Thursday, October 18, 2007

Learning Styles and Traditional Schools

Today’s typical classroom may look totally different to the one in which our parents learnt: it may have tables that are big enough for ten children (as opposed to desks for one or two), the seats may be arranged in a circle (as opposed to in rows), and the blackboard may be white.

Some things, however, don’t change. Today’s pupils are still required to rely heavily on their eyes in order to take in information. The information may come from a textbook, a movie, an overhead projector or a demonstration of a science experiment - all of which are highly visual sources.

Similarly, when it comes to checking the child’s knowledge, it is usually done in a visual way: written homework, homework that involves reading or drawing, written tests.

This is why it’s crucial to know your child’s learning style. If they are highly visual, especially if combined with auditory, you can rest easy knowing that the learning material is presented to them in an optimal way. Of course, you still need to make sure that they are motivated and that other elements of their learning style are accommodated (sound, temperature, structure, the level of detail, social needs, and so on)... and you still have to check their eyes regularly to make sure they are up to the learning task.

If your child is not visual, however, they will probably struggle in a traditional school. While of course respecting their unique learning preferences, it’ll be a good idea to teach them some techniques that allow them to cope with the very visual world around us.

Some of the techniques include:
· Encourage your child to look at objects in greater detail: ask them to describe what they see at a first glance and what they see when they look again for a longer period of time.
· Play “spot the difference” puzzles and “Where is Wally”?
· Practice reading paragraphs of text together, then visualising it as a movie.
· Ask them to close their eyes and tell you what colour clothes you’re wearing.
· Do jigsaw puzzles together, particularly those that rely on utilising observation skills.
· Make a game out of watching people in the street, in the café, in the mall.
· At the supermarket, look at the shelves together and count the varieties of cereal, dried fruit and cheese.
· Organise treasure hunts (in the garden or the family room) that rely on observation skills alone. Let the “treasures” stick out or bulge out just a little, and encourage the children to find them with their eyes, not hands.

You can find a free demo of learning style analysis here.

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