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Your Child's Learning Style


Q. My son just will not listen. He has never sat still long enough to listen. His teachers have complained more and more that he tends to hum in class and is too impulsive and spontaneous. What can we do about this?


Relax and enjoy! You don't have a problem child. You have a visual/kinesthetic learner who is an abstract thinker with random ordering, thinks globally and loves music. That's no joke: each one of us has a different way of perceiving the world, and they're all OK.


What becomes a clash is when a child's learning style is different from a parent's or a teacher's, and the adult refuses to adjust enough to help the child succeed. That doesn't mean you should ignore your child's tendency not to listen; instead, understand it, and help him - and his teachers - make the minor adjustments that are necessary to bring him success.


Author Cynthia Ulrich Tobias defines the various learning styles in these terms:


Concrete thinker: uses the five senses to register information.


or . . .


Abstract thinker: uses intuition, intellect and imagination.


And . . .


Sequential ordering: organizes information in a logical, step-by-step manner


Or . . .


Random ordering: organizes information by chunks, and can get the right answer or finish a task without seeming to have a plan or following a protocol


Mrs. Tobias contends that there are four basic learning styles, based on these traits, and they guide what the person does best, what makes the most sense to them, what's hard for them, what stresses them out, and what kinds of questions they ask while learning.


There are three more styles that she has identified, that you should consider:


Visual learners: seeing, reading, watching.


Auditory learners: listening, speaking.


Kinesthetic learners: physical participation in a task, body in motion.


Visual learners are often accused of not listening and/or daydreaming in class, but they probably are just trying to get a mental picture of what's being said. Auditory learners might be criticized for talking in class, but they have a strong connection to learning by sound and often need to talk through a problem in order to solve it. Kinesthetic learners may be accused of being "fidgety" but they have to have some kind of action going on in order to make knowledge "stick."


And last, we tend more toward one or the other of these styles:


Analytic learner - details, facts, focus, organization, specifics, one thing at a time.


Global learner - big picture, gist, overall idea, relationships, cooperation, multitasking


There also are these ways to be smart, defined as "learning styles" although each of us has a little bit of all of them:


Linguistic - writing, reading, speaking, debating.


Logical-Mathematical - numbers, patterns, logical reasoning.


Spatial - map-reading, puzzles, think in pictures, able to restructure an object or situation mentally


Musical - rhythm, melody, auditory nuance


Bodily-Kinesthetic - physical activity, hands-on skills, acting, sports


Interpersonal - understanding, appreciating and getting along with others


Intrapersonal - self-awareness, enjoying solitude, reflection, self-esteem


Here are some of the strategies the author suggests for a learner like your son:


         Encourage him to take notes or doodle while listening.


         Save the humming for times when he won't distract others, but teach him how to study for a test by making songs and raps with the information, to take advantage of his musical intelligence.


         Show him how to underline or highlight facts in books or in his notes so that he can "draw his own picture" to link to important things to know and keep his hands busy!


         Take frequent breaks while studying.



Homework: See the book, The Way They Learn: How to Discover and Teach to Your Child's Strengths, by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 25 2008



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