Over the past 20 + years of working in childcare and education, with a wide variety of children and adults, one of the key things I have learned is that everyone of us learns differently and that needs to be acknowledged.
If we want to support a child with their learning we will need to do it in a way that is effective for them.
For example it wouldn’t be beneficial for a visual learner if you sat and spoke to them for a period of time.
Equally it would be counterproductive to show them something if they were audio learners.
Talk to the child and involve them when considering the best way to teach them and what learning style will best suit their needs.
Remember this throughout as it will be one of the biggest benefits you can offer the child.
There are four ways in which a person can learn (learning styles).
These are visual, audio, tactile and kinaesthetic experiences, which will provide memories for the child to recall at a later date.
Regardless of what the child’s learning style is, if you can expose them to a variety of experiences and learning styles within each activity, they will be more likely to recall the information at a later date.
Each time we do something we create a memory in our brain.
When we need to recall this information, our brain looks for those memories making the information available to us.
Therefore, the more memories we produce when learning something the more likely it is we will be able to recall the information when required.
Typically, in classroom situations a teacher/ lecturer will talk to the class on a given subject.
This may be followed up with a group discussion and completed with a written task of some description.
For some children, this will be insufficient; they need a more interactive route into learning like those used by the kinaesthetic learner; using all five senses if appropriate.
A visual reminder is created when a child creates a memory from something they have seen. They do not need to interact with it on any deeper level.
Examples of this would include wall charts around the classroom where a picture is shown next to the letter sound so that the child is able to make that visual association.
There are numerous examples of environmental print; words and numbers are found in endless places within the western world:
Calendars, catalogues, menus, time tables for buses and trains, newspapers, TV guides.
An audio reminder is created when a child creates a memory from something they have heard.
This can be in the form of been told something or hearing themselves say something.
Audio reminders are particularly effective when it is their own voice they are hearing; getting the child to say the sound themselves will be more effective than listening to someone else telling them the sound.
If the child is shown the sound at the same time as they say it, they will again build up an association between the particular sound and its ‘appearance’.
A tactile reminder is created when a child creates a memory from something they have touched and possibly manipulated.
This can be created by using such resources as clay, play dough, plastic or pipe cleaners.
It can also be created by the child feeling a shape which has been glued onto a piece of paper using sand, string or sandpaper, etc.
An advantage to these is that the child can be involved in creating the letter sounds themselves. For instance, making a letter shape out of pipe cleaners is a simple mess-free activity as they can be easily manipulated into shape.
The children should initially be taught the lower-case letters when doing this.
A kinaesthetic reminder is created when a child creates a memory from something they actually interact with.
Examples of this include: making the letter sounds out of pipe cleaners, clay, play dough etc. Children clearly enjoy these activities, which is important.
If children are enjoying themselves and are in a relaxed state, they are more susceptible to learning.
Kinaesthetic memories can also be created through activities such as air writing; ie – writing the letters in the air on a large scale.
Alternatively, this can be done on large sheets of paper or with water and a paintbrush on an outside wall on a nice day.
Creating actions associated to each sound is also effective. These can either be the sounds suggested in the ‘Jolly Phonics’ range or can be created with the child so that they are more personal and relevant to their life, culture, interests, etc.
Hence the more of these sensory activities you can introduce the child, the more likely they are to make multisensory memories and be able to recall them in the future.
These learning styles also link to learning components; there are four of these:
Information Input: the methods and techniques we use to absorb information.
Information Output: this refers to the techniques and systems we us to communicate information with others.
Memory: This is key to recognising our ideal learning style.
Our short-term memory is where we store current information that can be easily accessed.
Our working memory then subdivides into visual, verbal and kinaesthetic memories as mentioned above. Those who struggle with short term memory may find memory aids such as word lists of key terms.
The long-term memory is where thing which have happened previously are stored and need more thinking about in order to recall. This long-term memory can also be subdivided into procedural and factual memory.
The procedural memory helps us to recall rules and rote tasks so that they can be performed without too much conscious effort. Factual memories can also be subdivided into personal (learned through personal experiences; this is the favoured long-term memory style of a dyslexic person as it provides something they can relate to a specific experience) and impersonal experiences (also known as semantic or impersonal memories which are more abstract.
This is something that some children struggle with. When someone has a fairly small working memory, they might find they will find it difficult to maintain their attention. Their working memory is being overwhelmed hindering their ability to maintain their focus on a task over a longer period.
Attention is influenced by factors such as motivation and interest in the subject at hand.
Again, regardless of the child’s learning style, it is important to teach things in small manageable chunks. If too much is presented in one go the odds are that they will tune out.
It is better to set very small targets, reach them, ensure a proper understanding, then move on. If the foundations are not strong the rest will crumble and there is a lot of truth in the phrase: “Don’t try to run before you can walk”.
As I have previously stated, it is important that the child is relaxed, and enjoying themselves, so that they are more likely to recall these sounds when required in the future. Consequently, if and when possible, incorporate these activities into games, crafts or other less formal ‘academic’ activities.
About the author.
My interest in learning styles began when my oldest daughter started secondary school. She had always been a very eloquent child and picked things up very quickly.
However, when you looked at her written work, it would appear that it had been done by a child far younger. The same simple word could be written in two or three different ways on the same page.
This detail, would go completely un-noticed by her.
I completed a short-accredited course of “Supporting children with reading and spelling difficulties.”
As part of this course we had to do a case study on a child we were working with. I chose Clara.
The tutor agreed with me. It was worth approaching the school and asking for her to be tested for dyslexia.
The school instantly dismissed the idea. She was a quiet child and not giving the teachers any trouble.
At that stage I didn’t have the confidence to fight my corner. So, I decided that if they wouldn’t help her, I’d help her myself.
So, alongside my degree in child-care and education I studied, read, researched as much as I could about learning styles. How we learn and what motivates us as individual.
Over the past 20 years I have worked in a wide range of settings: nurseries, playgroups, mainstream schools, residential bases for autistic children. As a childminder and an NVQ assessor. Then in 2012 I set up Clara James Tutoring (originally as Starr Tutoring – but I couldn’t trademark that name).
Everything I had learned about learning styles went into creating the foundations of the business.
It wasn’t created by planning my projected profits and losses. It was based around how children learn and as a parent, what would I expect from a tutor for my own children?
We have always strived to give the very best. It is this attitude which has helped us to grow to where we are today.
If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a tutor with Clara James CLICK HERE
If you a looking for a tutor, get in touch and we can have a chat and decide the best route to progress from there.