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 chart, if you’re a visual learner) to learn about the 4 main learning styles in the VARK model and how we can ensure that our instruction is reaching all kinds of learners.
What are the Different Learning Styles?
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
- Auditory 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 of learning style, it doesn’t mean we need to separate our students into groups and teach our lessons 4 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?
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.
Vary instruction to include activities that cover different learning preferences. 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 (auditory), 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.
Of course, this would be extremely challenging to do for each lesson! 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.
But, here are a few ideas you can use when planning:
- Visual– PowerPoint presentations, pictures projected onto a screen, story maps, diagram, chart, graphic organizers, highlighters, color-coding
- Auditory– turn and talk, class discussions, have students repeat what you’ve said, use songs, chants, summarize to recap the lesson
- Reading/ Writing– use handouts, books, dictionaries, and other texts, have students take notes, make lists, write sight words
- Kinesthetic– role-play, science experiments, STEM activities, sorting objects/ pictures, building words (play-doh, finger-tracing, magnetic letters), body-spelling (freebie here), use real-life examples
Interested in finding out your learning 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 which was your result!