Teaching Different Learning Styles: Strategies for Reaching All Learners

This blog post about teaching different learning styles was originally written in 2018. It was updated in 2024 to reflect the latest available research.

Ever have students zone out during some parts of a lesson, but stay alert during others? This may be attributed to their learning style or preference.

We’ve all heard it: “Not all kids learn the same way.”

We know it’s true, but do we take action to meet the needs of all of our learners? Read on (or see the chart below if you’re a visual learner) to learn about the four main learning styles in the VARK model and how we can ensure that our instruction reaches all of our learners.

A popular theory about learning styles is the VARK model. It stands for Visual, Auditory (Aural), Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic modalities for learning (Fleming and Mills, 1992). Each one is associated with a preference for learning that may help retention of information.

  • Visual learners learn by seeing
  • Aural learners prefer to learn by listening and speaking
  • Reading and Writing learners like to read and take notes.
  • Kinesthetic learners prefer to move and learn by doing. Most people fall into this category or a combination of this and another category.

Click here to learn more and watch interviews with Neil Fleming, the designer of VARK.

Although students may have a preference for learning style, it doesn’t mean we need to separate our students into groups and teach our lessons four different ways! Teaching in only one style may even be a disservice to students. Many students are multi-modal and have several preferences for learning styles. Some students can be visual learners in some situations, but auditory in others.

So, how can we help?

Students have different learning style preferences. While some are visual learners and prefer to see charts, pictures, diagrams, etc., others prefer to learn by hearing, doing, reading or writing! The VARK model describes 4 learning preferences: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/ writing. This post has strategies and tips for teachers to use when planning instruction, to meet the needs of all kinds of learners. #tejedastots

By making sure that we incorporate different kinds of teaching methods in our lessons, we ensure that we teach to all types of learners. If we only give verbal instructions or only use graphic organizers to teach comprehension, for example, we may be missing opportunities to reach some students.

For example, if you are reading a story, show the pictures and use a graphic organizer (visual), have students act it out (kinesthetic), retell the story to one another (aural), and/or have them take notes in a student notebook or on post-its while you read (reading/writing). Other activities may include sequencing pictures on a pocket chart, acting out how the characters are feeling, and using a recorded version at a listening center.

Unless you have 48 hours in your day and no other obligations, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to modify each lesson to ensure you are using all modalities.

  • Visual Learners – Utilize PowerPoint presentations, charts, diagrams, and graphic organizers to visually represent concepts. Incorporate color-coding and highlighters to emphasize key points.
  • Auditory Learners – Encourage class discussions, turn-and-talk activities, and the repetition of important information. Integrate songs, chants, and summarization techniques to reinforce learning through auditory channels.
  • Reading/Writing Learners – Provide handouts, books, and texts for students to read and analyze. Incorporate note-taking, list-making, and writing activities to engage learners who excel in reading and writing modalities.
  • Kinesthetic Learners – Incorporate hands-on activities such as role-playing, science experiments, and STEM projects. Encourage movement-based learning through activities like body-spelling, building words with Play-Doh or magnetic letters, and real-life examples. Grab a free sample of my Multisensory Sight Word Body-Spelling resource!

Read more about how I incorporate movement into sight word instruction: 5 WAYS TO TEACH SIGHT WORDS WITH MOVEMENT!

While we recognize that students may lean towards a certain learning style, the latest research cautions against rigidly categorizing students and only teaching to their most preferred learning style. Instead, we should focus on a more integrated approach that acknowledges the complexity of our learners.

The key lies in incorporating a variety of teaching methods and activities into our lessons to accommodate different modalities. Encouraging our students to engage with information in multiple ways fosters flexibility and this makes them more adaptable and versatile learners.

Our goal is to provide rich, multisensory learning experiences that are more likely to engage all students regardless of their preferred learning style. We can do this by:

  • Combining visual aids, storytelling, hands-on activities, and writing assignments
  • Encouraging discussions, group work, and project-based learning
  • Offering different ways for students to demonstrate understanding

By embracing a broader view of learning styles and incorporating multisensory learning, we can better meet the needs of all of our students.

Sight word fluency is so important, yet many students struggle to build and retain a strong sight word vocabulary, despite a variety of approaches to sight word practice! Kindergarten and first-grade students need a multisensory approach!

Movement has been scientifically proven to be linked with increased academic performance! Most students are kinesthetic learners and using their bodies to spell words is a great way to incorporate movement into sight word instruction!

Check it out in my Tejeda’s Tots Shop!  

And get your kids moving while learning the alphabet, Don’t miss my Kinethstetic alphabet, check it out in my Tejeda’s Tots Shop!

Interested in finding out your learning style preference? Take the VARK survey by clicking here! I wasn’t surprised at all by my results. Can you guess which is my learning preference?

Comment below with your guess and let me know your learning style!

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