From the Archives: Assessment of Your Child’s Learning Style

Student Thinking
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This article was written by Simple Kids editor Joan and was published February 17, 2009.

When you are speaking to more than one child, chances are, each child will be learning from you in a different way. We can easily tell the differences in what children learn, but when we investigate the how factor, it may simplify the process when getting your message across.

There are three Learning Styles that constitute the how factor, and they are easy to apply to your children when the time is taken to simply observe their play.

Visual learners are basically stimulated by seeing information. From projectors and chalkboards to their own art and handwriting, children who benefit the most from visual teaching have typically excelled at exercises involving puzzles, construction, invention, sketching, visual metaphors, and design.

Auditory learners thrive by hearing information. A lot of times, the written words needs to be spoken for these learners to fully understand the intended message. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” undeniably applies to aural learning; these children will do best reading aloud or using audio books, as the inflections of a reader’s voice will help decode the purpose of punctuation and phrasing on the page.

Tactile or kinesthetic learners need the hands-on approach. In any way possible, these learners need to move or act to associate knowledge literally to “what you do with it”. Children with this learning style benefit from dancing and exercise while reciting information. Maybe make up an ABC dance or hop-scotch method. That way, the child has interacted with the material and will have been more impacted by it.

Applying the Methods

Take the opportunity to step back and watch when your child is playing with all of those toys you know make your child’s brain tick. Use these Learning Styles as a general measure when you look at the facial expressions and body language during stimulating activities. If it’s difficult to tell, try teaching one simple lesson to your child for every learning style.

Take notes; I think it will help with the process when you begin to compare and contrast the different stories and styles while revisiting your child’s subsequent paraphrasing.

Take the following game plan of sorts as a starting point for familiarizing yourself with your child’s learning style.

Day 1: Tell your child a story with a moral and wait several hours after you’re done to casually mention the story. Optimally, try to find an audio tape or CD to accompany the story so the story becomes a distinct aural experience. When you ask about the moral and see what has been retained, this will be the assessing the effectiveness of the auditory learning style.

Day 2: Use a different story with a different moral, but use a felt board or coloring pages to illustrate the story. In order to gauge your child’s kinetic/tactile learning, they must be actively involved in the story. There are many ways to do this if you can find a way to incorporate interactive tools like play dough or construction paper.

Later, initiate the subtle questioning again- if you have to, use an inflection in your voice that suggests you don’t know the answer and need their help remembering.

Day 3: Again, choose another story unique to the learning style you’re trying to explore. This time, use a chalkboard or poster board to have your child learn visually. Your child will not be active during this assessment; we’re trying to determine what’s held in their mind’s eye when trying to go back and retrieve the information later.

When teaching, draw vivid diagrams and illustrate direction with arrows. (I am no artist so I use stick people, but it does the job, I hope) Try to associate certain colors with words with consistency, and take note of what the words were. When you ask them about the story, refer back to the words & see if they have made a lasting impression.

I found another educational inspiration that I’d like to share, if you don’t already know his work. Dr. Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I love his book, Frames of Mind. In this book, Dr. Gardner explores the idea of Multiple Intelligence, a theory comprised of seven different ways a person can demonstrate their intellectual ability.

With each of these assessment techniques, you have the ability to thoroughly analyze what your child has learned and how. This approach includes the three learning styles above, naming them Visual/Spatial Intelligence, Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence and Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence. Aside from these familiar concepts, other facets of Multiple Intelligence Theory include:

  • Logical/Mathematical Intelligence describes students who have a great ability conceptualizing in numerical terms. These children would typically be the ones acting upon curiosity and performing, or creating, experiments.
  • Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence is pretty easy to recognize. Students favoring this learning style are able to produce, appreciate and describe patterns of sound around them. Natural sounds are somewhat more obvious to these children.
  • Interpersonal Intelligence befalls on those who naturally empathize with others before offering opinions or advice. “Reading” people and having an uncanny sense of how another is feeling are traits of this Intelligence type. Interpersonal learners are the natural counselors in our world… and also the politicians and lawyers.
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence suits those who have an uncanny sense of self. They turn inward for their approach to learning before they begin to take in the information. Learning this way focuses on one’s own strengths and weaknesses in a constant effort to improve their internal state of mind.

Hopefully digesting these methods of assessment will allow a better sense of what is being learned by your little ones and how. It is highly unlikely that your child uses purely one method, but being aware of the characteristics of all of them may make finding the one they favor easier

Are there any of these learning styles that you hadn’t considered? Do you think they’ll be helpful for you and your family?