What do we mean by Learning Style? Learning styles according to Wikipedia is nothing but different ways by which a person can learn. These are the ways a person picks up information from their surroundings, understands them and retains the information. However, the way a person does this varies from one to another.
There are many theories on learning style but the most important ones are the VAT style, which stands for Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. Although every child learns by using all the three ways one of the three is used as the primary mode of learning.
But why is it important to know and understand about the learning style of a child?
This is because a child with each learning types has unique personality traits and the child’s personality influences how they learn. So by knowing about a child’s learning style, it becomes easy for teachers and caregivers to understand a child’s personality trait and teach them appropriately as per their type.
When children are not taught as per their learning styles they can become restless and aggressive. It has been seen such children have been stamped with conditions like learning disabilities, autism and so on.
A study conducted by Specific Diagnostic Studies on all students in elementary and secondary schools (Miller, 2001).
Visual learners grasp information with ease through images and illustrations. They need to see what they are learning. This can include anything from pictures, photos, drawings, charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, and videos, to seeing animals, plants, people, and objects. They would prefer to read a story rather than hear an audio book of the same story. They also love to watch videos. They will simplify complicated learning materials by drawing charts and diagrams to retain the information easily.
During a lecture visual learners usually, take notes rather than just sit and listen. If taught with pictures, videos, graphs and other visual materials they pick up and retain information very easily. For them, one picture equals to a hundred words. They are good in spelling because research suggests that spelling relies heavily on visual memory. They love colors and diagrams. They often underline texts with color pencils and highlighters. Visual learners are easily distracted by disturbances and so they prefer to study alone in a quiet place.
When gathering information during a conversation or lectures they will continuously form images in their mind. They will get bored if the information cannot be visualized and so start asking questions for clarification. When they speak, they often use a lot of ‘visual words’ like, ‘ see, look, sight, bright, picture etc’
They are good observers. They can easily pick up slightest of change in gestures, body language or even appearance or spatial arrangement of things in their environment. For example, they will know changes in the appearance of a person or arrangement of furniture in a room. Since they observe more and speak less during conversation in a group they may appear to be shy
Children who are visual usually do not easily express easily what goes on in their mind. It requires patience and repeated questioning preferably in a one to one setting to get to know their mind. They are not very good listeners. It is seen visual learners forget names but remember faces because names have no images, but they will remember names if they can form an image with it. For example, it’s easy for them to remember a name like ‘Rose’ rather than a name like ‘John’.
They love to be noticed and so they speak with a lot of gestures, crack jokes, and dress up well. In fact they have a good sense of fashion. Everything around them must be visually appealing. So they like cleanliness and things to be well organized
When teaching a visual child it’s better to use a lot of visual inputs. For example, it may be difficult to teach 4 > 2, but they will easily understand the concept if it is shown by drawing a set of 4 and 2 balls. Failing to do so may frustrate them and eventually lose interest in the subject.
Body Language of Visual Learners
· Sit up straight and make eye contact while listening to someone speak
· Use a lot of gestures while speaking.
· Touching or pointing to the eyes and gestures made above eye level
· They can be easily distracted by sounds while speaking
· While trying to recall something they may look up y tilting their head back or even roll their eyeballs up.
· Rapid shallow chest breathing
· Usually walk very fast
· When excited speak rapidly with high pitch
Recommendation for teaching a visual child-
Include a lot of pictures and diagrams while teaching. For example, if you want to teach about ‘above and below’ use a picture as shown below instead of teaching them definitions.
· Buy books with lot of pictures, for examples comic books
· Use teaching tools and toys which convey the information you want to give.
· Show them videos and pictures of what you are teaching them on the internet. For example, they may not remember a rabbit lives in a burrow, but if you show a picture they will surely remember.
· Use highlighters and colors to mark important texts.
· Use colors when writing spellings
· To teach them about animals and historical stuff visit a zoo and museum.
As the name suggests these type of children learn by sound. To learn they must HEAR. They are comfortable when a text is read and explained to them rather than reading the text themselves.
According to Nusa Maal (2004), 20% – 30% of people are auditory learners. Even though less than one-third of the population prefers auditory learning, this is the way almost all schools provide instruction. Auditory instruction involves lecture, recalling information in sequence, and teaching through reading.
Memorizing and reproducing lessons are easy for auditory learners. They love to talk and explain things. So in a group, they are the ones who do the talking. In fact, they will even interrupt when others are speaking to say what they want to say. It is difficult to stop them from talking. They cannot keep quiet for long. They are not afraid to speak and ask questions in public. They do very well in group discussions. They love to hear news on TV than reading a newspaper.
When studying they read out their lessons as they need to hear what they read. Unlike visual learners, they are comfortable with lectures even if there are no visual presentations. They don’t like taking down notes and can remember most of the information just by hearing it. They are good at remembering dates and names. In music, some of the auditory learners are good at hearing a tune and reproducing it rather than feeling and expressing it.
They can understand hidden meaning behind words by hearing the tone of the voice. They have good voice modulation. During conversations, they often use ‘auditory words’ like listen, hear, sound, noise, loud, ring etc.
How to teach an auditory learner?
· They should be made to read aloud
· Listen to audio books and recorded material of their lessons.
· Use mnemonics, songs, and poetry for memorization
· Participate in debates, story-telling and speech competition
· Ask them to talk about what they have learned.
· The learning material should be read out to them.
Body Language of Auditory Learners
· While speaking they use their voice as per the punctuation. That means pauses will be as much as it should be to explain commas and full stops. So they are good speakers
· When communicating one on one the person may tilt their head to one side
· They have a voice that resonates
· Breathe in mid chest
· Eyes may look to the right or left while recalling an event
· Pointing towards or gesturing near the ear
· Touching mouth or jaw
· Eye balls stay in the middle
· Frowns while thinking and diaphragmatic breathing
Kinesthetic learners must feel to learn, to feel through touch, taste, and smell. They love doing something and learning in the process. They love to be part of case studies and project work. Instead of learning text books of science they would prefer to spend time experimenting in the science lab. To learn they need to use their hands, move things and feel them. Since feeling and doing is important they remember what they have done. They often tend to be good in sports and dance which involves the use of muscles and body movements. A kinesthetic child will often dismantle and again fix a toy. They enjoy making things with their hands. They love to keep themselves busy doing different things. They just cannot sit still. They love movement from chewing to fidgeting. So they are sometimes wrongly labeled as hyperactive. They love collecting things with which they can make or fix something, for example, things like screw drivers, knives, dryers, cleansing lotions etc. They like to touch and be touched. They don’t feel loved if not touched especially in tense moments. During conversations, they use a lot of “feeling words’ like grasp, touch, solid, heavy, smooth, rough etc. When they speak they need to feel every word they say and hence they speak slowly. They will not undertake any work unless they feel like doing it. So they take time for decisions. They are explorers! They will find out information rather than waiting for someone to give it to them. They are more of the doing kind rather than the thinking kind. So to teach let them do things on their own. They are very emotional and have a lot of passion for what they do. To last in any kind of work or relationship they need to feel good about it otherwise they lose interest.
According to Nusa Maal, kinesthetic learning is the furthest from traditional teaching methods. Therefore teaching kinesthetic learners requires active, creative lesson planning. Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on, manipulative activities, plays, moving around while memorizing, through reenactments, art, dance, and other active learning channels.
How to teach a kinesthetic learner?
· If they want to walk and learn something let them do it.
· Use a lot of role play
· Doing the experiments they learn in science lessons
· Enroll them in dance class, craft lessons and drama workshop
· Teach them clay modeling and playing with wooden blocks
· Make them write what they have learned.
Body Language of Kinesthetic Learners
· Walks slowly
· Breathe deeply
· Speak slowly and softly
· Settle or move into a warm comfortable position
· Calm, emotional and caring
· Eyes may look down when talking
· Touches others when talking and like to be touched
· Stand close to others
· Like to huddle in groups
· Eye balls move down
· Touching chest and stomach area and gestures made below neck level
· While thinking they have their head and shoulders down with deep abdominal breathing
Learning Styles and relationship
Learning styles have a lot to do with relationship issues. The way we learn also influences a lot the way we communicate. For example, visual learners usually don’t speak up in groups and are more observant. He or she may be considered as shy and introvert. So there may be unnecessary pressure on a child to speak up. Furthermore, children who are visual learners don’t easily express verbally what goes on in their mind. They need to be asked repeatedly more questions and in a one to one setting rather than in a group. They are not good listeners too. So if one is not aware of this the child may face unnecessary stress if forced to answer. This ultimately reflects on the relationship the child has with the parents.
It is seen visual learners forget names but remember faces because names have no images, but they will remember names if they can form an image with it. for example, it’s easy for them to remember a name like ‘Rose’ rather than a name like ‘John’. Sometimes among friends, someone may feel bad if his or her name is forgotten by a visual learner. They may be labeled as poor learners in school if they are exposed more to auditory instructions in schools and colleges. If no attempt is made to teach them visually it affects their self-esteem and their relationship with their friends.
On the other hand, auditory learners are comfortable when a text is read to them and can have poor reading skills. Children of the auditory type often interrupt when others are speaking to say what they want to say. It is said that it is easy to get an auditory learner to talk but it’s difficult to make them stop. Such behavior of auditory children may be seen as misbehavior. The parents may be thought of as someone who has not disciplined their child. All these factors affect the mind and relationships of auditory learners.
A child who is a kinesthetic learner will often dismantle and again fix a toy they keep themselves so busy doing that sometimes they are labeled as hyperactive. They like being close to others and like to touch people while speaking. This may be seen as bad manners especially among opposite genders and may lead to misunderstandings and strained relationship. They may move their legs or even move around while studying. Such children have been thought of to be anxious.
Sometimes we tend to treat them according to our own learning style. For example, an auditory mother may love to teach her visual child by lecturing which will only frustrate both of them. For nurturing your child and unlocking their true potential, working closely with them and if need be seeking professional help to find their learning style, will ensure a happy childhood and holistic development.