In today’s world, gone is the image of the child quietly studying at a desk, not making a peep at home or in the classroom. Both settings have become increasingly more interactive, with a variety of activities designed for students to learn in the ways that suit them best.
This doesn’t mean there’s only one way for your child to learn, however—there can be multiple ways that speak to him the most. Here’s a guideline for some of the different kinds of learners and how to cater to that learning style as a parent.
The visual learner is typically most helped by pictures and images. These can include diagrams, slideshows, colors, and maps. Your child is probably a visual learner if she’s more interested in the material when there’s visual media, like videos or a book with pictures. Visual learners are often interested in art, easily remember visual information, and appreciate observing the world around them. Using flash cards, identifying keywords, and color-coding important information can be particularly beneficial for visual learners. At school, it may be helpful for them to sit near the front of the classroom so they can translate information into visual data (like comics or mind maps).
Physical, or kinesthetic, learners tend to learn best by using their bodies to help them understand new information. Your child is likely a physical learner if he has aptitude in physical expression, like fidgeting and using gestures, and enjoys things like role-playing and acting. Drawing diagrams or using physical objects to identify a concept (like using coins or blocks for counting) can be really great for physical learners. Encourage your child to trace words, and let him know it’s OK to tap a pencil or his feet while working. Physical learners sometimes benefit from taking a break physically, like taking a walk or changing body position or a seating arrangement.
For auditory learners, sound is very important. Elements like rhyming, music, rhythms, and recordings tend to appeal to auditory learners. Indications that your child is an auditory learner include an interest in music, strong verbal ability, and an aptitude for listening. These types of learners may benefit from setting mnemonics to music or learning a song to help recall information. In addition, try
reading material aloud to your child or have her read it aloud herself—this includes assignments, directions, flash cards, and so on. Books on CD or podcasts could also speak to your child effectively.
Your child is likely a verbal, or linguistic, learner if he prefers speech and writing—anything from keeping a journal to writing notes and letters to composing songs and poems. When you read aloud from a book, does your child like following along with the words on his own? If so, he may be a verbal learner. In that case, try strategies that involve both speaking and writing. Your child may benefit from scripting and role-playing, too.
Logical, or mathematical, learners tend to defer to logic as a means for comprehension. Students who are proficient in math, notice patterns, think in terms of the big picture, and ask questions about how things work are often logical learners. These types of learners want to understand the reasons behind what they’re learning. Therefore, it can be quite helpful for logical learners to draw connections, instead of using rote memorization to retain information. Have your child use lists and make mind maps to find patterns within—and better understand—a system of concepts.
In addition to the above five learning styles, your child may be a social (interpersonal) learner or a solitary (intrapersonal) learner, someone who works better in groups or alone, respectively. Keep in mind that your child may be a combination of the different types, or lean toward one or another depending on the setting. Have your child try different strategies to see what might work for her best with certain concepts or material.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.