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Learning Styles of Children

For as long as I live, I will never cease to be amazed at how so many different looking children can come from the same two parents.

My husband and I have five children – five very distinctly different looking children. The oldest is very Italian looking, like his father. He has very straight black hair, very dark eyes and dark features. Son #2 two has brown hair, (that was blond-almost white- for years, then got darker) and is extremely curly (ringlets kind of curly). He has light brown eyes, medium skin and features and wears glasses. The third child is a girl with black hair like brother #1, but it’s curly like brother #2. She also has dark skin and eyes and wears glasses. Child #4 is female and has the same features as #2 son, except that her hair is wavy, not curly and was never blond. Baby girl, #5, has straight dark brown hair, light features, freckles and green eyes.

It’s like God was pulling traits from a hat. I just think it’s funny.

And, if those aren’t enough differences, each one possesses a unique personality and a totally different learning style from his/her siblings.

(A girl’s gotta have a mean bag of tricks to teach in that kind of home school.)

The phrase ‘learning style’ is used often these days and is simply a catch-all way to express the fact that each child has unique methods by which they are able to absorb and process and remember information.

You’ve probably noticed that while one child seems to love performing his work in workbooks regularly, another child would rather pull his own teeth than sit for even 5 minutes working in a daily workbook. Some children love to employ constant help and intervention while others prefer to work completely independently. Some children memorize things more easily with constant review, while others require every kind of song and dance imaginable to get things to “stick” in their memories.

Learning styles

When I first began home schooling, I purchased a pricey phonics curriculum that required a significant amount of memory work. Son #1 sailed through it with ease and utter enjoyment. (Enjoyment. I said it.) Son #2 wanted to run away from home every time I tried to use that same curriculum with him. It drove him batty (and hence, he drove ME batty.) Lesson learned.

This is the point at which a wise parent/teacher concedes that it might be a good time to investigate the differences in learning styles – and make adjustments.

brain

A great first step in that direction is to discover whether your child is, what is often referred to as a ‘right brain’ or ‘left brain’ thinker. Scientists tell us that different parts of our brains are responsible for our abilities to do different things. While the left side of the brain seems to be responsible for our ability to function in all things logical, sequential and rational – the right side allows us to think randomly, intuitively and subjectively.

Most people generally exhibit characteristics that seem to suggest that they use one side of the brain more masterfully (or at least more often) than the other. Since most curriculum is geared toward a more left brain learner (focusing on auditory and sequential aspects, as well as a lot of writing) children who are considered right brain learners often struggle to keep pace though they may be quite intelligent. It makes sense to find out which kind of learner/thinker – left brain or right brain – your child might be. Most people are a combination of the two, though they tend to lean a little more in one direction than the other.

For younger students, consider the following tendencies:

LEFT BRAIN LEARNERS

  1. Tends to seek structure in the school day
  2. Memorizes best by repetition (auditory or writing)
  3. Likes to know the plan for each day, week, etc.
  4. Tends to work well independently
  5. Likes to make lists, and check them off as tasks are completed
  6. Thinks things through with multiple pieces of evidence before coming to a conclusion
  7. Tends to find math interesting and is very good at it.
  8. Likes the predictability and conciseness of workbooks
  9. Can work well within a self-paced computer curriculum

RIGHT BRAIN LEARNERS

  1. Likes spontaneous events, versus planned events
  2. Memorizes best by using meaning, color, pictures, story and emotion
  3. Does not plan ahead regularly
  4. Prefers much involvement with parent while doing daily lessons
  5. Does not work on items sequentially, but skips around in his/her work
  6. Makes quantum leaps when learning – figures things out with little evidence
  7. Finds math quite repetitive and somewhat boring
  8. Prefers projects and discussions rather than book work
  9. Does not do well with self-paced or computer curriculum

For older students, consider the following traits:

LEFT BRAIN CHARACTERISTICS

  1. Verbal
  2. Responds to word meaning
  3. Sequential
  4. Processes information linearly
  5. Responds to logic
  6. Plans ahead
  7. Recalls people’s names
  8. 8. Speaks with few gestures
  9. Punctual
  10. Prefers formal study design
  11. Prefers bright lights while studying

RIGHT BRAIN CHARACTERISTICS

  1. Visual
  2. Responds to tone of voice
  3. Random
  4. Processes information in varied order
  5. Responds to emotion
  6. Impulsive
  7. Recalls people’s faces
  8. Gestures when speaking
  9. Less punctual
  10. Prefers sound/music background while studying
  11. Prefers frequent mobility while studying

As I mentioned, most curriculum tend to teach to left brain learners. If your child (especially in early elementary grades) shows signs of difficulty with memory skills, focusing and attention OR if he/she has a genuine dislike for “traditional” desk work very early on in the game, OR if the situation has reached a point where your spouse is hearing rumors of an impending mother/child smack down during school hours – then you may want to look into some right brain teaching strategies.

The beauty of right brain methods is that both right brain and left brain learners seem to love the techniques and they are very effective for both groups. Here are a few suggestions listed by subject.

SPELLING
– Train child’s photographic memory capability
– Teach the word retrieval technique that spelling bee winners use
– Avoid using writing as main means of learning spelling words
– Use colors and pictures and humor on the letter or letters in a word

VOCABULARY
– Have students draw cartoons to aid in memorizing vocabulary words
– Make a drawing of the meaning of the word
– Use pre-made vocabulary cartoons by homeschool dad Sam Burchers

MATH
– Teach the problem and answer as a whole rather than in parts
– Use stories, emotion and pictures
– Make visual charts of math processes whenever possible and keep them displayed

PHONICS
– Use color and pictures to make phonics memorable at every opportunity
– Train the brain to store the sound and picture as a unit
– Employ music and/or singing to teach sounds

READING COMPREHENSION
– Train students to change words into pictures when listening and reading
– Teach them how to make a movie in their head as they read to increase comprehension/memory
– Add specific/recognizable music to reading time

WRITING
– Model how to see their whole paper or paragraph before they write it
– Show them how to write only one or two words to remind them of the whole thought
– Don’t correct spelling errors on the paper. Instead, put misspelled words into the next spelling lesson

For space reasons, I have only briefly listed a few suggestions for helping your right brain thinkers with their work. The following is a list of online resources that are packed with detailed information to guide you in creating an atmosphere where your little right brainers (as well as left brainers) will be able to function and excel.

RESOURCES:

http://www.web-us.com/brain/braindominance.htm
Teaching Your Right Brain Child – video by Dianne Craft
Right Brain Children in a Left Brain World – by Jeffrey Freed
VocabularyCartoons.com
http://diannecraft.org/
Right Brain Math – by Dianne Craft
Lindamood Phonemic Awareness Program
Dyslexia: How do I Teach this Child” – by Dianne Craft
Use Both Sides of the Brain – by Tony Buzan
http://www.tapestryofgrace.com/

Last thoughts. It is important to remember that struggling learners usually do not learn independently, but need much teacher involvement to be successful. And, don’t forget to pray for the ability to be able to employ some of these techniques regularly and the wisdom to discern exactly where your child’s greatest needs are. God is aware of every detail. Just ask Him!

Repost and written By: Darnelle Visit her blog, All Things Work Together.

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