Archive for ‘learning styles’

March 27, 2011

Process, process, process.

by stryson

We’re in the midst of parent-teacher conferences, and one conference that I had on Friday really got me thinking.  For this child, the theme of the conference definitely kept coming back to “process, process process…. routine, routine, routine.”  This child totally needs support to approach assignments deliberately and walk through the process of completing them, and he needs a lot of repetition of this so that he can learn to do so on his own, eventually.  I got to thinking about how many of us, even if we don’t have major organizational and attention difficulties, can relate to this.

Have you ever walked purposefully into a room, only to stop in your tracks, because you cannot remember why you’re there?  How about that feeling when you’re certain you’ve forgotten to do something, but you just cannot put your finger on what it is?  We’ve probably all experienced moments where we’re not paying 100% attention to someone speaking, only to find suddenly that they’ve got an expectation of you – a reply, following through on instructions, etc., and you have no idea what it is.

Every assignment and every set of directions can be like that for this kid. It’s not a memory thing; it’s definitely a matter of being deliberate, paying attention, and  methodically addressing pieces of directions. He’s working without the internal sorting system and scheduler that we take for granted most of the time.

Most of the time. There are some days I could definitely use, to quote phrases I find myself using often in PLEPs, “directions repeated and rephrased,” and “slow, sequential, chunked directions.”

March 10, 2011

The case for kinesthetic learning

by stryson

As a special education teacher, I feel like I’m constantly thinking about different modalities of learning. There are several major learning styles among most people – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most learners have a particular strength in one of these areas and find the other two to be more difficult. Some, like myself, may be equally divided between two of them. For the record, I’m equally divided between visual and kinesthetic learning for my strengths.

I am not the exception.

If the statistics quoted to me by the professor in my Orton-Gillingham class are correct, only about 20% of us learn optimally by auditory means. That means that only 2 out of every 10 will get the best results from being in a lecture situation. The other 80% learn better visually, by movement and touch (kinesthetic), or both.

Anyone else notice a giant problem here? Think back to your days in school. Unless you were in a particularly progressive school situation (or if you happened to have a particularly good teacher), you probably learned primarily through lectures during class time.  Even accounting for the snarkiness and malaise of teenage nature, did you feel like portions of class passed you by? I know I did. It never dawned on me at the time that it might be a matter of my processing and learning style, but working with language-challenged kids has made me question these moments that I accepted as normal at the time.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that we can’t present anything through lecture mode.  Sometimes, material simply is best put forth in the form of a presentation.  Sometimes class sizes are prohibitively large to allow students a more hands-on, interactive approach to learning.  Some lectures and presentations can be entirely compelling and effective.  The point, however, that I am making is that relying on these lecture techniques as our primary method of teaching children is inefficient at best and detrimental at worst.

Take, for example, a young man that I tutor. This child is in second grade. He is a robust, energetic young man – not necessarily ADD, but definitely filled with exuberance.  He struggles a bit with reading, and he does have a tutor in the Wilson Reading program, and I tutor him in math. He attends a small, private school in town, with a class size of about fifteen, if I remember correctly. That, in itself, is already an advantage for this young man – certainly a better situation than he’d get in public school.  However, he’s hit a wall this year, and it’s taken a huge toll on him. Even though he is an exceptionally clever child, he sulks around announcing that he is “dumb.” He struggles to keep up with his schoolwork and feels that his classmates are all working beyond his level. In second grade, they are already beginning to funnel the students into a top-down format in class; the teacher presents and then the kids are responsible for going to stations to recreate what she has presented. This doesn’t work for the young man I tutor, and I’m sure there are other kids not being optimally served by this model.

The boy in question learns best by a kinesthetic route. We play many math games, and I try to keep him moving as much as possible. I’m actually looking forward to the nice weather coming, so we can move our tutoring sessions outside and really let loose with the movement. Some people just need that trigger to get the information to stick in their brains.

Perhaps we cannot do a drastic amount of movement inside a regular classroom, but I think this challenge supports a shift toward hands-on, project-based learning. Anything that gets kids directly involved in their educational experience is a step in the right direction.