July 27, 2022

Different Learning Styles: How to Accommodate in the Classroom

By B&SC Blog Team

Different Learning Styles: How to Accommodate in the Classroom

Have you ever noticed that, despite working equally hard at all academic endeavors, you learn far more in some classes than others? Passion (or a lack thereof) may play a role; it’s easier, after all, to focus intensely on a topic you find compelling. But what happens when you’re not quite as passionate? Differences in individual learning styles may be at play – and these differences could have a huge impact not only on your own learning, but also, on your ability to reach students.

As individuals, we rely on different tools and techniques to learn about the world around us. Many teachers are vaguely aware of this concept when they take on the role of student; some prefer to discuss educational materials while others find more value in reading or observing visual displays.

Unfortunately, many teachers struggle to apply this individualized approach to the classroom. Many unconsciously gravitate towards teaching methodologies that reflect their own learning preferences. Often, this stems from a limited understanding of the full scope of learning styles.

To clarify, we break down the main learning preferences below, as well as how they play into general classroom management. We’ll also touch on why a mixed learning approach is so valuable.

Visual Learning Style

Sometimes referred to as spatial or graphic learning, this approach relies on visual displays that bring information to life. Visually gifted students may dread lectures or discussions, but they can instantly understand complicated concepts if they’re illustrated effectively.

Signs to Watch For

  • Loves looking at picture books
  • Thrives in art class
  • Enjoys creating organizational systems
  • Quick to find visual patterns
  • Learns quickly from flash cards
  • Prefers seeing visual representations of rules
  • Is usually quiet during class discussions

How to Accommodate Visual Learners

Brightly colored pictures, graphs, or other displays are essential for visual learners. Otherwise, their attention will quickly fade when teachers are presenting information out loud. During quiet study time, visual learners enjoy flash cards – especially if they contain pictures or symbols. Color coding can be effective for many students, particularly as they look for patterns or make sense of complicated concepts.

Auditory Learning Style

People who learn best from the spoken word actively enjoy it when their teachers discuss material in a lecture format. These students are more likely to recall information they’ve heard out loud. They also benefit from discussing content and may adapt easily to giving classroom presentations.

Signs to Watch For

  • Constantly raising hands to ask questions or simply blurting queries out loud
  • Loves to listen to music or sing songs
  • Pays close attention during lectures or discussions – but loses focus quickly during quiet self-study
  • Voices words out loud while reading

How to Accommodate Auditory Learners

In general, auditory learners benefit most from a ‘traditional’ lecture model, in which students listen while the teacher provides verbal insight. Active discussions can make the experience more engaging for all types of learners, however.

Provide a series of open-ended questions to get students talking – and encourage them to share their thoughts. Feel free to throw podcasts into the mix or encourage parents to download them and listen together at home.

With younger students, promoting auditory learning may involve one-on-one time or small group discussions. While full-class activities are encouraged, many children simply won’t have enough focus to pay attention for long. Supplement these sessions by working with a few children at a time so that all are able to speak directly with the teacher or paraprofessional throughout the day.

Don’t assume the classroom needs to be quiet; while some periods of calm can be helpful, young auditory learners will benefit most from conversing throughout the day, rather than being forced to remain silent the majority of the time.

Kinesthetic or Tactile Learning Style

Learning does not need to be a passive experience, as any kinesthetic student will be quick to point out. Also known as “learning by doing,” this style emphasizes movement. Kinesthetic typically refers to whole-body movements such as athletics, while tactile learners excel with fine motor skills.

Often, movement-oriented students will demonstrate an affinity for both kinesthetic and tactile learning – but some may prefer one over the other.

Signs to Watch For

  • Struggles to sit still for long periods of time
  • Takes naturally to active pursuits, such as gym or art
  • Better than average hand-eye coordination
  • Loves completing projects but often jumps in without reading or listening to instructions
  • Enjoys playing games but may not listen to or remember the rules

How to Accommodate Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners

Recess is essential for kinesthetic learners. They desperately need to use their bodies throughout the day. In early childhood settings, these students will benefit from hands-on activities or self-directed play. Provide plenty of toys and equipment – and encourage kinesthetic learners to experiment on their own. You may be surprised by how quickly they master new concepts when left to their own devices.

Creative solutions may be needed to integrate kinesthetic and tactile learning with other styles. Songs with movements are great for both auditory and kinesthetic learners, who typically enjoy dancing. Similarly, when reading picture books out loud, add repetitive motions to target all types of learners.

Reading/Writing Learning Style

Not to be confused with the visual learning style identified above, the reading/writing learning style emphasizes text. While this learning preference is less likely to be obvious in younger children, it’s definitely worth considering in those who are able to master the written word quickly.

Signs to Watch For

  • Constantly reading or trying to read
  • Points to letters or numbers to ask adults to identify them
  • Enjoys writing, which, for younger kids, may look more like doodling
  • Narrates to adults in hopes that they will write stories or poems

How to Accommodate Reading/Writing Learners

Accommodating students who enjoy reading and writing is easy: Encourage them to read and write! This can take many forms. Silent reading is great for older kids. Even young children who cannot yet read on their own will enjoy browsing their favorite books by themselves – or better yet, with help from an adult. Encourage kids to reflect through writing. This may mean keeping a diary or narrating to an adult.

Making the Most of a Mixed Learning Approach

While the definitions outlined above can be helpful, remember these learning preferences exist on a spectrum. Most students will respond to a blend of approaches.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when determining how, exactly, the full range of learning styles can be integrated into a single lesson. If you’re struggling to accommodate individual students, start by dissecting favorite lesson plans to verify which types of learning they target. From there, you may be able to adapt slightly to ensure that other types of students are accommodated.

Ultimately, not every lesson is going to target every learning style – and that’s okay. Students need to adapt to different types of learning, so it’s perfectly fine to focus exclusively on certain approaches at times. Do your best to cover all learning preferences over time so that every student has the opportunity to build a wide range of skills.

Start Your Education Journey Today

Regardless of your personal learning preferences, you can feel confident that your program at Bryant & Stratton will help you become a more effective teacher. We’re pleased to provide a deeply engaging approach that provides the critical skills necessary for working with a vast array of students. Contact us today to learn more about our childhood education programs.

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