Dr. Mary Ann Smialek
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How Do Children Learn?

This question has been a frequent subject of research for many years. Since the early 1970’s researchers have been studying individual learning styles. They agree that a variety of patterns appear in a typical classroom. Understanding your children’s learning styles can help break ineffective homework patterns that cloud your child’s learning. Inefficient homework strategies are ineffective because some children are not getting what they need to learn and fully process information that is presented to them.

Children learn in different ways. To gain a better understanding of how your child learns, consider the four broad areas of preferred learning styles. Each style exhibits very recognizable traits. Many theories have been developed regarding children’s learning styles. One of the most popular theories with educators deals with four modes of learning: visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile. These modalities are based upon the use of the five senses involved with the learning process. Which sense the child prefers determines the student’s learning style.

Visual learners best remember what is seen. These children tend to remember faces instead of names, are good readers and have good imaginations. They respond best to instruction that includes reading, posters, graphs and videos. Visual learners:

  • take copious notes
  • often close their eyes to visualize and remember
  • usually neat and clean with carefully coordinated clothing
  • benefit from illustrations and visual presentations
  • are attracted to written or spoken language rich in pictorial imagery
  • seek quiet, passive surroundings ideal

Auditory learners best remember what is heard. These youngsters remember names well, respond easily to phonics instruction and may like to talk when writing. They benefit most from instruction based on lectures, discussions and questioning. Some good methods to use with auditory learners include singing songs or listening to tapes that relate to content area to be studied and developing rhymes and mnemonics to help remember information. Auditory learners:

  • remember names, tend to forget faces
  • may nor coordinate clothes but can explain what they have on and why
  • hum or talk to themselves
  • enjoy listening to themselves and others
  • likes to read aloud
  • remembers best by verbalizing
  • have difficulties reading maps or diagrams
  • have little trouble learning in a noisy environment

Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing, experimenting and involvement. These learners remember what was done, not necessarily what was seen or heard, and might have difficulty paying attention and staying focused on their schoolwork or homework. Kinesthetic learners benefit most from hands-on instruction, using manipulatives, role-playing or building things. Kinesthetic learners:

  • need to move around, be active and take frequent breaks
  • speak with their hands and with gestures
  • seek out and find ways to move around
  • tinker when bored
  • rely on what they can directly experience or perform
  • enjoy manipulating materials

Tactile learners like to use their hands and fingers to learn. These children learn best by writing, drawing, doodling and tend to be creative.

They benefit from instructions such as sewing, painting or drawing. Kinesthetic learners:

  • need to touch or feel objects when learning a new concept
  • enjoys designing things
  • likes to illustrate written work
  • finds sculpting, painting and drawing relaxing
  • Appreciates physically expressed encouragement (e.g. a pat on the back)

As the learning style theory suggests, students have a predominant learning mode followed by their 2nd - 3rd and 4th preferred style. Knowing and understanding your child’s preferred learning style is useful to you when you tackle homework assignments with your children. Using this "multi-sensory" approach to learning when helping your children with their homework assignments will stimulate and enhance your children’s learning processes. It will surely increase your young one’s academic success. Using a "multi-sensory" – "multi-modal" learning style approach, you will change the pattern of failure to success and meet the needs of tour child who is academically "at-risk". Using this approach will empower you to reach your child’s learning preference even if it not always clearly defined.

Children struggle when they try to learn in ways that aren’t natural for them. When you plan a variety of demonstrations of instruction, your children can utilize their individual strengths to succeed in school. Remember there is never "one" right way or "only" way to teach and help your children with their homework. Helping your children with their homework in the future coupled with the knowledge of the various learning style preferences and the use of technology will add a new dimension to your pursuit of successfully meeting your children’s learning needs. With your creativity, knowledge and motivation you will meet the challenge.


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