Is your child constantly restless and fidgets when he’s doing math homework or insists on listening to music while studying vocabulary words. Although it may seem like he’s trying to drive you crazy, he’s probably just using the strategies that help him learn.
Every child learns in a slightly different way, experts say, and figuring out your child’s own learning style can help assure academic success. In some cases, it may even help do away with labels, like “attention deficit disorder (ADD)” and “learning disabled (LD).”
“There are many different patterns of learning, and the best thing that a parent can do is step back and observe what seems to be happening and what seems to be working with their child.”
Learning styles really start to crystallize during the middle school years and parents can begin evaluating their child’s learning style at age 6 or 7.
Understanding your child’s disposition can also help you determine his or her learning style. For example, is your child adventurous? Inventing? Or thinking/creating like a poet or a philosopher? An adventurous personality really has to move to learn, so sitting at desk all day doesn’t do it for them. By contrast, “a child with an inventing disposition asks a million questions, such as ‘How does this work?’ ‘What about this?'”
Another factor to observe is your child’s “learning modality” This refers to which senses your child best learns through. Are they auditory (listening and verbal), visual (picture or print), or tactile-kinesthetic (hands-on, whole-body, sketching or writing)?
Auditory learners prefer listening to explanations over reading them and may like to study by reciting information aloud. This type of learner may want to have background music while studying, or they may be distracted by noises and need a quiet space to study.
Kinesthetic learners learn by doing and touching. They may have trouble sitting still while studying, and they are better able to understand information by writing it down or doing hands-on activities.
Visual learners process new information by reading, looking at graphics, or watching a demonstration. Children with this learning style can grasp information presented in a chart or graph, but they may grow impatient listening to an explanation.
Most people use a combination of styles but have a clear preference for one. Understanding your child’s learning style can reduce homework frustrations and make it easier for families to communicate. Once you know your child’s primary learning style, it’s a good idea to let his teacher know what kind of approaches help him learn best.
Playing to Your Child’s Strengths
Once you have identified your child’s learning style, you can begin to build on his or her strengths to compensate for learning weaknesses — without labels. Another way to enhance learning is to focus on your child’s affinities and areas of interest.
“If a little girl has a lot of spatial problems (difficulty picturing things), but is terrific in English, she can learn math by putting everything into her own words,” “If you show her an equilateral triangle and ask her to talk about it, boy, will she understand it. “She can only understand things in words, which is why she is such a terrific English student.”
Also, acknowledging and honoring their interests and talents tells you a lot about their learning style. If your child is really interested in plants and gardening, you can see if they are more hands-on and they need to go out there and garden. Or do they learn better from pictures about gardening, or reading about gardening?”
Tips for Each Learning Style
Auditory learners are typically good at absorbing information from spoken words. Strategies that work well for auditory learners include:
•Talking to themselves or with others about what they’re learning
•Reciting important information aloud, perhaps recording it and playing it back
•Reading a book and listening to the audio book at the same time
•Using word associations
•Setting information to a tune and singing it to help remember it
•Limiting distracting noises
Kinesthetic learners prefer to be active while studying and may not be able to focus while sitting still. Strategies for kinesthetic learners include:
•Reading aloud and tracking words on a page with a finger
•Writing things down multiple times to commit them to memory
•Highlighting and underlining
•Playing with a stress ball or toy while studying
•Moving around or taking frequent breaks
•Doing hands-on activities, such as building models or playing games
Visual learners benefit from seeing information on a chalkboard or in an illustration and may grow impatient listening for long periods of time. Strategies for visual learners include:
•Studying charts, tables, and maps
•Writing things down and reviewing notes
•Highlighting and underlining
All children need to have experiences that call every learning style into play so that they can succeed in school and beyond. But when we help our kids learn in the way that’s most natural for them, they’re more likely to develop the confidence needed to master every learning style.