Thursday, June 26, 2014

Learning Styles

Parents who have more than one child quickly realize that what works for one child does not necessarily work for another. Among other things learning style tends to vary between children. While some learn well by listening (verbal), others do better by watching someone else (visual) and still others must figure things out for themselves (logic). There are seven dominate learning styles and most children lean towards one method. Knowing and understanding the learning style of the child can make educating that child much easier and more effective. Just as the child favors different learning styles, educational materials and curriculum tend to be more suited for educating specific learning styles.


Visual - Learn with the eyes - reading, watching videos, observing the world
Aural - Learn with music; rhythm and pitch - songs, rhyme, poetry, lyrical language
Verbal - Learn with words - understands word meaning - reading, writing, mnemonics, audio stories
Physical - Learn by moving and doing - crafts, dancing, sports, building models, repair
Logical - Learns by thinking, reasoning, recognizing patterns, categorizing
Social - Thinks out loud, works well in groups and by sharing ideas with others
Solitary - Thinks before speaking, analyzes situations and problems

Learning styles have to do with how information is absorbed and processed. Because we absorb information through the senses, the more senses involved in learning, the better information is remembered; Seeing (Visual), Hearing (Verbal and Aural), Touching (Physical). Some people process information through reflection in a quiet environment (Solitary), while others bounce their ideas off people to gauge their reaction (Social). Although one learning style may be dominant, most children are readily able to learn using a variety of learning styles.

The best way to determine the child's dominant learning style is through observation. Think back to when the child was learning to walk, potty training and playing as a young toddler. My son used to get on his hands and knees in the kitchen while he opened and closed the drawers for hours on end. He was observing the slide mechanism of the drawer trying to figure out how it worked. He displays traits of logical, visual, and physical learners.

On the other hand, my oldest daughter almost always did as she was told. If we were leaving the house and both children received the same instructions - "Go brush your teeth, grab a snack, get a warm jacket because it's getting cold outside, and bring something to do in the car," my daughter would have done everything and be waiting in the car, while my son would be in the living room fiddling with something, or if I was lucky, he would be in the car, but without a jacket of course. He is not a verbal learner. Everyone has a preferred learning style.

Traditional education methods tend to favor verbal and visual learners. To educate a class the teacher gives a lecture (the verbal learners are learning), and then gives a homework assignment which involves reading (the visual learners are learning). Often times the logical learners never get the chance they need to figure the information out for themselves and the physical learners don't get enough opportunity for hands-on activities.

If a child is struggling with academics, it doesn't mean the child is not smart. It may mean the child has a learning disability, but it may also mean that the child's dominate learning style is not being well stimulated.

I learned this the hard way. As I mentioned, my older daughter is a strong verbal learner. She also learns well visually. Hence, when I began educating her using many of Charlotte Mason's principles, which relay heavily on reading, she thrived. We read loads of books together and she remembered everything. When I began the same curriculum with my son, it seemed he could not learn. After reading the same books he had no idea what the story was even about. After struggling together for quite some time, we changed our educational materials and methods.

Here's an overview of how curriculum relates to learning style.

Traditional Approach - Verbal, Visual
Verbal and visual learners tend to thrive with the traditional approach to education because lectures are easily absorbed as are reading assignments.

Classical - Verbal, Visual, Musical/Aural, Solitary
The Classical philosophy of education does an excellent job stimulating musical/aural learners. During the elementary years children learn many different songs designed to help them remember information. There are songs for presidents, states, skip-counting numbers and more. Since the Classical method relies heavily on literature, visual learns also tend to thrive. However, since many novels are now available in audio format, the method can work well for verbal learners as well.

Montessori - Physical/Kinaesthetic, Logical/Mathematical, Solitary
The Montessori approach to education provides great stimulation for physical and solitary learners. Children choose their own activities. Most are hands-on and they often consist of manipulatives constructed from natural materials. While using the manipulatives, children learn to recognize patterns with letters and numbers thereby developing reading, mathematical, scientific and other skills.

Waldorf - Musical/Aural, Physical/Kinasthetic, Logical/Mathematical, Social
One principle of Waldorf education is to educate the head, heart and hands. In other words, knowledge for the brain, exercise for the heart and handicrafts for the hands. Waldorf students regularly participate in group circle time activities involving music. Children explore nature and natural playthings. Kids learn to knit, crochet and draw geometrical/mathematical works of art. Due to the diverse nature and methods of topics, musical, physical, logical and social learning styles are all well stimulated.

Charlotte Mason - Verbal, Visual, Solitary
This literature based philosophy of education involves reading lots of fictional books that teach. Children primarily work alone and are encouraged to reflect on the books they have read. Visits to natural environments are taken regularly and observations are recorded in dedicated nature notebooks. Through listening and observation, children learn about great composers and works of art. Thus the Charlotte Mason philosophy well stimulates visual and verbal learners.

Unit Study, Interest Based, Eclectic - All Learning Styles
Because unit study, interest based and eclectic educational philosophies are flexible and adaptable, they work well with all learning styles. Using these methods, materials and topics enable educators to create a tailor-made education for the child thus stimulating the learning style of the child.


As curriculum can be evaluated on how children with varying learning styles will respond, knowing the learning style can aid in the selection of educational materials and influence the choice of experiences in which to partake.


Verbal - Traditional, Classical, Charlotte Mason
Verbal learners enjoy tours, audio books, audio language learning programs.

Aural - Classical, Waldorf
Aural learners remember anything set to music and the internet is packed with this type of information (especially youtube). Poetry tends to stimulate aural learners and today there are many CD's which introduce foreign language, math, history and other topics which are set to music. Playing music in the background can help aural learners think and replaying the music at a later time can actually help them remember.

Visual - Most Curriculum
Since most curriculum tends to have a strong visual component, visual learners are very adaptable. However, they thrive in a visual environment. Museums and video documentaries are great additions to curriculum designed for visual learners.


Physical - Montessori, Waldorf
Montessori and Waldorf are two very different approaches to hands-on education. Both tend to work well for physical learners. While Montessori students work in a solitary environments, Waldorf education is more group oriented. Physical learners thrive at hands-on museums and tend to love crafts, and activities. Handicrafts are great for physical learners; sewing, building bridges, origami, blocks and models. Physical learners also thrive in laboratory environments; Chemistry lab, metal shop, wood shop, cooking in the kitchen, etc.


Logical - Montessori, Waldorf
By recognizing patterns and through internal reflection logical learners make sense of their world. The Montessori philosophy encourages this by presenting a variety of manipulatives to children. They are taught to explore the materials until they fully understand concepts. Waldorf incorporates an extensive amount of pattern within artwork and handicrafts. Through continued increasingly difficult exposure children learn to recognize patterns and create new patterns on their own. Logical learners also tend to do well with computer-based educational materials as they are pre-programmed with patterns designed to provoke a desired response.


Social - Waldorf
Children learning using the Waldorf philosophy of education spend a lot of time learning together. They participate in circle time and learn to discuss their ideas. Book clubs, team build activities, and group projects allow social learners to thrive as they receive much feedback on their ideas in these environments.



Solitary- Traditional, Charlotte Mason, Montessori
In traditional education settings, children are taught to primarily work alone. Charlotte Mason involves lots of reading which is easily done alone. Using the Montessori philosophy children discover through play with manipulatives. Solitary learners need down time to explore their ideas in their own way. Books, documentaries, computer-based learning, and tinkering space is good stimulation for solitary learners.


Whatever the child's dominant learning style, they are bound to encounter situations which stimulate both their dominant and non-dominant styles. Exposure to input from a variety of styles improves non-dominant tendencies, but exposure to information through dominant learning styles will allow children to thrive.

Visit Homeschooling - Where to Begin for more information on finding educational materials which align with the different philosophies of education. Also visit Finding Educational Materials and Best Free Resources for ideas on other places to find resources. Finally, my Resources Page contains links to lots of posts aimed at helping new homeschoolers get started and provide new ideas for veteran homeschoolers.




 Check out these blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

3 comments:

  1. What a thorough and comprehensive list of learning styles! It's very clearly written and will be of much help to those who are new to homeschooling or new to the different learning style. I especially like the different combinations and suggestions you've made to match a child's style to what's available out there.

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  2. I love how you broke down the learning styles by educational methods! This is a topic that I am not so good at, but am learning. Of course I think that my kids should learn like I do, but that is not the case =) Thanks for the post!

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  3. I never really thought about the correlation between learning styles and the various curriculum. I tend to just modify everything to be more hands on, more visual, and less like traditional schoolwork.

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