This series of 10 articles on ‘How Children Learn Best’ is written by Canadian Citizen Pat Kozyra who has been teaching in the classroom for more than 50 years. In the series she will cover a range of topics likely to be of interest to both parents and teachers – topics include Children’s Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences, the Importance of Music, the Importance of Play and other topics. During the series questions can be posed to Pat and she will choose one to answer each week.
Pat has taught primary grades, vocal music, art resource and gifted education, and she has been a preschool coordinator, English as a Second Language teacher, and has presented courses in Special Education at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. She offers private tutoring and education workshops, is a freelance writer and has been a repeat guest on a radio program in Hong Kong based on topics from her book ‘Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers’.
About your child’s learning style
How does your child learn best and under what conditions? The experts tell us that “One size (style) does not fit all.” Most of us have our favourite learning style, but we do use other styles when necessary. The four basic types of learning styles are visual, auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic.
As a parent of two teenagers, I often worried about their studying with music on, doing homework with very little light in the room and sitting on the floor to do their work, but I soon came to learn through my work with gifted students in Canada for 15 years that it was simply their “learning style”. Many effective teachers today really try hard to produce and present materials and resources that will interest and motivate children to learn in ways they are best suited to absorb information and process it.
The following are various settings for learning that your child may favor:
• Dimly lit room, or brightly lit room? (use of colored cellophane on the windows)
• Warm cozy room or windows open for cool breezes?
• Quiet still room, or room filled with music or extraneous noises?
• Straight-backed chair or cozy soft cushions on the floor?
• Study-cards with notes, or visual recall, or accommodations for auditory learners?
• Tactile, kinaesthetic learner?
• Which of Dr Howard Gardner’s seven intelligences best fits your child?
Self-assessment of modality strength or learning style
Keep in mind that “students who have equal modality preferences are more flexible learners and are already using many studying techniques rather than just a few. Three of your five senses are primarily used in learning, storing, remembering and recalling information”.
The following simple Self-Assessment was printed by Incentive Publications, Nashville, Tennessee, but there are many available on the web and are free to take if you want to know how your child learns best and under what circumstances.
Read each question or statement and circle the most appropriate answer (a, b, c) Some will be difficult to answer but try to respond according to how you would react most often.
1. You usually remember more from a class lecture when:
a) You do not take notes but listen very closely
b) You sit near the front of the room and watch the speaker
c) You take notes ( whether or not you look at them again)
2. You usually solve problems by:
a) Talking to yourself or a friend
b) Using an organized systematic approach with lists, schedules etc.
c) Walking, pacing or some other physical activity
3. You remember phone numbers when you can’t write them down by:
a) Repeating the numbers orally
b) “Seeing” or “visualizing” the numbers in your head
c) “Writing” the numbers with your finger on a table or wall
4. You find it easiest to learn something new by:
a) Listening to someone explains how to do it
b) Watching a demonstration of how to do it
c) Trying it yourself
5. You remember most clearly from a movie:
a) What the characters said, background noises and music
b) The setting, scenery and costumes
c) The feelings you experienced during the movie
6. When you go to the grocery store, you:
a) Silently or orally repeat the grocery list
b) Walk up and down the aisles to see what you need
c) Usually remember what you need from the list you left at home
7. You are trying to remember something and so you:
a) Try to see it happen in your mind
b) Hear in your mind what was said or the noise that occurred
c) Feel the way “it” reacted with your emotions
8. You learn a foreign language best by:
a) Listening to records or tapes
b) Writing and using workbooks
c) Attending a class in which you read and write
9. You are confused about the correct spelling of a word and so you:
a) Sound it out
b) Try to see the word in your mind
c) Write the word several different ways and choose the one that looks right
10. You enjoy reading most when you can read:
a) Dialogue between characters
b) Descriptive passages that allow you to create mental pictures
c) Stories with a lot of action in the beginning because you have a hard time sitting still
11. You usually remember people you have met by their:
a) Names (you forget faces)
b) Faces (you forget names)
c) Mannerisms, motions, etc.
12. You are distracted most by:
c) Environment (temperature, comfort of furniture)
13. You usually dress:
a) Fairly well (but clothes are not very important to your)
b) Neatly (in a particular way)
c) Comfortably (so you can move easily)
14. You can’t do anything physical and you can’t read, so you choose to:
a) Talk with a friend
b) Watch TV or look out a window
c) Move slightly in your chair or bed
How many As did you circle? Auditory (learn best by hearing)
How many Bs did you circle? Visual (learn best by seeing)
How many Cs did you circle? Kinaesthetic (learn best by touching, doing, moving)
Note: Notice if one modality is significantly higher or lower, or if any two modalities are close in number. Were the results as you expected them to be? Is that the way you see yourself?
In summation, we as parents and teachers cannot assume that children learn just as we do or exactly as their siblings do. The keen proponents for homeschooling make a very strong case because of the different ways students learn and many schools just cannot provide those accommodations and be that flexible. So it is important to know your child’s learning style to avoid frustrations, confrontation, stress and tension in order to help them become more effective learners. Parents should also keep in mind that research on this topic and the importance we place on it is on-going and ever-changing, but well worth looking at I feel.
Pat Kozyra is the author of “Tips and Tidbits For Parents and Teachers – celebrating 50 years in the classroom and sharing what I have learned”. It is available at Amazon.com books, Barnes and Noble.com, bumps to babes stores in Hong Kong, Swindon Books, Kelly and Walsh (Pacific Place) and Beachside Bookstore in Stanley. You are welcomed to ask advice on a teaching or parenting issue by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.