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 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
|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
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.
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.
Learners tend to say thing such as:
“I see what you mean”, “I get the picture” and “what’s your view?
Visual learners tend to look upwards when thinking or answering a
Learners tend to say thing such as:
“I hear what you’re say”, “Sounds ok to me” and “that rings a bell”.
Auditory learners tend to look straight ahead when thinking or answering
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
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
Click to download / open the questionnaire word
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
Jigsaws both manual and onscreen
Word matching puzzles
Matching Stickers with words and letters
Literacy programmes on television
Visual Learners – Colours
Point out in stories
Talk about the colour of clothes as the child gets dressed
Point out colours in the environment
Visual Learners – Numbers
Use the numbers in the environment, in the shops etc
Use the excellent TV programmes
Use jigsaws of numerals
Count and colour shapes
Colour in numerals
Auditory Learners – Letter shapes
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
Auditory Learners – Colours
Say the colour out loud , e g Yellow for the sun then show the picture
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
Use colours in songs and rhymes
Auditory Learner – Numbers
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
Kinaesthetic Learners – 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
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 the words
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 someone’s
Walk a finger puppet around the letter shape
Play word and letter bingo
Play a ‘Corners Game’ but use letters and words
Associate the colour with a physical object i.e . Orange for the colour
Always use actual objects for the child to pick up and hold
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)
The most effective learners use information
from all three different inputs; therefore encourage your child to try every
Children will go through phases of different
learning styles – babies will progress from using their mouths to hearing
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 fun!
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