The teacher helps children

One of the most important elements of a classroom is the activities that are used to facilitate learning. A challenge many educators face is figuring out how to ensure that all students are given equal learning opportunities, especially since they learn in different ways. It therefore helps to use some of the valuable time in the first few days of returning to school to conduct a learning style survey of your students. Once this is done, you can then plan your lessons according to the kinds of learning styles that are in your classroom.

Why are learning styles important?

Learning styles determine how a student acquires and processes the information given in the classroom. If a student is unable to do this effectively, the lesson is lost and the student’s achievement will suffer.

What are the basic learning styles?

Learning styles basically encompass three basic senses: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. There are other researchers who propose far more categories but for this article I will focus primarily on these three. By reflecting on students in your past classes, you can probably identify some students as ‘always out of their seat’, ‘always making noises’, or ‘always drawing/doodling on their papers’. These are some of the outward clues which can help in identifying your students’ learning styles.

Next, know your teaching style.

Many of us teach according to how we learn most effectively. Being a visual learner, I tend to use many visual aids, posters, and pictures to illustrate my lessons. Unfortunately, an aural or kinesthetic learner in my class is going to need more than that to comprehend the key concepts of the lesson. Therefore, I have to make a conscious effort to cater to the other learning styles which may be present in my classroom. Here are just some of the things that we as teachers can do to ensure we are catering to as many of our students’ learning styles as possible:

Visual:

Visual students process information using sight. They should be placed near the front of the classroom so that other students or objects do not distract them. When teaching vocabulary, a good strategy for visual learners is to show them the word accompanied by a picture or illustration of the word. Math teachers should use a document projector to show step- by-step solutions to problems. Subject area content should be enhanced with the use of video clips, slide shows, presentations and pictures.

Auditory/Aural:

Students in this category need to hear information in order to process it. They are the learners who will need to sit close enough to hear the information but do not necessarily need a clear line of vision. An effective vocabulary lesson for auditory learners includes choral repitition and spelling of words and definitions. Math lessons should include narration of each step in the problem-solving process. Audio clips, songs, mnemonic devices and speeches will ease the learning process for these learners in all other subjects.

Kinesthetic:

Many younger students fall into the kinesthetic category. These students should be allowed to have controlled movement during lessons in order to allow their learning process to take place (i.e. squeezing stress balls, sitting on alternative seating such as a gym ball, or standing at their desk). A kinesthetic vocabulary activity might include spelling out words using letter tiles or even paper plates with letters on them. Improved retention of math concepts can be gained by using manipulatives such as cubes or counters. All kinesthetic learners will benefit from dramatization activities, interactive games and scavenger hunts.

Where can you find learning style surveys?
They are as close as your computer. Some good websites to try are vark- learn.com, ldpride.net, and edutopia. org. Use and modify these surveys to fit your students. Younger children should be asked fewer, simpler questions, while Cycle 2 and 3 students can take a complete survey. Feel free to share these websites with your Arabic colleagues as these surveys can also be translated into Arabic.

Learning and using a variety of learning styles in your classroom has the added benefit of expanding your teaching experience. Don’t be afraid to think outside your own learning style – you will find the new skills rewarding!

By Bettina Fuentes

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