Children And Learning Styles: All You Need To Know
Every child is unique and so is his learning style. Read this article to find out which group your child belongs to and how you can help him.
By Sarika Chuni
Most of us must have read or heard the oft-quoted statement by Einstein – “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” We all know that no two people are alike. We are all unique individuals made up of a distinct set of strengths and weaknesses, yet, when it comes to learning, we often present a cookie-cutter version of learning to our child – read from the book and write it n number of times till you memorise it.
Shayan (name changed) is a child diagnosed with dyslexia. He faces several issues while learning in a stereotypical classroom. He struggles with language in both oral and written expression.
A cheerful, enthusiastic and polite child, Shayan has been dealing with tags like “a slow learner,” “lazy” for years. “He needs to learn his multiplication tables or he “won’t be able to clear his mathematics exam,” the teacher told his parents. Worried but keen on trying every trick in the book, his parents observed their child to see how he learned best. He was interested in music and remembered all the lyrics to every songs. So, they recorded all the multiplication tables for him to listen to on a phone. Shayan is now in grade 7 and is never wrong with a multiplication equation despite his dyscalculia, a feat not even the non-dyslexic students in his class can manage.
This story is just one example of how understanding the learning styles of your child can transform his life.
According to Educationist and Consultant Dr. Tanu Tandon, “Just like the five fingers on our hand, each child is different. It is important that we recognize our child’s specific manner of learning and tailor our content to suit their style.”
WHAT IS A LEARNING STYLE?
The concept of a learning style owes its existence to noted psychologist Carl Jung (1927) who noted major differences in the way people perceived things (sensation versus intuition), made decisions (logical thinking versus imaginative feelings), and interacted (extroversion versus introversion).
The reason we need to understand these individual learning styles can be further understood with the help of another theory by Harvard psychologist, Howard Gardner (1983). In this theory Gardner describes seven kinds of intelligence that all human beings possess. The kind of intelligence that are dominant in a learner, determines his or her preferred learning style.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF LEARNING STYLES?
According to researchers, there are seven primary learning styles that everyone falls into:
Visual learners learn best when they have images or visual cues to help them process information. They can better process their thoughts by drawing them, using graphic organisers, mind maps or writing them down.
- Have good spatial sense and sense of direction
- Can easily visualise objects, plans, and outcomes
- Like colouring, drawing, and doodling
- Have good colour balance
- Are good at using maps and rarely get lost
2. Aural (Auditory-Musical)
Aural learners respond primarily to sound. Most musicians are auditory learners.
- Find that certain music invokes strong emotions
- Enjoy listening to music in the background while learning
- Have a good sense of pitch or rhythm
- Songs, jingles, and themes tend to pop in their heads without any prompting
3. Verbal (Linguistic)
Verbal learners learn best both under verbal instructions and writing. They are usually people that go into fields such as journalism, law, public speaking etc.
- Express themselves in both written and spoken word
- Enjoy reading and writing
- Like tongue twisters and rhymes
- Have a large vocabulary and enjoy learning new words.
4. Physical (Kinesthetic)
Physical learners learn primarily through movement. They are extremely animated and always need to be moving. They learn best by doing things.
- Notice and appreciate the physical world around them, such as textures
- Enjoys sports and exercise along with outdoor activities and working with their hands
- Tend to use and pick up on body language
- Enjoy making models or doing jigsaw puzzles
5. Logical (Mathematical)
Logical learners are those who are interested in understanding the reason behind something. They enjoy games such as chess and brainteasers. These individuals usually end up being engineers, scientists or mathematicians.
- Classify and group information together to better understand it
- Perform complex calculations
- Create procedures for future use, after coming up with a solution to a problem
- Plan agendas and itineraries and even rank and number them
6. Social (Interpersonal)
Social learners are extremely good at teamwork. They are usually involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. They appreciate and benefit from peer feedback.
- Prefer to socialise after work or class
- Enjoy playing group sports
- Bounce ideas off others to work through issues in a group
- Listen well
- Are often trusted by others for their advice
7. Solitary (Intrapersonal)
Solitary learners prefer to learn on their own. This doesn’t mean that all of them are introverts. There might be some who are social and extroverted but prefer to learn alone.
- Spend time on self-analysis
- Prefer to relax or travel away from crowds
- Think independently
- Journal, write, and record personal thoughts and events as a way to improve.
HOW CAN PARENTS SUPPORT THEIR CHILD’S LEARNING STYLE?
Parents need to observe their child closely while he learns.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- Does my child learn better when there are pictures or visuals in a story?
- Does he like me to narrate and explain lessons to him?
- Does she remember answers better if she discusses and debates them with me?
- Is my child more eager to experiment and learn about a concept instead of reading about it or watching it?
- Does my child expect me to always give her the logic behind the things I teach her?
- Does he enjoy his lesson more when learning with his friends?
- Does she get irritated when assigned team projects in school?
There are also a number of fun quizzes available online that provide a broad idea of the child’s preferred learning style.
According to Vidhi Tekwani, a seasoned Special Educator and Counsellor: “Every child has a different learning style. This is the reason why even schools are equipping themselves with thing such as e-learning and smart boards. At home, parents should also take advantage of the many technological options available to them these days.”
For visual learners and aural learners, she suggests parents should show the various videos available on CBSE websites or other private channels on Youtube to children. “Parents should download the videos specific to the content they want their child to master, put it on a tab without an internet connection, and allow them to watch and learn at their own pace.”
Poonam Lal, mother of 7-year-old Siddharth paid close attention to her child’s learning style, and with the help of special educators and teachers, tailored her teaching according to her child’s needs. “My son is a visual and kinesthetic learner. I often teach him stories by enacting them into plays. My son, elder daughter and I play different parts. It is a lot of fun and helps him memorise the story as well. Sometimes, I will just use actions associated with each keyword, that he copies and learns it in that manner.”
For subjects like mathematics, Poonam taught him the concept of subtraction by turning it into a story – “We made numbers into characters. For example: 2 is a small number so he asked 5 if he would give him 1. 5 gave him one and became 4 and 2 became 3.” Using this script as a memory aid, Siddharth was able to understand the tricky concept of subtraction.
“Keeping an open mind and recognising and accepting your child’s strengths and limitations is the key,” says Dr. Tanu Tandon. There is no one-size-fits-all cure here, and it is only by spending time with our child that we can understand what makes their eyes sparkle. Instead of expecting the fish to climb a tree, let us give him the room to swim free. Accept and respect your child’s uniqueness and watch him grow to love learning.
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