No two students learn exactly alike, yet it’s so important for children to understand themselves as learners. In fact, assessing one’s learning style or styles helps students in multiple ways. Students who understand how they learn best are better able to advocate for themselves in school. This is important to learn from a young age, but few students have this insight or even know how to discover this about themselves.
How can you start the conversation with your child to help him or her become more self-aware about the learning environments and approaches that work best? Here are several tips:
GIVE THEM AN OVERVIEW:
There are many different learning-style models out there, but one of the most common is the VARK model, which looks to the senses as the primary mode of learning. Talk about this with your child so he or she is familiar. Share with your child that:
- Visual learners learn best with visual aids, diagrams or other visual tools other than words.
- Auditory learners learn through listening, reading aloud and talking about ideas.
- Reading/writing learners like words. They like to read things themselves to learn them, and they tend to be skilled at articulating their knowledge and ideas in writing.
- Kinesthetic learners prefer to experience information for themselves, either by touching it, holding it or doing it themselves.
TALK ABOUT MULTIMODAL LEARNERS:
Many students are flexible in how they learn and use more than one mode to gain understanding. So, even if your child seems to learn easily by seeing things in a diagram or visual aid, he or she also might absorb information well through reading. Explain this to your child so he or she realizes that different ways of learning may work for different subjects and preferences might evolve over time.
OBSERVE YOUR CHILD AND TALK ABOUT WHEN HE OR SHE FEELS MOST CONFIDENT AS A LEARNER:
Start paying attention to how your child learns. Is your child the type to listen well to teachers as they talk? Does your child prefer to read things independently? Take note of what you see at home and ask for your child’s perspective, too.
TRY DIFFERENT STUDY TIMES AND SPACES:
Some children are creatures of habit when it comes to homework, but others might be following their parents’ suggestions. If your child always has done homework at a desk in a quiet place, try moving to the dining room table with some light music. Does this have any effect? Does your child seem more or less attentive? If your two children tend to do homework side by side in the kitchen, try separating them to see if this affects their productivity.
TALK WITH YOUR CHILD ABOUT FAVORITE SUBJECTS AND UNITS WITHIN THOSE SUBJECTS:
Sometimes this alone can be enlightening. Does your child like subjects that are heavy on reading, like history, or those that have students on their feet being active and engaged, like science or physical education? Does your child have a fun, vibrant teacher who lectures often, and if so, does he or she like that class?
Another reason understanding your child’s learning style is valuable is that it helps when working with your child’s teacher. Should problems arise, it’s useful information for teachers to know when students are at their best. The more parents and teachers know about students’ strengths, weaknesses and learning preferences, the better for children as learners.
Erin Gibson is operations manager with Huntington Learning Center. Reach her at (228) 832-1226 or GibsonE@HLCmail.com.