Understanding Learning Styles
Once your child has entered school and the learning process becomes more structured, you should be able to determine the method by which he or she learns. These methods are called “learning styles”, and they will be an important part of the learning process for your child. The three primary learning styles are visual, auditory, and tactile. Many children use a combination of these to learn. Others learn best by using just one, and, without that method, things just don’t make sense to them. That’s why it is important for the child and the parent to understand what learning styles are all about.
Visual learners learn by reading or seeing pictures. They understand and remember things by sight. They can picture what they are learning in their head, and they learn best by using methods that are primarily visual. They like to SEE what they are learning. Visual learners are usually neat and clean, they often close their eyes to visualize or remember something, and they will find something to watch if they become bored. They often have difficulty with spoken directions, and may be easily distracted by sounds. They are attracted to color, and to spoken language (like stories) that is rich in imagery. If your child is a visual learner, here are some things you can do to support the learning process:
- Have your child sit near the front of the classroom.
- Have your child’s eyesight checked on a regular basis.
- Use flashcards to learn new words.
- Help your child visualize things being heard or read.
- Write down key words, ideas, or instructions.
- Draw pictures to help explain new concepts, and have them explain the pictures.
- Color code things.
- Avoid distractions during study times.
- Remember that your child needs to see things, not just hear things, to learn.
Auditory learners learn by hearing and listening. They understand and remember things they have heard. They store information by the way it SOUNDS, and they prefer listening over reading and writing. They often learn by reading out loud because they have to hear it or speak it in order to know it.
Auditory learners often hum or talk to themselves or others if they become bored. They sometimes seem as though they are not paying attention, even though they may be hearing and understanding everything that is being said. If your child is an auditory learner, here are some things you can do to support the learning process:
- Be sure your child sits where he or she can hear.
- Have your child’s hearing checked on a regular basis.
- Use flashcards to learn new words, but read them out loud.
- Read stories, assignments, or directions out loud.
- Tape record your child practicing spelling words and let them listen to the tape.
- Have test questions read out loud.
- Have your child study by reading things out loud.
- Remember that your child does not have to be looking at you to learn from you.
Tactile learners learn by touching and doing. They understand and remember things through physical movement. They are “hands-on” learners who prefer to touch, move, build, or draw what they learn, and they tend to learn better when some type of physical activity is involved. They need to be active and take frequent breaks, they often speak with their hands and with gestures, and they have difficulty sitting still. Tactile learners like to take things apart and put things together, and they tend to find reasons to tinker or move when they become bored. They may be very well coordinated and have good athletic ability. They can easily remember things that were done, but might have difficulty remembering what they saw or heard in the process. They often communicate by touching, and they appreciate physically expressed forms of encouragement, such as a pat on the back. If your child is a tactile learner, here are some things you can do to support the learning process:
- Provide opportunities that involve touching, building, moving, or drawing.
- Use lots of hands-on activities like art projects, taking walks, or acting out stories.
- Let your child chew gum, walk around, or rock while reading or studying.
- Use flashcards and arrange them in groups to show relationships between ideas.
- Have your child trace words to learn spelling (finger spelling).
- Allow and encourage frequent breaks during reading or studying periods.
- Allow them to tap a pencil, shake their foot, or hold something while learning.
- Use a computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch.
- Remember that your child is not being fidgety just to avoid learning.
As you can see, there are different ways in which children learn and many different strategies you can use to help them along the way. It is important to keep in mind that learning styles begin to develop at a very early age, and that many children have a combination of learning styles. That’s why it is important that you be involved from the start. Perhaps you recognize some of the character traits or behavior patterns described here and can already identify your child’s learning style. Once you understand the ways in which people learn, you are well on your way to helping your child build a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning.
20 Ways to Stay Involved in Your Child’s Education
Parents have a tremendous influence over the lives of their children, especially when it comes to their social and educational development. Here are 20 ways you can stay actively involved in your child’s education.
- Give positive feedback and show appreciation for teachers and principals.
- Keep a positive attitude and an open mind when dealing with school personnel.
- Share expectations and set goals for your child with his or her teacher.
- Attend parent-teacher conferences, and make appointments as necessary to discuss your child’s progress.
- Understand and reinforce school rules and expectations at home.
- Attend PTA or parent meetings, education fairs, and other special events at the school.
- Read classroom or school newsletters, and visit the school’s web site.
- Notify teachers of any significant changes that have taken place in your child’s life, such as a death in the family, loss of income, or the divorce/separation of the parents.
- Meet your child’s friends and get to know their parents.
- Assist in developing parent support groups and programs.
- Discuss your child’s school day and homework daily.
- Know your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses.
- Know your child’s learning style to better understand HOW your child learns. Use the student Learning Style Quiz here in Education Planner.
- Provide a quiet, comfortable, well lit place with basic school supplies for studying and homework.
- Develop a consistent daily routine for studying and homework.
- Help your child avoid distractions by restricting telephone, television, and computer use during studying and homework time.
- Help your child break down big homework assignments into smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Assist with homework, but avoid doing it for your child.
- Provide your child with books, magazines, newspapers, and other materials and encourage regular reading, especially reading for fun.
- Provide encouragement and praise for your child’s efforts.
How School Counselors can Help Teachers and Parents.
Editor’s note: We met middle school counselor Ian Brodie at a recent RESPECT roundtable discussion at the U.S. Department of Education. He writes to offer tips for teachers on how to form partnerships with counselors.
Collaboration is the word of the 21st century in education. As educators, we are always looking for new ways to work with other professionals in our schools to improve the achievement of our students.
School counselors are an essential resource and great partners for teachers. Gone are the days of “guidance counselors” who existed in the background of the school, sifting through paperwork and deciding for students whether or not they were fit for college. Today’s professional counselors proactively search for innovative ways to meet the needs of all students and to maximize their academic achievement. There are many ways teachers can utilize counselors to solve problems that may interfere with students’ success at school. Here are 10 tips for teachers to help them maximize their partnerships with counselors.]
1. Call on counselors to help you understand the whole student. When teachers notice red flags, such as behavioral issues or grades, school counselors are prepared to help teachers gain a more complete understanding of the issues behind the actions.
2. Consult with counselors for professional advice. When teachers find themselves stuck with strategies that aren’t working with a particular student, a counselor who is trained to problem-solve can help them gain fresh ideas to age old problems.
3. Tackle problems before they become insurmountable. When teachers sense trouble brewing in class, language or behavior that causes them anxiety, they should talk with a school counselor who can help trouble-shoot and prevent a situation from escalating.
4. Offer students an empathetic listener. When students are having problems that seem personal or sensitive or that have the potential to get them into trouble, send them to a school counselor who can provide a sounding board and help them find solutions.
5. Guide students’ decision-making. When students act out repeatedly in class, teachers should inform a counselor who can work with them on decision making. School counselors can also help the child reframe the situation and illustrate how different behaviors might be in their best interest.
6. Collaborate with a counselor to integrate counseling and class lessons. Work together to teach lessons in class about academics, careers, and personal/social issues. These lessons are preventive by design and developmental in nature to help students with their decision-making in school. For example, a lesson about bullying and harassment in a civics class could be paired with a project on laws about harassment.
7. Help Facilitate communication between parents and teachers. When parents or teachers find themselves in a situation where they are not being heard; a school counselor can intervene and facilitate understanding.
8. Allow a counselor to make peace. When students can’t get along in class despite the teacher’s attempts to separate them or diffuse tension, allow a counselor to mediate and work out a plan for how the two parties can peaceably coexist.
9. Explore career options. Educators may want to engage a school counselor in helping students understand how their academic work connects to specific careers.
10. Ask a counselor to clarify the severity of a problem. As students develop physically, rapid changes in their mood or behavior can leave teachers wondering whether certain behavior is a normal or a cause for deeper concern. School counselors have been trained to ask the questions that get at the heart of what’s really going on.
Ian Brodie is a Middle School Counselor at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va.