for children's care, learning
|What kind of learner is your child?
by Katie Sarl
Article published 12th October 2008
|Every parent knows
that no child is alike; each has his or her own unique way of doing things.
We know that just because one child achieves a developmental milestone
at a particular age doesn’t necessarily mean the next child will do the
As parents we tend to put this down to personality but could this
be due to the child’s learning style instead? If so, what are these
learning styles and how do we know which learning style our child has?
And once we know what learning style they prefer, how can we adapt activities
to help them learn more effectively?
|Eve Wilson, a Qualified
OfSted Inspector and former Head-teacher, is the founder of Bright Starters
classes for early years language development. Eve believes that knowing
which learning style suits your child and the techniques that work best
for that style, can aid your child’s education immensely.
|“Adapting activities to a child’s
learning style, enables that child to grasp the learning activity much,
more quickly because you are presenting the information in a format that
child is predisposed to understand."
Quote Eve Wilson.
"In our Bright-Starter
classes we use a range of multi- sensory techniques to teach letter
sounds, shapes and words; in this way we cater for all different learning
styles – if a child doesn’t grasp the concept one way then we change our
approach and use a different technique.”
Eve believes schools are now recognising learning styles more
and more, especially in the light of the introduction of the Early Years
Foundation Stage - EYFS. One of the learning and development themes of
the EYFS is ‘Enabling Environments’ whereby practitioners have to:
the children in order to understand and consider their current interests,
development and learning” (EYFS 2007).
In the past, according to Eve, “schools tended to be biased
towards visual learners teaching many lessons by the ‘chalk and talk’
approach with the children expected to listen whilst the teacher explained/handed
Even when apparently working in groups, the pupils were not actually
co-operatively learning but were discouraged from talking and usually
told to ‘ get on with (your) work and stop chatting’.
Auditory and kinaesthetic learners, therefore particularly struggled
as not only were they discouraged from using their particular skills,
they also had requirements that were rarely met in school. This became
more marked in the older age ranges”.
You might well ask when did this all come about? Well, the concept
of learning styles is not new; in fact the best-known and most often-cited
learning model is the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK) model developed
by early years specialists and psychologists such as Keller, Orton, Gillingham,
Stillman and Montessori way back in the 1920s.
The VAK model categorises learners according to their senses,
after all it is our senses that help us to receive, process and impart
information. Dr Lauren Bradley *1 believes that, although most of
us use all our senses, when it comes to learning we have an innate preference
. Using this model, visual learners are said to learn by seeing and observing
things, preferring information given in charts, diagrams, mind-maps,
pictures, demonstrations and handouts. Often these types of learners
hate reading out loud and tend to use higher reading strategies such as
skimming and scanning. Auditory learners learn through hearing, preferring
discussion, learning through music, jokes and rhymes. They often talk out
loud to themselves and have difficulty with reading and writing tasks.
Kinaesthetic learners learn by touching and doing, preferring activities
which involve physical experiences –feeling, holding and ‘hands on’ techniques.
NLP (Neuro - Linguistic Programming) experts *2 even go as far as stating that
you can tell a person’s learning style preference by their speech and
tend to say thing such as:
“I see what you mean”, “I get the picture” and “what’s
Visual learners tend to look upwards when thinking or
answering a question.
Auditory Learners tend
to say thing such as:
“I hear what you’re say”, “Sounds ok to me” and “that rings a
Auditory learners tend to look straight ahead when thinking
or answering a question.
Kinaesthetic Learners tend to say thing such as:
“I catch your drift”, “I get what you’re saying”, “It feels alright”.
Kinaesthetic learners tend to look down when thinking
or answering a question.
Dr Lauren Bradley, www.helpingchildrengrow.com/learningstyles.php
*2 O’Connor and Seymour “Introducing
NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programming” Thorsons; 2Rev Ed edition (Jan 2003).
NLP is a form of physiotherapy that examines how the way we think
(neuro), the language we use (linguistic) and our learnt behaviour (programming)
produces the outcomes and results we experience in life. Learning
styles in NLP are referred to as ‘Representational systems’
Complete the following questionnaire and see if you can identify
your child’s learning style
Click to download / open the questionnaire word .Doc
can I use this information to help my child?
Like many parents, we want our children to learn basic concepts
such as some letter sounds, shapes, days of the week, colours and basic
numbers before going to school. All too often we hear parents say that,
“my child just won’t sit down and concentrate” or that they show no
interest in reading – this maybe because the technique they are using
conflicts with their learning style. In Eve’s 30 years experience in education,
she has found that all young children can only concentrate on a task for
a short period of time and need frequent breaks in order to learn, especially
Eve Wilson outlines the different methods used in her Bright Starters
classes to teach these skills according to the learning style:
Learners – Letter shapes and sounds
Jigsaws both manual and onscreen
Word matching puzzles
Matching Stickers with words and letters
Literacy programmes on television
Visual Learners –
Point out in stories
Talk about the colour of clothes as the child gets
Point out colours in the environment
Visual Learners –
Use the numbers in the environment, in the shops
Use the excellent TV programmes
Use jigsaws of numerals
Count and colour shapes
Colour in numerals
– Letter shapes and sounds
Learn letter sounds through music and rhyme
Talk the letter shapes out – E.g for the letter ‘C’
tell your child to pretend to drive a car round the bend etc
Talk about stories that you have read to your child and
ask them questions
Describe the shape as you are helping the child to write
it – ‘Start at the top, go down to the bottom, up to the middle and
round’. Encourage the child to say it with you.
Use a song to teach the alphabet ( Bright Starters
uses ‘Bright Beats’ in its classes which are available from www.Learn4life.co.uk
Say the colour out loud , e g Yellow for the sun then show
Make up a silly rhyme for each colour ‘ Red in my
head’ and tap your head. Encourage the child to make these up with you
– the sillier the better!
Use colours in songs and rhymes
Use Nursery Rhymes – ‘1,2,3,4,5 Once I caught a fish alive’ ,
Ten in the Bed’ Six Little Ducks’ etc. Show the numbers as you sing them
Make a line of numbers using a washing line and pegs. Say
the number as the child puts them on the line
Point out numbers in the environment – in shops etc
and always say them as you point
Use the excellent programmes now available on TV
– Letter shapes and sounds
Fill a tray with back paper and add salt. Shake the tray
so the salt is evenly spread over the black paper and get the child
to draw out the letter in the salt. This is a very effective way
of teaching letter shapes – especially as the letter is black on a white
background similar to reading books.
Make letter shapes with playdough
Make a set of letter shapes using sandpaper so that the
child can actually feel the shape.
Print out balloon words and get the child to colour in
Buy and use Letter tracks to teach letter shapes -
letter track is where a letter is designed like a car track and
the child has to drive the car around the track in accordance with the
way the letter is written (Available from Learn4life.co.uk)
Get the child to draw the letter in the air and then on
Walk a finger puppet around the letter shape
Play word and letter bingo
Play a ‘Corners Game’ but use letters and words
learners – Colours
Associate the colour with a physical object i.e . Orange
for the colour orange.
Always use actual objects for the child to pick up and
Use a different texture for each colour – e.g. make a set
of cards using sandpaper for one, felt for another, etc
Use physical blocks or sweets for counting
Make the numbers in salt trays and out of play dough
Get the child to help set the table using one-to-one correspondence
(1 for me, 1 for you etc)
|Points to remember:
The most effective learners use
information from all three different inputs; therefore encourage your
child to try every activity
Children will go through phases
of different learning styles – babies will progress from using their
mouths to hearing and touch.
Children are learning throughout
the day not just at specific learning times so although gauging their
preferred style may be helpful, use this as a guide not a rule.
And finally, the most important of all – children
learn best when they are having fun and are successful.
Only expect the play to last a short while
and NEVER continue when the child loses interest or becomes tired. Above
all, do remember that genuine praise is the best motivator of all so
look for every opportunity to give it sincerely.
Enjoy learning with your child and have
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