We often expect that others learn the same way that we do. It can be surprising to discover that our children take in information differently. Without this knowledge, it can be frustrating when we try to work with them, like speaking two different languages. By observing your child, you can determine which of these three learning styles will best help your child succeed.
1. Auditory Learning Style
Auditory learners, approximately 30% of the adult population, need to “hear” information to learn and commit it to memory. People that prefer auditory learning may talk out loud to themselves. They may repeat ideas to be sure they have heard it correctly. They can better retain knowledge when paired with nonverbal sounds such as drum beats or clapping.
When working with auditory children, you will want to tell them what you want them to do. Auditory learners like to read out loud, even when they’re alone. They would much rather have someone read a story to them than read it to themselves. Also know that they may become easily distracted by background sounds.
If you think you have an auditory learner on your hands, encourage your child to say things out loud. For example, a mini spelling bee can help your child remember their spelling words. You can also help your child practice reading by getting some books on tape and encouraging her to read along. You can also listen to educational songs. Children who are auditory learners often love music and can remember the words to songs they hear.
If your child has a lesson to learn, try recording him and give him the audio to listen to later. Be sure to start conversations about new topics and let your child work through a problem by talking about it. When they’re trying to memorize something, suggest making up a silly song or use a sing-song tone.
2. Visual Learning Style
The most popular learning style is visual learning. About 65% of adults prefer to gather information by looking at pictures or written instructions. Visual learners can “see” ideas, remembering details as pictures in their mind. They quickly show an affinity for books and are engaged by bright colors and clear diagrams, and they can learn from videos and demonstrations. When trying to work with them, they may stare into space. To the untrained eye, it may seem as though they are daydreaming, but what they are actually doing is trying to “picture” the answer in their mind. Visual learners tend to be distracted by clutter.
Of the three different learning styles, visual learning most closely conforms to traditional classroom teaching methods. Visual learners can glean information from taking and reviewing notes and posters. They often like to see someone else perform a task before they try it themselves.
If your child is a visual learner, surround him with books. Once he has read a story, he can most likely retell it perfectly. A visual learner is probably also a budding artist. To help her remember information, stock up art supplies that she can use to create art.
Other good learning aids for visual learners include highlighters, flashcards, and a small white board to create quick concept sketches. Since visual learners can easily become preoccupied if too many sights compete for their attention, create a non-distracting space for them to work on their homework.
3. Kinesthetic Learning Style
Kinesthetic learners prefer to move to learn. This third style comprises of mostly young children, who learn by doing and touching, and account for approximately 5% of all adults. When faced with a new project, this group prefers to learn by jumping in and doing, rather than asking for directions. They learn best by doing, such as writing, drawing, or acting.
Children who are kinesthetic learners may need to move their whole body to learn. A parent may feel that her kinesthetic child isn’t listening because he is always fidgeting. In general, kinesthetic kids cannot concentrate for more than 10 minutes without getting up and moving. They might benefit from practice their spelling words while bouncing a ball, running in place, or walking up and down the stairs. Using rhythmic motions, like hand clapping or finger snapping, can also help them memorize new facts. Those who fall in this category can be easily distracted by the movement of other people or things in their environment.
If your child wants to hold something whenever he says, “Let me see that,” he’s likely a kinesthetic learner. From an early age, they’ll reach for books that encourage interaction—popups, little doors, or books with textures. They may also prefer modeling clay to other forms of art.
Whenever possible, offer your kinesthetic learners things to hold in their hands. Help your child practice spelling by getting them letter-shaped magnets they can move around. Give kinesthetic learners textured paper and a variety of different sized pencils and pens to choose between. You can add motion to otherwise sedentary homework sessions by getting your child a stationary bicycle or an exercise ball. Standing desks are also a good way to help fidgety kids focus more. You can create one at home by letting your child work on a counter or stacking books to create a workspace that’s higher.
How Learning Style Awareness Translates to Student Success
The more parents know about their child’s primary learning style, the more they’re able to partner in their child’s education. If your child is struggling to grasp a concept in their homework, you can challenge them to look at the problem in a way that aligns with how they learn best. You can also use your knowledge of learning style to help ignite their innate curiosity about the world around them.
Although everyone tends to have a preferred learning style, if the information is more challenging, a different style or multiple styles may need to be used. It is important that we are well-versed in all three styles, so that we can switch easily to another one as needed.
“Working With Learning Styles.” The Center for Parenting Education, Retrieved 8 October 2020. https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/school-and-learning-issues/working-with-learning-styles/
S. Mead. “Auditory, Visual & Kinesthetic: Helping Kids Succeed Through Different Learning Styles.” Whitby School, Retrieved 8 October 2020. https://www.whitbyschool.org/passionforlearning/auditory-visual-and-kinesthetic-helping-children-succeed-through-different-learning-styles