Exploring Different Learning Styles in Young Children
There are four key styles of learning – visual, auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic. Every child is different in terms of how they connect with these learning styles. Most kids prefer one or two specific styles, but sometimes different styles can suit different topics. It’s important to explore all four learning styles to figure out your child’s preferences and create a learning environment in which they can thrive.
It is especially important in an inquiry-based classroom to take the time to nurture and develop these different learning styles. For some students, learning happens through reading, listening, and questioning. For others, it happens when they use their imaginations to build, model, and create. All ways of learning are valid and encouraged.
1. Visual learning
Visual learners account for approximately 65% of the population, meaning the majority of people process information best when they can see it. They tend to think in pictures and have vibrant imaginations. Graphs, charts, diagrams and maps are all helpful tools for visual learners when getting to grips with data. Whereas when being taught a specific process or practical skill, visual learners benefit from seeing demonstrations.
The delivery of learning material is highly influential for visual learners, as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice can be as important as the words themselves. To help them retain this new information, it’s usually best to read and write them down.
When conducting an inquiry with students who are visual learners, it’s important to consider the following:
- Prior to reading, ask students to skim through the text. They should look at all the pictures, diagrams, maps, graphs, and tables. This helps students familiarize themselves with the content and some of the words they will come across in their reading
- Encourage students to highlight or write down words that are unfamiliar to them. In a small group, write these unknown words on index cards and scaffold the definitions with them. Discuss what students can learn from these words, as well as how the visuals they’ve seen can help them learn more about the text. Add them to a vocabulary or word wall
- Provide tactile materials for students to model their ideas. Provide easy access to things like modelling clay, cardboard, and other craft material so that they can easily bring life to their ideas
- Use visual supports such as graphic organizers, templates, and schedules to help students organize themselves and their inquiry work; provide frequent reminders of these
2. Auditory learning
Auditory learners are those who understand and retain information more effectively when they listen to it. They remember information by the way it sounds, typically learning best from jingles or songs. This is especially prevalent among young auditory learners, which is why nursery rhymes play such an important role in early years education. As adults, auditory learners often grow up to be great communicators who are skilled in both listening and speaking.
When it comes to receiving instructions, they typically find them easier to follow if they’re spoken aloud rather than written down, as they rely greatly on tone to infer information. This also applies when reading, as doing so aloud to themselves can help them process learning material.
When conducting an inquiry with students who are auditory learners, keep the following things in mind:
- Discuss with students why we talk about our learning. Emphasize the fact that learning is more beneficial when we plan for it and keep track of our progress. Give students some time each day to reflect on how they’re progressing, how they’re dealing with problems they encounter, and how they are moving forward. In addition, talk to students 1:1 or in small groups by asking questions such as “what is your current understanding?” or “what are the next steps moving forward?”
- Encourage students to recall instructions aloud, or model doing this for them so they understand. How often have you noticed yourself talking aloud while completing a set of tasks? Probably more often than you’d think! Students need to hear this too; especially students who retain information auditoraly
- Provide the option of presenting their inquiry findings by recording an audiobook or conducting a podcast to share their information and insight
3. Tactile learning
Tactile learners best absorb information when there’s a touch element involved. They may struggle when information is presented only visually and/or auditorily and there isn’t an interactive element, meaning physical projects tend to engage them best. Asking them to draw or paint information they’ve learned can be beneficial, reinforcing their new knowledge. They also tend to benefit from activities that involve them organizing things, such as putting groups of similar objects into piles.
Inquiry learning offers a multitude of ways for tactile learning to thrive. Here are some examples of inquiry projects that are perfect for tactile learners:
How can we redesign airplanes to make flying more comfortable for passengers, while being cost-effective for airlines?
Find this idea here (#4 in the list)
How can we communicate an important message through the use of stop-motion animation?
Find this idea here
4. Kinaesthetic learning
Kinaesthetic learners process information most efficiently when they’re employing their motor skills. Physical activities such as dancing, athletics and role-playing are beneficial for kinaesthetic learners. Tactile learning and kinaesthetic learning are often grouped together because they share similarities, but they do have distinct differences. For example, where tactile learners learn through the sense of touch, kinaesthetic learners learn through the sense of bodily movement. These learning styles are some of the more prevalent, with 30-40% of children being tactile or kinaesthetic learners.
When conducting an inquiry with students who are kinaesthetic learners, consider experimenting with the following strategies:
- Incorporate gestures, movement, dance, and sequences to teach new concepts or to solidifying existing ones
- Encourage the use of manipulatives, such as blocks, figures, board, and other hands-on materials to more deeply engage students. Ensure that these manipulatives can be accessed easily by students and that they have regular use of them during inquiry sessions and regular class time
- Plan some of your lessons to take place in more open-spaces; for example, in the gymnasium, in the playground, or in an open field or wooded area that you have permission to access and use. Giving kinaesthetic students space to move freely, walk around, and act out their learning is an important consideration
- Encourage the use of gallery walks and the incorporation of musical instruments or sounds when thinking of ways for students to demonstrate their learning
Help your young child to thrive when you understand their learning style
When you understand your child’s learning styles, you can teach them new information in ways that resonate with them most. Plus, as they grow up you can empower them with knowledge about their learning style so that they can respond to educational resources in the way that suits them best.