By PATRICK MCNAMARA
So we’re back to school, and you’ve picked out the new clothes, shoes, backpacks and school supplies. But have you prepared for a successful school year by understanding your child’s personal “learning style”?
Just as there are many different fashions, there are also many different ways a child learns. Because each child is unique, with different learning styles and academic needs, it is important to personalize the learning process. Understanding a child’s learning style can help parents and teachers personalize instruction and/or homework to ensure peak performance in school and build a child’s self-confidence.
People learn in at least eight different ways, according to the Multiple Intelligences Theory: visually, verbally, physically, mathematically, musically, naturalistically, through group activity or through quiet thinking time. The following are some tips to assist parents in determining what type of learning style their child exhibits. Keep in mind that a child may exhibit more than one learning style.
Visual/Spatial learners enjoy photography, visual metaphors, puzzles, illustrations and story maps. Seeing a bar graph on the cost of different cars, for instance, would be a better learning tool than hearing a list of prices read aloud.
Verbal/Linguistic learners shine in activities such as storytelling, public speaking, drama and journal writing. Give children journals to keep for one month. Encourage them to write detailed descriptions of what they see, taste, feel and hear. Celebrate their writing – children respond to positive reinforcement by repeating whatever got them the praise.
Bodily/Kinesthetic learners thrive on hands-on experiments, field trips, body language, crafts and sports. Take a field trip to a local factory, and then make a visual display of what was learned.
Logical/Mathematical learners tend to be better at problem-solving, coding, data collecting, money management and scientific models. Help your child create a budget sheet that itemizes every cent spent during a one-month period. Determine what category drew the biggest expenses. Have them chart spending.
Musical/Rhythmic students may play an instrument, sing, hum or tap during work or require background music while they study. Turn memorization exercises into rhythmic word play and set it to any musical style.
Intrapersonal learners work better alone, doing individual study, personal goal-setting and self-esteem activities. This type of student should write down concrete objectives and the steps required to achieve them. A study schedule would be more effective if it breaks down what will be studied, rather than just “study time.”
Interpersonal learners work better in group activities, such as clubs, peer teaching, conflict mediation and active discussions. They would enjoy volunteering at a nursing home, women’s shelter or charity and documenting the experience in a journal.
Naturalist learners tend to better understand ideas when it is related to a natural occurrence. These learners prefer outdoor activities. Learning about science by doing outdoor experiments that relate to schoolwork will make that schoolwork more interesting and more likely to connect to this kind of learner.
As parents prepare their child for the new school year, it’s important to remember that he or she will be better prepared for classes if parents and teachers understand a student’s personal learning styles and use this knowledge to help the child excel in school and on homework. Parents should share their observations about their child’s learning style with their child’s teachers as the school year progresses and they receive report cards.
Patrick McNamara is the owner and executive director at Sylvan Learning of Albany and Clifton Park. For more information, visit SylvanLearning.com.