As you watch children grow and learn, it quickly becomes obvious that each child has their own way of learning and interacting with the world around them. One child may spend hours curled up with a book, while another uses any excuse to go outside. One child begs to go to the museum, while another can’t stop pulling objects apart to discover how they work together.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
In the early 1980s, developmental psychologist and educational researcher Howard Gardner verified what many parents intuitively know: different children learn in different ways. He observed that even though all individuals in a group seemed to be equally intelligent, a lesson plan that worked successfully for some children didn’t work as well for others.
Howard Gardner’s observations led him to publish Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983.He asserted that different people approach learning in different ways and that children learn better in school when their individual learning styles are recognized and supported. He outlined seven different learning styles: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic and logical-mathematical.
Education has traditionally been focused around linguistic and logical-mathematical learning styles, however student centered learning models such as the Montessori method and the International Baccalaureate program have found success helping children learn in the way that is best for them.
Let’s take a look at three often-overlooked learning styles to help you discover if your child is an Auditory, Visual or Kinesthetic learner. We’ll also share tips on how to help your child succeed if they are one of these learning styles.
A Closer Look at the Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic Learning Styles
1. Auditory Learning Style:
Auditory learners learn best through their sense of hearing. This means they remember and understand new concepts better when they are explained out loud—even if they’re doing the speaking themselves. They can even better retain knowledge when new ideas are paired with nonverbal sounds such as music, drum beats or clapping.
How to recognize Auditory Learners
Children who are auditory learners often love music and can remember the words to songs they hear. They can easily follow spoken directions and, if they don’t understand something, will often say, “Tell me again.” Auditory learners like to read out loud, rather than silently, even when they’re alone. They would much rather have someone read a story to them than read it to themselves. The auditory learner’s understanding is much stronger when their teacher explains something to the class, rather than when they’re given a reading assignment.
How to Help Auditory Learners Excel
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 practice spelling words by saying the letters rather than writing them out. You can also help your child practice reading by getting some books on tape and encouraging them to read along with the spoken words of the story.
If your child has a lesson to learn, try recording them reading the lesson out loud and give them the audio to listen to later. When they’re stumped by a new concept, start a conversation about it, and let your child work through the logic of the problem by talking to you about it. When they’re trying to memorize something, suggest making up a silly song about it. Auditory learners are also often intrigued by word play and language patterns. For early readers, try books by Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss.
2. Visual Learning Style
As the name suggests, visual learners learn best when their sense of sight is engaged. They quickly show an affinity for books and reading, starting with picture books and quickly moving on to books with text. They are engaged by bright colors and clear diagrams and can learn from videos, demonstrations and classroom handouts. Of the three different learning styles, visual learning most closely conforms to traditional classroom teaching methods. Visual learners can glean information from reading assignments, from taking and reviewing handwritten notes and from the flip charts, diagrams and other visual aids that many teachers use.
How to Recognize Visual Learners
Visual learners can often be found at the front of the classroom, soaking up whatever they see their teacher write on the board. They are fascinated by bright colors and motion and will often use posters and mobiles to brighten their rooms. They like to draw and paint. Once they’ve read a story, they can retell it down to the smallest detail. They often say, “Show me,” when they’re trying to learn something new and like to see someone else perform a task before they try it themselves.
How to Help Visual Learners Excel
If your child is a visual learner, surround him or her with books. You’ll notice that even before he or she can read, your child will be interested in bright pictures and the stories they represent. A visual learner is probably also a budding artist. To help them remember information more clearly, stock up art supplies that they can use to create visual representations of what they’re learning. Visual learners can create drawings to help remember important facts, identify the main elements of a story line and solidify the meaning of new words in their heads.
Other good learning aids for visual learners include highlighters to use with notes and reading assignments, a small white board to create quick concept sketches, and flashcards. Since visual learners can easily become distracted if too many sights and colors compete for their attention, create a quiet, non-distracting space for them to work on their homework.
3. Kinesthetic Learning Style
The most physical of all the learning styles, kinesthetic learners absorb information best through touch, movement and motion. The word kinesthetic refers to our ability to sense body position and movement. This means that to really understand something, they need to touch it, feel it and move it around.
How to Recognize Kinesthetic Learners
If your child means “Let me hold that,” whenever they say “Let me see that,” they’re likely a kinesthetic learner. They’re the kids who love building sets, model kits and interactive displays at the children’s museum They often tear things apart just so they can learn about them. If kinesthetic learners are offered the choice in art class, they’ll choose modeling clay over pencils or paint. From an early age, they’ll reach for books that encourage interaction—pop-ups, little doors that open and close or books with textures that can be touched or petted.
How to Help Kinesthetic Learners Excel
Whenever possible, offer your kinesthetic learner things to hold in their hands. Physical math manipulatives, such as pattern blocks and base ten blocks, can help kinesthetic learners internalize a new math concept. Help your child practice spelling by getting them letter-shaped magnets they can move around on the fridge. Give kinesthetic learners textured paper to write on 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 a big, bouncy exercise ball that they can sit on instead of a desk chair. We’ve also found at Whitby that standing desks are a good way to help fidgety kids focus more in our classrooms. You can create one at home by letting your child work on a counter or stacking books to create a workspace that’s higher than the traditional desk.
Kinesthetic learners also frequently benefit from using rhythmic motions like hand clapping or finger snapping when reading or practicing math facts. Make sure to encourage your child if you notice them unconsciously using rhythm to help themselves remember—if it’s too loud, just suggest quieter alternatives.
How Learning Style Awareness Translates to Student Success
We’ve found that the more parents know about their child’s primary learning style, the more they’re able to be a 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 a child’s learning style to help ignite their innate curiosity about the world around them.