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The Basic of Learning Styles

1. Visual

Visual learners create a mental image they can recall later. To create the mental image, they must first either see the problem or situation. The visual learner is aided by demonstrations and illustrations. These learners are often good map and chart readers and may enjoy art. Visual learners often can put a toy or other item together without reading the directions because they can “see” how it goes together.

2. Auditory

Auditory learners have a good ability to mentally compartmentalize information they receive. They can organize information they hear, relate it to other information they have already gathered and retrieve it later. These learners are often good verbal communicators, have good verbal processing skills and may enjoy reading. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.

3. Tactile or kinesthetic

Tactile learners prefer to be part of the action. They learn best not by observing, but by doing. They are the hands-on learners. These learners excel in situations where they can see and participate in immediate application of the information. They may appear bored and inattentive in a traditional classroom and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.

4. Interactive or iterative learners

Although not one of the traditional learning styles, this category deserves some attention. Interactive learners need give and take. They need reinforcement, correction and guidance. They may need to have the information repeated, or re-demonstrated. They may need to ask questions, seek elaboration or more focus on a particular element. This category includes both the concrete thinkers who seek all the details and the abstract learner who takes in information through analysis, observation, and thinking.

How can a teacher possibly teach students across the spectrum of learning styles? Most teachers are very aware that every child is different and plan their curriculum to motivate all students to learn. Teachers don’t just know subject material, they know how to teach it. And most teachers strive to accommodate the various learning styles represented in their classroom.

Teachers use graphs, charts, maps and board games to create patterns for visual learners. When printed material is used, the teacher offers discussion, emphasizes visualization and encourages illustration. Auditory learners may do well in the traditional lecture formatted classroom, but deserve additional stimuli to broaden their learning skills and to create a richer environment. Auditory learners may enjoy discussion or debate groups. They may excel in music or a foreign language course. Science experiments, art and building projects, cooking projects or math manipulatives all contribute to the successful teaching of tactile learners. Self-esteem is promoted in tactile learners by asking them to demonstrate techniques or activities for the rest of the class.

Parents must be aware of how their children learn and seek situations or classrooms that will facilitate their success. If that is not possible, then supplemental learning material and experiences have to be sought. Fortunately for parents, there are multitudes of resources for their kids, both at home and in school. Parents should start with the techniques teachers use above and they will quickly see what their child responds to.

Encourage a visual learner to read. Computer software with creative animations or graphics will provide the visual reinforcement that will make learning easier for these students. The interactive quality of educational software helps to reinforce the written word with the visual cues.

Give an auditory learner a tape recorder and audio books. Exploit that fact that this child may learn a foreign language with ease. Foreign language instruction can successfully be learned interactively on a home computer. Engage your auditory learner in conversation. Strive to encourage complex thinking and discussion, analysis of situations and problem-solving. Discuss books, movies, feelings and facts. Encourage them to watch the nightly news and discuss it with them.

Tactile learners need to get their hands into the learning experience. Budding archaeologists and scientists love to get their hands in their work and will enjoy specialty camps and discovery museums. They might enjoy any activity from cooking to creating models of working volcanoes.

It is the students that need the extra explanation or additional reinforcement of concepts and skills that present the most challenge. Time alone is the worst enemy of this learner. Individualized attention and instruction isn’t always possible within the constraints of the classroom and the school day. The interactive or iterative learner will benefit from material that supplements classroom learning, such as homework or educational software. This may take the form of a tutor or parent who can reinforce classroom concepts and provide additional instruction. Subject-specific educational software may be helpful here, due to its self-paced quality.

The most beneficial teaching technique that any parent or teacher can employ is to recognize and acknowledge that each child has a different learning style, each of which is valid. Teachers and parents who provide rich, learning environments for their students’ varied learning styles will produce confident, successful kids.