If you have more than one child, no doubt you have discovered they do not learn the same way even though they live in the same house, are being taught by the same person, and are growing up in similar circumstances and environments. Maybe your son learned to read using a healthy dose of phonics, but phonics mean nothing to your daughter. People are essentially different! Their individual gifts or bents are called learning styles.
So what are learning styles? Learning styles simply group common ways people learn and store information in their brain. Each person is born with tendencies toward one main style. There is no best style. There is no right or wrong style. Each style has its own advantages and disadvantages.
There are seven different learning styles. Typically everyone has a mix of learning styles. There is no one correct way for high school students to learn. Some people are evenly split between one, two, or maybe even three different learning styles. Other people might be more of a 80/20 or 60/15/25 split… you get the picture.
~Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
~Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
~Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
~Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands, and sense of touch.
~Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning, and systems.
~Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
~Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
Your job as the learning coach is to determine your child’s learning style(s). There are tests or quizzes that aid in helping you make determinations (look for links later in this article), however, you must also begin to observe patterns of behavior in your child. For example, if they are successful, what brought about that success? Listen to the way your child communicates with you and others, you might not speak the same language. Experiment with what works AND what does not work. What works for you might not work for them and vice-versa. Focus on areas of strength and weakness, but put emphasis on the strengths.
The Visual/spatial learner is sometimes called a right-brained learner. Visual learners tend to represent a larger percentage of overall learning styles. These creative and curious thinkers usually have the following in common:
Learns complex subjects such as geometry but struggles to remember 8+3
Sees the big picture but may miss all the little details
Is better at math reasoning that at computation (arithmetic)
Does not work or learn in a step-by-step process
Arrives at correct solutions but not able to explain why
Drill and repetition does not facilitate learning
Develops own method of (unusual) problem solving
Has uneven grades
May be a late bloomer
Is a good synthesizer
Reads maps well
Much better at keyboarding than handwriting
Masters other languages through immersion
Is creatively, technologically, mechanically, emotionally, or spiritually gifted
Had or has difficulty learning to read, spell, and write (phonics are less effective)
Visual-spatial learners have a vivid imagination, they truly think outside the box. They learn by instinctive bounds. They remember what they see, not what they hear. Learning to read can be very difficult for them when they are being taught by a left-brained person or a left-brained homeschool curriculum. The public school tends to leave them behind, or worse, label them as slow learners when indeed most are gifted.
The Aural (auditory) learner learns best by hearing (active listening). These learners can usually remember information more accurately when it has been explained to them orally. The auditory learner remembers by forming the sounds of words. Being an auditory learner does not necessarily mean you will remember everything you hear, it does mean you need to hear yourself out loud (read the passage out loud, repeat the directions out loud, practice your spelling words out loud…) in order to effectively commit it to memory. They are good at writing responses to lectures they’ve heard. They’re also good at oral exams. Auditory learners have the following in common:
Think in words
Relate well to time
Tend to have incredible memories for past conversations (such as jokes)
Are step-by-step learners
Learn by trial and error
Attends well to details
Have a great memory for music and lyrics
Enjoy discussions, debates, and talking to others
Have strong language skills, well-developed vocabulary
Is an early bloomer
Often have musical talents–can hear tones, rhythms, and individual notes
Enjoy listening to music, and sing/hum/whistle to themselves
Prefer to give oral presentations over written reports
Has difficulty reading body language and facial expressions
May read slowly and many retain better when they read out loud
May have difficulty interpreting complicated graphs, maps, or diagrams
The Verbal (linguistic) learner has the ability to communicate through language–listening, reading, writing, and speaking. They have the ability to reason, solve problems, and learn using language. The verbal learner does well in areas such as reading and writing. They are good listeners and have a well-developed memory for things they have read. They are good at recalling spoken information. Your verbal learner quite possibly enjoys learning different languages; memorizing tongue twisters, limericks, puns, and rhymes; and they enjoy playing word games. Verbal learners have the following in common:
Prefer math word problems rather than solving equations
Enjoys writing poetry, speech and drama classes, and language classes
Tends to rewrite notes and outline chapters
Likes to recite information, learn scripts, or participate in debates
Can hear words, phrases and sentences as they are being read silently
Translates emotions into linguistic form
Can tell when an important part of a story is missing
Can predict what comes next–parts of sentence, story, or formal argument
Can interpret and extend novel linguistic forms (essay, satires)
The Physical (kinesthetic/tactile) learner is an active doer. They learn best by becoming physically involved with what is being learned. These kids are in almost constant motion–fidgety or never sits still. If your child is a strong kinesthetic learner, unless some sort of action is put with the learning, the learning is not going to stick. The action can be as simple as walking back and forth or moving while reading or memorizing. These learners also need to take breaks often because they can only concentrate for about ten minutes at a time. Kinesthetic learners need big spaces to draw and write. They need stories with action. Encourage them to write notes or highlight information while listening. These learners have the following in common:
Preference for hands on learning
Can assemble parts without reading directions
Needs to be able to touch or manipulate what is being learned
Benefits from pictures or diagrams in notes
Usually don’t have visuals in mind
Tends to be less organized
Sense of time difficult because they work better in the present moment
Likes to do artwork
Likes to piece things together
Responds to music by physical movement
Often found doodling
Learns skills by imitation and practice
Likes to trace words and pictures
Often seen “fiddling” with something
Strong athletic talent
The Logical (mathematical) learner likes using his or her brain for logical and mathematical reasoning. They have the ability to reason, solve problems, and learn using numbers, abstract visual information, and analysis of cause and effect relationships. They are methodical, linear thinkers who can recognize patterns and logically analyze problems. These learners think conceptually about numbers, relationships, and patterns. The logical learner can also make connections between things others would see as meaningless content. Information that is grouped and classified is easier for them to understand. Many logical mathematical learners can perform moderately complex calculations in their head. Agendas, itineraries, and to-do lists, ranked in order of need, is something they naturally like to create. They also enjoy working out strategies and using simulation. Games such as brain teasers, backgammon, trivia, and chess are fun for them. These learners have the following in common:
Thinks logically most of the time
Uses logical means to describe things, ideas and emotions
Wants to find out what logical concepts are called
Has strong visual analysis and memory and problem solving skills
Works best in structured, organized environment
Seeks new ways to express self logically
Can tell when something is ‘wrong’ in a certain logical style/when something is incomplete or missing in a classification system
Is willing and anxious to share logical experiences and achievements
Cultural/social events marked or remembered logically (recalls grouping of people throughout the event)
Natural tinkerers and builders, they enjoy bringing mathematical and conceptual ideas into reality via hands-on projects
Is often profoundly emotionally affected by logical information
Can interpret novel logical forms, can quickly assimilate and imitate new logical styles
Finds logical significance to natural and/or mechanical phenomena, such as landscapes, social events, how machines work
Prefer structured, goal-oriented activities that are based on math reasoning
Thinks and innovates logically without conscious translation
Automatically attends to and remembers logical information
See logical arrangements before hearing the music or works or seeing how things work
Enjoys logical humor (Like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory)
Can predict what comes next in logical units
Uses logical symbol systems to communicate ideas
The Social (interpersonal) learner communicates well with people, both verbally and
nonverbally. These learners are sensitive to their motivations, feelings, or moods. Others often come to them for advice or help. Social learners usually prefer learning in groups or classes, so homeschool co-ops might be very beneficial. Don’t get too worried about learning in groups or classes, the social learner is also just as at home spending one-on-one time with you, the learning coach.
The interpersonal learner likes to bounce their thoughts off other people and listen to how they respond. They like working through issues and ideas in a group. These social butterflies enjoy interacting with others via various social activities such as sports, drama, card or board games, and so forth. Social learners have the following in common:
Thoroughly enjoys being around people, especially peers
Prefers interacting with others
Attends automatically to others
Makes culturally appropriate eye contact
Enjoys mentoring or counseling others
Has a strong sense of intuition regarding others’ opinions and preferencs
Is good at reading people and is good at getting to the root cause of communication problems
Relates well with peers
Likes cooperative learning activities
Displays emotion appropriate to the situation
Helps others in need when appropriate
Demonstrates conscious awareness of relationship dynamics
Uses interactions as a memory aid
Tunes in to interactions over any other form (is aware of interactions in public places before hears announcements or music)
Thinks in interactions most of the time
Enjoys interactional humor
Can role play interactions
Seeks new people and friends
Seeks interactions with others
Can predict what is likely to come next in any given interaction
Chooses to express ideas and emotions in interactions with others
Discerns feelings and emotions in others
Is willing and anxious to share own experience and achievements through interactions with others
Cultural/social events marked or remembered by the interactions (remembers who fought with whom or who really like whom at any given event)
There is no “right” mix when it comes to learning styles. What is key is understanding that because we all learn differently, it is the teaching style that must have the “right mix” in order for the learner to experience success more efficiently, more comfortably, and more permanently.
Teachers most often teach in the style they learn best. As the learning coach, it is beneficial for you to discover your own learning style. Some learning coaches like to lecture, others demonstrate or lead toward self-discovery; some focus on principles and others on applications; some emphasize memory and others understanding. If you like to lecture and your child is a visual spatial learner, chances are they are frustrated and not retaining what is being taught. As you can tell, if you and your child are not on the same page, a mismatch exists. This can cause frustration for both of you. It does not have to be that way.
The Learning Style Quiz
The learning style quiz does not measure aptitude, it simply tells you how you learn best. Do not over-interpret them. They do not reflect whether or not your child is suited or not suited for any particularly subject, discipline, or profession. They merely provide an indication of possible areas of strength and weakness. However, knowing your child’s area of weakness is beneficial before reaching college. You certainly can not choose a professor based on his or her teaching style…you get what you get. Knowing your child’s weak areas ahead of time allows you to begin preparation for overcoming foreseeable obstacles. You and your child can begin to develop coping strategies to compensate for weaknesses and capitalize on strengths.
The learning style quiz gives you, the learning coach, insight into the way you learn versus the way your child learns. Once you have that information you have the opportunity to craft your lessons AND your high school homeschool curriculum to match your child’s learning style. Keep in mind you will not score the exact same on any two quizzes, but you should see similarities among the results. Use the information from the tests coupled with observations of your child in order to draw more precise conclusions.
Where learning takes place can also impact learning. Environmental factors should be taken into consideration when attempting to create the best learning conditions.
Below are common environmental factors that should be considered when attempting to create the best learning conditions.
~Formal vs. Informal
A formal setting can be as simple as a traditional desk and chair or even the dining table. Informal settings would be beanbag chairs, the couch, outside on the trampoline, the bed, sitting upside down in a chair while reading…
~Noise vs. Quiet
Some kids must have total quiet in order to work while others have their iPod plugged into their ear at all times. Believe it or not, those who must have the noise are able to learn while listening to their music. If you have a child who can’t take noise, you might want to consider a set of quality soundproofing ear muffs which are easily found at sporting goods stores.
Some teachers have been known to keep rooms chilly in order to keep their students awake. Having the right temperature plays a key role in learning. If your child is too cold or too hot, they will struggle with concentrating on their work. If you have one child who likes it cold and one who likes it hot, lean toward the cooler temperture and have the other child add layers.
Some kids prefer to work in dimly lit areas and others want the overhead light and a lamp on. Everybody’s eyes react differently to light. Some kids may even get a headache when too much light is present. Fluorescent lighting has been linked to distractions for ADHD kids. Natural lighting or Ott lights (true spectrum) lighting might be helpful, especially in the winter.
As discussed previously, some kids learn best by movement. You will want to make sure these learners have plenty of opportunity to tap their fingers or toes on the floor or table, fidget with their hair, use a stress ball, chew gum, thump their pencil, pace… It is absolutely natural for them in order to retain information more efficiently.
Studies have shown everyone needs breaks in order to improve productivity and this is definitely true for high school kids. The human body is built to move. Sitting still for too long can cause learning to slow or stop. Remind and encourage your child to stand, stretch, and take short breaks as needed during studying. It is good to study in 20-30 minute increments with a brief break between each block of time. Research has shown that it only takes 30 seconds to rest and recharge the brain.
Learning Style Tips
Below is a sampling of ways to enhance teaching, understanding, and retention based upon specific learning styles for BOTH teacher and student.
Use charts, graphs, diagrams, and flowcharts
Use computer assisted learning
Use color, layout, ‘visual words’, and spatial organization in your teaching
Use mind maps
Use color and pictures in place of text whenever possible
Underline or highlight important points
Use a variety of colored pens, symbols, concept maps, or time lines
Place information note cards in highly visible places in your study area
Make an outline, summarize on paper
To learn vocabulary words, write the word in colors on one side of a blank 3X5 card and on the reverse side draw a picture of what you think the word looks like
Move around while you learn
Incorporate charades as a learning tool
Play educational computer games
Discussion, dialog, and debate are useful
Memorization is helpful
Oral reading–Read, sub-vocalize, and summarize aloud
Listen to stories read to you
Make use of tapes or CDs
Participate in co-op groups
Tape lectures and discussions
Listen to the voice in your head
Explain things to someone else
Create mnemonic devices or rhymes to memorize facts, lists…then to make the most out of it, set them to a jingle or part of a song.
Listen to music while you study or work
Create rhymes out of vocabulary words
Write a rap about your study topic
Take comprehensive notes
Make lists and headings in your notes
Develop a word list, using key words or phrases to trigger ideas
Write summary paragraphs from your notes
Re-write or re-read your notes
Review old tests
Use outlines to organize information
Generate test questions from lecture notes
Talk yourself through procedures step-by-step
Record yourself talking through procedures so you will have it for repetion
Use rhyme and rhythm in your assertions where you can, and be sure to read important ones aloud
Set important key points to a familiar song, jingle, or theme
Mnemonics are your friends for recalling lists of information–Acronym mnemonics are helpful
When you read content aloud, make it dramatic and varied–helps recall
“Hands-on” or discussion-based lessons are best
Include personal examples to make lecture notes more meaningful
Make pictures, graphs. or concept maps to engage all senses
Recite, review information while engaged in a physical activity such as walking, jogging, bouncing a basketball, riding a stationary bike
Use workbooks, CD-ROMs, and old tests to review information
Use role playing, use games, drama, mime–act out material or design games
Turn projects or lessons into art projects
Learn or memorize while moving–pacing, stationary bike, finger or whole body games
Use skim reading when necessary
Teach someone else
Aim to understand the reasons behind lessons and skills. Don’t just rote learn. Understanding more detail behind the lesson content helps you memorize and learn the material that you need to know. Think about why it is important and what it relates to.
Write short summaries of what the material means to you
Create and use lists by extracting key points from lessons–include statistics and other analysis
Play computer math games
Conduct experiments in the back yard
Play games involving skill and strategy–turn lessons into games involving skill and strategy
Create and solve brain teasers
Set up your own mock exam
Encourage your child to complete more research about a specific topic
Do a Q and A with your child
Utilize a structured learning environment
Create study goals, incentives and record their successes for all to see
Keep a tidy study area
Role playing and drama are helpful
Participate in co-op classes
Use mind maps
Use props to think through situations or lessons
Keep in touch with family and friends-calls, letters, visits
Join a volunteer or service-oriented group
Find several pen friends from different cultures and parts of the world
Tutor another sibling or friend in an area of expertise
Use the praise-question-polish technique
Give personal feedback to your child
Interview others for projects
Set aside a little quiet time each day
Try to create personal interest in topics you don’t enjoy. Example-If you are studying painters and you don’t particularly like this topic, try painting something simple yourself, what do others find interesting about painters or paintings, what is in it for them, what keeps them motivated, why did they choose that field…
Keep a journal or learning log
Be creative with role-playing. You don’t always need other people to role-play with, because you can create plenty of people using visualization! For example, you can visualize your learning coach, sibling, or fellow co-op student beside you, as you practice a particular skill or lesson. Work with them and talk to them while you visualize.
Make a personal development plan; set short and long-term goals for yourself and then follow through on them
Study the biographies of great individuals with powerful personalities who made a real impact on the world
Spend time with people who have a strong and healthy sense of self
Engage in daily self-esteem enhancing behaviors – such as listing your successes, positive self-talk, and so on
Write your own autobiography as one of your ongoing writing lessons
Reflect on what you have learned, and think through new material
Create a connection between new material and subjects you already know, and gain understanding by finding their similarities
By now you are aware of what learning styles are, the various different styles, how to find your prefered style, ways environment affects learning styles, and how to best utilize your prefered style(s) to impact not only your child’s learning, but also the way in which YOU impart learning to your child.
Using multiple intelligences to teach your child is only one part of a very integrated homeschooling experience. Most everything you do along the homeschool journey builds upon itself. You are not going to harm your child academically if you have been teaching with mismatched styles. Kids tend to learn most of the time despite what we as the learning coaches do or do not do. They are resilient learners. The idea behind this article is to try to give insight into an area that has potential to make learning more enjoyable and beneficial. Your dedication to homeschooling your child is number one. Your child senses that in you. You CAN do it!
Jackie, a former public and private school teacher, enjoys homeschooling her 16 year old daughter via Time4Learning's new high school courses and other supplementals. Jackie keeps busy writing study guides, educational articles, and literature units for various online education companies as well as acting as an online marketing consultant. She is a contributing author at 3 D Learners.