How to accommodate different learning styles in the classroom
Students have different habits and a learning style of their own, and teachers invest a lot of effort into helping them achieve the best possible results. If learning is approached in the right way, the students will achieve better results not only in school, but also later, in their careers and private lives. Of course, in order to know how to accommodate different learning styles in the classroom, we need to know how to recognize the children’s affinities and determine the best approach.
Although learning style activities are primarily referred to in the context of college, actually, there are specific strategies that are used in all phases, from kindergarten through middle school and high school and all the way to college and beyond. As a child grows up, the methods of work become more complex, and so do the tasks. However, what mainly stays the same is the way in which the student adopts information. If someone is a visual learner at a young age, they are likely to remain one all their life. The same goes for students who implement other learning styles.
Applying different learning strategies at school
In order for learning to be as efficient as possible, teachers choose different learning techniques. However, to ensure that specific approaches to learning are going to be effective, one must know the students well in order to determine what learning approach yields the best results. When the teachers are acquainted with the students’ needs, it is easier to implement concrete methods. Sometimes, certain strategies have more to do with the specific requirements of the curriculum than the character of the individual student.
Teachers are constantly aware that the main goal is that the students should become independent and able to make timely, appropriate decisions. This is achieved by giving students a chance to work at a pace that suits them best, but with the awareness that they must move within a limited timeframe. This way, the students develop their work ethic and learn about proper planning of their obligations and apportioning the time required for the successful completion of their tasks. During this process, it is up to the teachers to provide the students with guidelines that ensure that they remain on the right track.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the fact that different learning styles do not serve to limit the students to a single approach to learning, but to enable them to adjust to the adoption of information as required by the current field of education. The practice has shown that children react very well if different strategies are used for specific areas. Even if a student’s preferred learning method implies, for instance, the auditory style, that does not necessarily mean that the same approach will suit them when they are solving math problems. It is up to the teacher to recognize when and how to approach each aspect of the curriculum to ensure that it is clear to each student in the classroom.
Visual learners learn best through illustrations, animations, video recordings, charts and photos that help them memorize information visually. This approach generally makes it easier for children to learn new things they have never heard of before (for instance, little children are shown a globe in order to understand the concept of planet Earth and its elements).
How to accommodate visual learning style in the classroom:
- Graphical representation of learning materials through drawings, photos of charts
- Asking students to draw the most important elements of the lesson they have covered with the teacher
- Marking parts of text using different colored pens during studying to facilitate memorization
- Drawing a “comic” with “characters” from the lesson (these can be letters, numbers, historical figures, chemical elements…)
- Making reminders on differently colored papers to assist in studying
- Creating PowerPoint presentations with a lot of photographs and letters in different font styles and sizes
Aural or auditory learning is based on the use of speech, music and sounds. Although this method might seem like the most traditional approach to learning, combining sounds with the required information can take various innovative forms. Information from a lesson can be associated with sounds to facilitate learning (an obvious example being listening to how a word is pronounced when learning a foreign language).
How to accommodate aural learning style in classroom:
- Using different sounds to explain a lesson; a good blueprint is the symphonic fairy tale “Peter and the Wolf”, where each character in the story is represented by a different musical instrument
- Memorizing information through rhyming or singing
- Learning aloud
- Mastering tasks through group discussions
- Making audio recordings of lessons for repeated listening
- Learning using audiobooks
- Listening to music during studying
Kinesthetic style is often also called tactile learning, as it focuses on learning through touch, the manipulation of objects, repeated movements, etc. Learning in this way is often based on a great number of attempts in order to perfect something or reach a solution (playing an instrument, practicing a sport, fixing technical devices, etc.).
How to accommodate kinesthetic learning style in the classroom:
- Using various objects during lessons (touching rocks, making tools, cooking, etc.)
- Role-playing (e.g., wearing gladiator and senator costumes when learning about ancient Rome)
- Learning through play with clearly set rules (e.g., learning numbers through playing hopscotch)
- Creating collages and drawings based on the topic of the lesson
- Connecting physical movement with learning (e.g., learning while standing up or walking)
It seems easiest to work with students who like to read and write. These children are unusually attracted to written information, from textbooks through novels to reports, etc. They will also gladly write essays, keep records, search the Internet for information… While reading is, without any doubt, good for one’s development and the acquisition of new knowledge, there needs to be a balance with other methods.
How to accommodate reading/writing learning style in the classroom:
- Students enter the most important information from the lesson into an empty table
- Guessing words; adding missing letters and numbers
- Solving crossword puzzles with words related to the current lesson
- Learning using dictionaries and encyclopedias
- Reading stories and novels related to the current subject matter
- Writing essays on given subjects
- Retelling the lessons in writing, i.e. creating their short versions
Social learners learn best when they are in teams. It is characteristic of these students that their grades can vary greatly depending on whether they have studied alone or with someone else. This is a common source of misconceptions about some students’ diligence or talent. They might simply need encouragement and a chance to prove themselves through working together. Even a child who is not much of a team player needs to learn how to cooperate with others to reach a goal.
How to accommodate social learning style in the classroom:
- Learning through performing in public (group competition in the area of knowledge currently studied)
- Brainstorming (students are asked to come up with solutions on a given subject through free-associating together)
- Assigning roles within the team (everyone has a chance to be a team leader)
- Expressing personal opinions using the fact that have been learned
- Representing one side in an argument (like a lawyer)
In addition to these, there are many other learning style activities whose specific characteristics improve the quality of teaching and facilitate the student’s learning process. Approaches to learning that recognize the students’ specific traits and affinities also include:
- Logical learning
- Solitary learning
- Naturalist learning
- Multiple Intelligences
- Experiential learning
Efficient teachers know how to choose and use different learning styles in their classroom
There are many types of learning styles, such as the VARK model, that recognize the students’ learning preferences and recommend specific activities. Although these theories offer excellent general guidelines on how to accommodate different learning styles in the classroom, the teacher is the one who needs to recognize the best strategies in real life.
This is where the combining of learning styles in the classroom so that each child’s specific traits and interests are represented comes into focus. Coming up with a high-quality program and good classroom management are important aspects that contribute to the students’ development, helping them to become excellent people.