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  Articles for children's care, learning and development
  Articles for research and leads for children's care learning and development
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 same.

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?
Sensory perception - Kinaesthetic, auditory, visual

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.

www. Brightstarters.co.uk

patterns, sequence, individuality ..

“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:

 “observe 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 out facts.

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.

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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 eye movement.

Visual Learners tend to say thing such as:
 green   “I see what you mean”, “I get the picture” and “what’s your view?
 green Visual learners tend to look upwards when thinking or answering a question.
Auditory Learners tend to say thing such as:
 green “I hear what you’re say”, “Sounds ok to me” and “that rings a bell”.
 green Auditory learners tend to look straight ahead when thinking or answering a question.
Kinaesthetic Learners tend to say thing such as:
 green “I catch your drift”, “I get what you’re saying”, “It feels alright”.
 green Kinaesthetic learners tend to look down when thinking or answering a question.

 *1  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’

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Complete the following questionnaire and see if you can identify your child’s learning style

Click to download / open the questionnaire word .Doc

How 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 kinaesthetic learners.
Eve Wilson outlines the different methods used in her Bright Starters classes to teach these skills according to the learning style: 
Visual Learners – Letter shapes and sounds
orange    Colouring pictures
orange    Jigsaws both manual and onscreen
orange    Word matching puzzles
orange    Matching Stickers with words and letters
orange    Word Bingo
orange    Colourful books
orange    Literacy programmes on television

Visual Learners – Colours
orange    Point out in stories
orange    Talk about the colour of clothes as the child gets dressed
orange    Point out colours in the environment

Visual Learners – Numbers
orange    Use the numbers in the environment, in the shops etc
orange    Use the excellent TV programmes
orange    Use jigsaws of numerals
orange    Count and colour shapes
orange    Colour in numerals

 patterns, sequence, individuality .. patterns, sequence, individuality ..   TOP
Auditory Learners – Letter shapes and sounds

orange   Learn letter sounds through music and rhyme
orange   Talk the letter shapes out –  E.g for the letter ‘C’ tell your child to pretend to drive a car round the bend etc
orange   Talk about stories that you have read to your child and ask them questions
orange   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.
orange   Use a song to teach the alphabet  ( Bright Starters uses ‘Bright Beats’ in its classes which are available from www.Learn4life.co.uk
Auditory Learners – Colours

orange   Say the colour out loud , e g Yellow for the sun then show the picture
orange   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!
orange   Use colours in songs and rhymes
Auditory Learner – Numbers

orange 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
orange   Make a line of numbers using a washing line and pegs. Say the number as the child puts them on the line
orange   Point out numbers in the environment – in shops etc  and always say them as you point
orange   Use the excellent programmes now available on TV

patterns, sequence, individuality .. patterns, sequence, individuality ..   TOP

Kinaesthetic Learners – Letter shapes and sounds

orange   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.
orange   Make letter shapes with playdough
orange   Make a set of letter shapes using sandpaper so that the child can actually feel the shape.
orange   Print out balloon words and get the child to colour in the words
orange   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)
orange   Get the child to draw the letter in the air and then on someone’s back
orange   Walk a finger puppet around the letter shape
orange   Play word and letter bingo
orange   Play a ‘Corners Game’ but use letters and words

Kinaesthetic learners – Colours

orange   Associate the colour with a physical object i.e . Orange for the colour orange.
orange   Always use actual objects for the child to pick up and hold
orange   Use a different texture for each colour – e.g. make a set of cards using sandpaper for one, felt for another, etc

Kinaesthetic learners – Numbers

orange   Use physical blocks or sweets for counting
orange   Make the numbers in salt trays and out of play dough
orange   Get the child to help set the table using one-to-one correspondence (1 for me, 1 for you etc)
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Points to remember:
green The most effective learners use information from all three different inputs; therefore encourage your child to try every activity
green Children will go through phases of different learning styles – babies will progress from using their mouths to hearing and touch.
green 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.
green And finally, the most important of all – children learn best when they are having fun and are successful.
green  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 fun!

Text content and Bright Starters logo on this page: Copyright©Brightstarters.co.uk
Xylophone images: :  iStock© Edyta Linek


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