Understanding our children's types of learning styles is a surefire way to help them grasp the world around them and achieve the learning outcomes that early education has set out to do.
Every individual is capable of amazing things, we all just learn a little differently and that's why it's helpful to understand our learning styles and support our children to learn not only at their own pace but in their own way. You're guaranteed to have a more harmonious home, and a happier learner, and their educators will have a greater understanding of how best to cater to their needs.
When it comes to learning styles, four learning styles as main groups have been identified. Visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic-tactile. That's not to say that a child or adult cannot learn in more than one of these ways, it's just the main way they absorb information.
As the name suggests, visual learners prefer to see things to learn them. In the visual learning style, physical demonstrations work well, as well as video instructions or educational videos. Try handing a visual learner a flat-pack instructional booklet without the pictures and you won't have a very sturdy piece of furniture!
Identifying a visual learner
Is your child distracted when you talk to them? Would they prefer to watch something over listening to the radio? Would you say they have a keen interest in art? You might have a visual learner on your hands. Your challenge is going to be peeling them away from screens or at least directing their viewing to more practical things than unboxing videos.
Other traits include:
- Distracted by sound
- Enjoying and reading through pictures in books
- Is excited over actions, particularly in nursery rhymes
Supporting visual learners at home
Teaching the visual learner can be frustrating for some parents. Talking to children and telling them what to do is the most common way we as parents think to communicate, especially since we are more auditory. But if we have a visual learner, rather than telling a child to put on their hat, tap your head as you say the words and give them a visual cue. This will work well across the board – create actions for your words and eventually, you'll just have to motion to jog their memory.
Unlike visual learners and other learning styles, auditory learners are not distracted by sound, but rather soaking it up and learning more effectively through it. If you thought subtitles over sound was a good idea for that movie, you're going to have a fight on your hands! Think nursery rhymes - your auditory learner will benefit from the rhyme and repetition, while your kinaesthetic-tactile learner will love the actions.
Identifying an auditory learner
If you have one, you'll know it! The auditory learner likes to talk, talk, and talk their way through the learning, often distracting others with their chatter. But it's not meaningless, this talk, and sometimes a song, is all very work focused and helps them recall information.
Other traits include:
- Whispering loudly while reading
- Prefers and will follow spoken directions
- Often singing
Supporting auditory learners at home
Start to embrace, from early on, a loud home environment. One where a song is welcomed, 435 words before breakfast is served is normal and the radio is up all the time! The television is great, so long as there are no subtitles and you go through listening devices more often than a baby needs a bottom change!
With the auditory learner, you won't need to worry about hand signals but you might want to set aside time for discussion about their day, your own, and what is on the agenda. For example, a routine chat about, ‘Tonight, we are going to eat dinner, have a bath and read a book,' is going to be better than a chart on the wall with images and a list to tick off.
While we're on the subject of reading, read aloud, ensuring to point to words, sound things out, and have your auditory learner repeat the sounds. They'll learn best through sound repetition.
Some strategies to engage auditory learners in your classroom include group discussions, interesting videos, and audio recordings.
Reading & writing learners
Forget the spoken word, talking to reading & writing learners often falls on deaf ears – these learners are somewhat visual but rather than an illustration, they need the instruction booklet.
Identifying a reading & writing learner
These children tend to be quieter and, if in a room full of auditory learners, may seem rather introverted. Their quiet nature doesn't mean they're not listening it's quite the contrary. Other traits may include:
- Loves reading out loud
- Recalls what they have read
- Consumes printed material
Supporting reading & writing learners at home
Providing a place to read, write and scribble will help. We all know practice makes improvement and there's no better way for our readers and writers to practice than in a book where you can see their progress. Reading & writing learners will also benefit from the walls being plastered with educational posters, printed activities to complete, and wall-to-wall bookshelves with literature that grows with them. In the meantime, sign up at your local library.
Often described by parents as the ‘stubborn' one or the ‘independent' one, the kinesthetic learners tend to ‘do it themselves'. Hold on to your hat and brace yourself to gain some parental patience, you're going to need them!
Identifying a kinaesthetic-tactile learner
The kinaesthetic-tactile learners are the children eagerly waiting around for all the sensory activities in childcare and the children that are commonly referred to in the Lego world as ‘builders' not ‘players'. They want to get in there, get their hands dirty and get playing.
Supporting kinaesthetic-tactile learners at home
Contrary to popular belief, the kinesthetic learner isn't naughty, they literally must do it to learn it. They cannot retain that information if they're told or shown to, yes, you're going to be late because your toddler needs to do their own zip up… and that's OK.
Buy a bunch of puzzles, STEM activities, and science kits because you're about to have a whole lot of sensory, tactile fun!
Supporting every learner in early education
Early education focuses on play-based learning and because of that philosophy, every learner is catered to. The ACECQU early learning years framework guidelines state that play-based learning offers opportunities for multimodal play which caters to a number of our learners at once.
For example, children can listen, (catering to the auditory learner) to their educator instructing, with a demonstration (catering to the visual learner) before asking them to carry out that instruction, (catering to the kinaesthetic-tactile learners).
Imagine knowing early on the style of learner your child is and being able to cater to that from a young age. The benefits are astonishing!