As educators, it should come as no surprise that, with the many different personalities that fill your classroom, each one comes with his or her own learning style. Since each student’s approach to learning is different, it goes without saying that your teaching style needs to be adaptable and varied to accommodate each one. This can be a tricky task. Thankfully though, by knowing how each individual student learns, we can be better prepared.
How many learning styles are there, anyway?
While there are different opinions on just how many types of learning styles there are, the simplest learning styles that psychologists have identified are, for the most part, narrowed down to four basic styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. A good way of remembering these categories, is through remembering the acronym VARK.
Simply put, each learning style described according to VARK, allows learners to respond best to a specific method of teaching. Visual learners learn best when they see demonstrations, diagrams, pictures, etc. to illustrate the subject matter. Auditory learners will better remember information that they learn after reciting what they have learned, or hearing the information encapsulated into a catchy song or mnemonic device. Reading/writing learners will absorb information best from reading and writing about the subject, while kinesthetic learners will jump at the chance to learn through some hands-on activity. And of course, there are people who learn a bit from each of these categories, as hybrid learners.
So how do you, as a teacher, make sure that you are reaching all of your students, no matter what type of learner they are? Simply put, you need to make sure that your lesson plans are engaging for each of the four learning styles. Here are some things that you can incorporate into your lesson plans to satisfy each type of learner.
What You See is What You Learn
Visual learners need to see how things work, how ideas relate to each other, and literally need to see “the bigger picture.” Illustrations, charts, graphs, slides and videos are all great options to go for when you need to engage your visual learners. Handouts with visuals that are presented during any given lesson will help these students immensely when it comes to internalizing what they have learned. You could also make sure that your presentations are made available online for your students to reference whenever they need it.
Listen and Learn
Auditory learners will remember what they heard during a lesson more than anything else. Besides making sure that your auditory learners are simply listening to a lecture and absorbing the information, there are other ways you can make sure that lessons are memorable for your auditory students. These learners benefit from repeating information that they gather. Give your students the opportunity to not only ask questions, but to answer your questions as well. Ask your students to repeat points back to you – you can even make it into a fun trivia type game for the whole class to participate in. Your “listening learners” will appreciate it.
Learning by the Book
Do you notice when your students write pages and pages of notes during class, their pen busily scribbling away as they learn? These are most likely your reading/writing learners. They are the ones who will learn best through interacting with text, whether they are reading or writing. To help maximize their learning potential, give them handouts to read with annotated notes, lists of books or websites to check out for further study, pop quizzes and essay questions.
Learning Through Doing
Have some students who can’t seem to sit still in their seat? Is there a student who can’t wait to be a part of a demonstration? These are probably your kinesthetic learners, which means they learn best by doing. Hands-on education is not just a fun activity to add to your lesson plan; it is also often the best way that some of your students can learn. Get your students to stand up, move around, and engage in some sort of activity that will allow them to use movement and get their hands and feet involved. Role-playing, artistic creation and demonstrations are all possible ways to get these types of students the kind of learning that they need most.
While it may seem overwhelming at first to incorporate all of these methods into your lesson plan, remember that having a varied approach to your teaching will not only help the most students possible, but also makes your classroom colorful, varied and interesting for everyone. And if there is one thing about learning that is universal, it’s having fun while learning!
What are ways you’ve approached lesson plans on different levels? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.