How to Teach Based on Your Child's Learning Style
After a solid understanding of the importance and types of learning styles, and after the homeschool parent has identified their child's learning style (and their own), they are able to configure their teaching methods and curriculum to best suit these styles.
Some scientific studies have concluded that there are no measurable benefits to teaching based on a student's learning type. Many educators state that even if studies do not prove there is benefit, they find it beneficial. Students generally have more fun when they are learning within a framework that they enjoy. Parents are also able to better understand their children's actions when they know their learning styles and preferences.
The best learning strategies are not exclusive to learning type
No matter what type of learner, a student benefits the most from a learning process that involves every facet of engagement. This means listening, interacting, discussing, demonstrating, experimenting, and doing. Students need both active and passive learning methods. It is helpful to keep in mind Mel Silberman's mantra:
What I hear, I forget.
What I hear and see, I remember a little.
What I hear, see, and ask questions about or discuss with someone else, I begin to understand.
What I hear, see, discuss, and do, I acquire knowledge and skill.
What I teach to another, I master.
In essence, the more engaged and involved a student is, the better he or she remembers and learns the material. Engagement is paramount for learning. However, engagement is not enough to produce excellence in learning if students do not take responsibility for their learning and cannot motivate themselves. Students must take responsibility for their own learning so that they do not believe learning/education is something that is 'done for them.' The best students must decide that learning is something they should do for themselves. They must also take control over their own learning.
Very few students actually fit into just one of the four types
Homeschooling parents should not expect their children to fit into a single type. While it is possible that you might have an extremely auditory learner, most people do not fit perfectly into one category. We are humans! Our brains are more unique than our fingerprints! We cannot be boxed into categories. No matter what, parents should explore different ways of learning with their children.
Strategies for homeschooling visual learners
Visual learners love it when teachers do demonstrations and utilize visually engaging materials. They also benefit from teachers that can describe things in a way that paints clear mental pictures. Simply put, they learn through what they see. Public schools primarily use some type of visual learning.
Visual learners love diagrams and charts and graphs and anything else visual. Any time your visual learner needs to study or learn information, see if there are available graphical representations.
Choose curriculum that uses diagrams
Diagrams are so important that you should be sure to choose curriculum that includes these types of representations. It will boost learning speed and help with studying.
Watch, watch, watch
Utilizing as many visual aids as possible means that your curriculum involves videos. There are many excellent video resources available. And because it is a digital medium, it can be done any time, anywhere! If you need a video on a specific subject or problem, just go to YouTube and search for it -- there is a good chance you will be able to find something helpful.
Let him or her highlight everything!
If your homeschool method means that your students are reading a lot on their own, encourage your visual learner to highlight as he or she goes. Not only do they love highlighters, it is an easy way to keep them engaged. Additionally, children with reading disabilities often find that highlighting sentences as they go helps them read, focus, and stay on track.
The only downside -- the book value might diminish.
If they need to study, use flash cards
If your child needs to study, memorize, or is preparing for college, advise them to make flash cards. Or at least try them. Kinaesthetic learners and visual learners get great benefit from them. To take it a step further, add graphs and diagrams to the flash cards to get the biggest benefit.
Use flash cards for learning a foreign language
If your curriculum includes a foreign language, learning vocabulary is unavoidable. And to many homeschoolers dismay, memorization is an essential component. Flash cards for language are beneficial for all learning types, but especially beneficial for visual learners.
Strategies for homeschooling auditory learners
Ideally, any teaching materials that are prepared with auditory learners in mind should sound pleasing when spoken aloud. These materials should be prepared with spoken word in mind and incorporate conversations and discussions whenever possible.
Encourage them to ask questions
Asking questions is an important part of learning for any learner, but for auditory learners in particular. Even a very simple question can engage the auditory learner and increase his or her retention. If you have been unable to put a concept or idea sufficiently into words, asking questions allows the student to better direct you towards an explanation that is beneficial.
Utilize curriculum and resources with audio/video
Using any recorded materials allow auditory learners to listen and re-listen until they understand. If your student attends a co-op with a lecture, or you lecture in any form, it may be helpful for your child to record these.
There are many online resources for free educational videos. YouTube and Google are great places to start researching.
Say it, outloud!
Speaking outloud helps with memorization. It also allows auditory learners to 'put the pieces together.' Mnemonic devises help auditory learners compartmentalize and encode information. Mnemonic devices include acronyms, rhymes, imagery, and chunking & organization.
Always be discussing
Group discussions are difficult in traditional education. They can be difficult for homeschoolers as well, simply because there are fewer people around to engage in conversation. Nevertheless, always encourage discussions when possible. In some homeschools, students are encouraged to learn on their own. If this is the case, ask your child to tell you what he or she learned today! There is no better way to learn than to teach.
Be careful to avoid auditory distractions
Auditory learners have a knack for being susceptible to distraction. Many people enjoy listening to music while they write or learn. This can be dangerous for auditory learners because they are often unable to 'tune things out.'
Brain.fm is a paid service that generates background noise that is not distracting and increases focus.
Strategies for homeschooling read-write learners
Many homeschool parents dislike the repetition and memorization that is found in the public school systems. Nevertheless, be careful not to completely dismiss this type of learning if your child or children are read-write learners. Students with read-write learning styles often enjoy re-writing important words and dates on lists. They learn best by writing things over and over -- usually alone and in a quiet spot.
Asking a read-write learner to write the day's or lesson's key ideas/points/principles in their own words can be very beneficial. They might also enjoy placing information into diagrams and graphs and flow charts. These learners will probably benefit from pulling everything they have learned into one medium -- some type of visual depiction.
These students often excel at, and even enjoy, multiple choice question tests. It should not be surprising when this student enjoys many traditional study/learning techniques like reading textbooks and re-writing notes.
The importance of taking notes
Taking notes is more important for read-write learners than anyone else. Notes help these learners retain knowledge. There is a dual benefit of taking notes -- the student has recorded information for future reference/studying and the student is more involved and engaged by doing so.
Make sure that your homeschool students know that taking notes in their own words is much better than trying to copy down word-for-word.
But we homeschool - we do not lecture
Just because you, the parent, do not lecture does not mean there are not opportunities for your read-write child to take notes. Many parents take advantage of online programs and lectures as well as tv programs. Notes can be taken anytime there is audio.
Re-Write Your Notes
These students should also be encouraged to re-write notes if the material is something they need to retain. This is not as common in homeschool families because many homeschoolers do not test in traditional ways. Nevertheless, taking notes and re-writing them is one of the most effective ways for these learners to retain or memorize the information.
Parents should be careful to ensure that the student truly understands the material -- read-write students have a knack for memorizing information without fully comprehending it.
Bullet-point lists are fun!
Bullet point lists can be the most effective way to distribute information to a read-write student. They enjoy bite-sized information that they can easily read and digest.
Watch out for diagrams and charts
Diagrams and charts may or may not be unhelpful for read-write learning types. It is often difficult for them to interpret this medium. Parents that enjoy these materials might have more success if they were to translate the diagrams into words. Or, a fun assignment for your student can be to re-create the chart or graph with words.
Strategies for homeschooling kinesthetic learners
These students need the most hands-on strategy. They will greatly benefit if the teacher includes demonstrations and experiments whenever possible. Physical problem solving is another great way for them to learn.
Their brain is hands-on, take advantage of it!
Let them hold the flash cards
Just like visual learners enjoy flash cards, so do kinesthetic learners. In this case, make sure that your flash cards are a game in which they are involved. Let the flash card be a question for them to answer. And, on the flip side, list important details. As a homeschool parent, you have the ability to involve yourself. Quite often, actively taking part in activities like this is going to be beneficial.
Keep it short
Kinesthetic learners are often incorrectly categorized as ADHD. This is because they have shorter attention spans for traditional study methods. When its required for your son or daughter to study, memorize, or just do 'regular learning,' keep it short. Keep it manageable. Give them breaks. Inject fun games or activities into the breaks. Ideally, the 'studying' will also be optimized for the kinesthetic learner which will make it easier to begin with. It can easily be more productive to study in 5-10 minute sections with 2-5 minutes break for an hour than attempting to make them work for an hour straight.
Use all of the examples that you can
Kinesthetic learners love examples. The good news is that examples can be included in every subject. Demonstrated examples are also usually available. Cut and dry facts will have less positive impact than examples. Look into case studies for older students.
Look into additional digital resources that allow for interaction if you need help finding a demonstration. For instance, there are physics simulators online that may be far easier to implement than actually creating the scenario in person.
Stay active and participatory to stay engaged
Studying with other people can be very beneficial for kinesthetic learners. Ask them to talk about what they have learned. But also expect them to stay active while they talk. Many kinesthetic learners enjoy pacing or standing while talking.
Some kinesthetic learners enjoy playing instruments while they study. There are other ways to channel their fidgety behavior you can discover. The only danger in channeling their moving energy is that it can become a distraction.
What is the goal of the teacher?
Never forget the purpose of your role as a homeschooling parent. It is your job to present the information the your children need and to facilitate experiences that allow them to retain and fully comprehend it. It is important to actively engage students and teach in a variety of ways to increase the chances of a learning experience.
Conclusion - Remember, there is no one-size fits all
The lists above incorporated some of the same techniques for more than one category. This is a hint that learning methods can work for all learning types. Sometimes the implementation just needs to be tweaked.
This article has only just scratched the surface. As you learn more about your child it will become easier to implement learning and study methods that are best suited for them.
Sources, references, and additional reading materials:
Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners - Neil A. Knobloch, Ph.D.
Learning styles/teaching styles: Should they.... can they... be matched - R. Dunn and K. Dunn