We each have our own unique learning style, and if we can identify a child’s learning style, we will be much better able to connect with them and support them in their learning. Our teaching will also be much more effective.
Children too can benefit from understanding their personal learning style. This knowledge can help them to access learning opportunities more effectively, and give them a sense of empowerment and control over their learning. It can also help them relate to and communicate better with the various people in their life, including their teachers.
Learning styles are based on the way we each receive and process information, an issue that is of particular importance for a child with dyslexia. There are four basic ways we each receive information. We can most effectively support a child’s learning by offering them materials and experiences designed for their unique learning style.
Visual learning style – This child receives information best through their eyes and what they see and read. Often these children teach themselves to read. They may find it difficult to concentrate on spoken instructions but respond well to visual aids such as pictures, diagrams and charts. The tend to visualise ideas and remember the visual details of places and objects they have seen. According to research about 65% of people have this learning style.
Auditory learning style – This child learns best by hearing things – either on tape or in a discussion. They are good at listening carefully and then repeating instructions either aloud or mentally in order to remember what they have learned. Research suggests that about 30% of people use this learning style. Children with this learning style tend to be the talkers as well as the listeners in group situations and benefit from being able to discuss ideas. Auditory learners can be easily distracted by noise and may concentrate better with background music to disguise potentially disruptive noises.
Kinaesthetic learning style – This child reminds us of the term ‘energy in motion’. They need to make physical contact with things that they are learning about. In fact, most young children instinctively prefer this method of learning – touching and experiencing helps them to make sense of new information. This is also a particularly important method of learning for dyslexic children of all ages. About 5% of adults prefer to use this style of learning too.
Social learning style – This child learns by interaction with other people. They thrive on one-to-one attention and again they learn well through direct experience.It is important for us to remember that the children we are supporting do not necessarily have the same learning style as ourselves and we need to remain open-minded and have a range of approaches available to us. When working with a group of children, it may be necessary to explore a subject in several different ways to ensure that we meet the needs of each child’s individual learning style.
Identifying your own learning style will help you to understand more about these ideas.
You probably have a visual learning style if you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:
- When working out how to spell a word, do you try to visualise it in your head?
- Do you talk sparingly and try to avoid listening for too long?
- Do you use words such as ‘see’, ‘picture’ and ‘imagine’ a lot?
- Are you easily distracted by untidiness or movement?
- When reading, do you prefer descriptive scenes or pause to imagine the actions?
- When learning something new, do you like to see demonstrations, diagrams, slides, or posters?
You probably have an auditory learning style if you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:
- When working out how to spell a word, do you sound out the word or use a phonetic approach?
- Do you enjoy listening but are impatient to talk?
- Do you use words such as ‘hear’, ‘tune’, and ‘think’?
- Do you become distracted by sounds or noises?
- When reading, do you enjoy dialogue and conversation or hear the characters talk?
- When learning something new, do you prefer verbal instructions or talking about it with someone else?
You probably have a kinaesthetic and tactile learning style if you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:
- When working out how to spell a word, Do you write the word down to find if it feels right?
- When having a conversation do you gesture and use expressive movements?Do you use words such as ‘feel’, ‘touch’, and ‘hold’?
- Do you become distracted by activity around you?
- When reading, do you prefer action stories or are not a keen reader?
- When learning something new, do you prefer to jump right in and try it?