style can help their at-home learning and classroom learing as well. Visual learners Visual learners watch faces intently to pick up information, and enjoy written texts, maps and charts. They often recall the positioning of information on a page and can become distracted by messy surroundings or movement around them. They generally dislike sitting and listening for long periods. These learners need a visually stimulating learning environment. At home, try presenting pertinent words or equations on colourful posters and wall displays. Auditory learners Auditory learners prefer verbal instructions and enjoy dialogues, plays, debates, discussions and stories read aloud. They will solve problems by talking about them and sound out new words phonetically. They forget faces, but remember names and what was talked about. Children who are auditory learners enjoy working in pairs and small groups. During at-home study time, try using educational videos and recordings to enhance the learning experience. Telling stories as a family, singing songs and chanting/memory work will simplify the retention of information and even make it enjoyable. Kinaesthetic learners Kinaesthetic learners learn through active involvement and have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time. They will learn new skills by practising over and over to get them right and use movement as a memory aid. They enjoy sports, competitions and board games and prefer group activities to solo work. They can become distracted by activity around them and need to have activity worked into the classroom routine. Quiet seat work must be followed by something that allows them to get up and move. For the athome kinaesthetic learner, try playing active trivia games that test the whole family’s smarts and also encourage movement such as gesturing, flailing and wiggling to win the game. Tactile learners Tactile learners will use writing and drawing as memory aids. They’ll test the spelling of a word by writing it down to find out if it “feels right” and will use gesture and expressive movements while talking. They enjoy handson activities and interactive projects and become distracted by activity in their environment. They often ignore directions, instead they choose to figure things out as they go along. Parents of tactile learners might consider investing in a dry erase board or chalkboard to allow the child to better process ideas. Other paradigms • Active vs. Reflective: the active learner says, “Let’s try this out and see if it works.” The reflective one says, “Let’s discuss this first.” • Sensing vs. Intuitive: sensing learners are detail and fact oriented. Intuitive ones are more abstract and conceptual in their thinking. • Sequential vs. Global: sequential learners acquire information in a linear, logical, stepby-step way. Global ones look at the big picture, filling in random details later. • Left-brained (intellectual, objective, linear, verbal) vs. Right-brained (intuitive, subjective, holistic, visual). ADHD One last way that understanding learning preferences can be helpful is when it comes to the realm of behavioural challenges. There appears to be a fine line between children who are strong kinaesthetic learners and those with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Since kinaesthetic teaching methods are the ones used least often in schools, these children struggle in classrooms that require sitting still and listening. The director of National Reading Diagnostic Institute (N.R.D.I.), Ricki Linksman, says, “A kinaesthetic learner may not need medication so much as innovative teaching methods.” Something to think about if your leg-jiggling, pencil-tapping child has been flagged for a potential attention or behavioural disorder. It might also be a good idea to have a formal assessment conducted by a licensed child psychotherapist.
Remember, these labels are just guidelines – a way to tune in to your child’s learning habits and better communicate with teachers. Don’t use them to put your child into a “learning box,” because we all demonstrate various styles at different times.
Understanding that your child has a unique learning style is step number one