You are your child's first teacher

Learning styles are like sun rays breaking through the clouds.   Children can play under the clouds, yet sunshine energizes them to produce more activity.  Teaching with methods that best engage different learners transforms information into a deeper level of understanding. Auditory, kinesthetic, and visual materials help learners focus on content without having to decipher through mismatched communication filters.

Instruction that incorporates learning styles achieves efficient and effective results.  Yet, not all teachers, and quite frankly, many teachers do not have the time to assess the learning styles of individual students.  Doing what works best for an individual child is usually not the focus of classroom management.  The process of how learning is going on does not receive as much attention as what has been learned.  However, what gets learned is greatly impacted by how a child learns. 

As parents, knowing the approaches to how your children learn best will empower you and them to make the most of their education.  With this knowledge, you have valuable insights to share with your child’s teacher.  Educational toys, study aids, and lesson plans adapted for each learning style make absorbing concepts easier. Thus, learning becomes efficient and effective.  Understanding how a child learns is an invaluable everlasting skill necessary for developing lifelong learners.

Allow me to use a driving example to illustrate how innate sensory learning styles affect our comprehension.   Suppose you are really interested in joining a particular organization.   You get directions to an event from one of the insiders, Ben.  He is “in the know,” and is your benefactor into the group.  There is one problem.  You are a visual person and Ben is kinesthetic. Ben is familiar with the location of this event because he has driven there for various events.  Thus, Ben knows how to get to this gathering, but does not remember any street names.  

Ben begins giving directions by saying, “You know the busy intersection at Mopac with the electronics store.” “You can grocery shop across the street, get a drive-thru burger, or take your kids to gymnastics,” Ben goes on to explain.   These directions seem perfectly reasonable to him because he learns from the dynamic intersection of information and movement.  He does not realize everyone does not mark locations based on the activities they conduct.   As a visual person, you are lost because your mind is picturing all the grocery stores along Mopac, as well as drive-thru burger restaurants. 

Charlie Brown’s teacher just gave you driving directions – whomp whomp. If Ben had said something like the shopping center in the northeast quadrant off Mopac with the Fry’s Electronics then you could have visualized the location.

With more probing questions on your part, and a degree of frustration, you ultimately arrive at your destination.  But, in the back of your mind, you are preoccupied thinking if Ben cannot give simple directions, the potential fulfillment from this organization may not be good.  You find yourself becoming less enthusiastic about upcoming events.  Ben is starting to wonder if he should spend his time with a better prospective member because you always arrive late.  When you are on time (from leaving 30 minutes earlier to compensate for bad directions), you are frustrated.  You may ultimately choose to stop going to the gatherings altogether.  

Similar situations often happen for kinesthetic students.  Kinesthetic learners engage with dynamic information.  Students with kinesthetic learning styles are forced to sit all day with limited movement and few hands-on applications.  This diminishes their attention and renders them less receptive to learning.   Because they have a quick grasp in applying knowledge, concepts should be varied for these students.  Their ability to process two or more math strands at the same time makes them candidates to be great math problem solvers.  However, the same math concept is usually taught for four to six weeks.  Consequently, these students does not achieve their full potential because subjects are presented in a static manner.

Look at another example.  Vivian, your benefactor, is a visual person. (Of course, you are not.)  Vivian starts off well with simple directions.  She instructs you to exit 610 at Sheppard, take a right, and go 6 blocks. Now, it starts to get complicated.  Vivian has traveled to this destination many times before, and there is a street sign down.  Vivian says, “You know the Quickie, convenience store, on the corner?”  You say, “No.”   “The convenience store with the bright yellow sign that you pass on Insight Street,” continues Vivian.  You are silent.  Vivian, being helpful, “You have to start looking for the store because your turn is just past the convenience store,” says Vivian.  You respond, “I’ve never noticed a store.”  Vivian keeps talking because oral language often cannot compete against the visual images in her mind.  Vivian is still picturing the Quickie store.  She cannot fully comprehend that you cannot picture the store as clearly as she does.  “Start looking because you turn right just past the convenience store,” finishes Vivian. 

As a naturally auditory or kinesthetic person, you never paid any attention to the convenience store because you were too busy thinking about tasks leading up to and post your designation (kinesthetic) or too busy listening to audio books (auditory).  You arrive at your destination after anxiously looking for the convenience store.  Because you spent so much time looking for it,   your attention was diverted from the route. You will not remember how to get back to this location on another occasion. Over time, the relationship diminishes as Vivian wonders what kind of a dunce she is mentoring that does not pay attention to the things around her.  You are tired of repeating yourself and still not being heard because your voice cannot compete with the images in Vivian’s mind.

Many children muddle through assignments that could have been made simpler with learning style differentiation.  They depend on parents, teachers, administrators, curriculum writers, and education industry manufacturers to get them to their destination.  Many children go through school not achieving their full potential.  Their gifts are subjugated to getting an acceptable test score or demonstrating skill sets important to local business curriculum influencers.  However, a journey filled with engaging study aids that best fit how they learn helps children thrive. Developing solid learning foundations early based on self-awareness of auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learning styles will be helpful in school, doing homework, and studying independently later in life.

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