Teaching to Diverse Learning Styles in the Classroom

By Lynn-nore Chittom

Teachers should take time to determine the different learning styles of their students and then adjust their curriculum to address these styles. The primary three learning styles are auditory, visual and kinesthetic. This article provides concrete examples of how to teach each style effectively.

Teaching the Student

The most important element when catering to diverse learning styles is remembering to teach to the student and not just the subject. Teachers should be trained to take into consideration a variety of learning styles and make efforts to teach in ways that make true learning available to all students. Once teachers are familiar with these learning styles, classroom activities and study habits can be adjusted to accommodate the styles of any group of students.

Learning styles are most often divided into three basic groups. There are the auditory learners, visual learners and kinesthetic or tactile learners. In addition to these basic groups, some educational theorists also recognize verbal, logical, social and solitary as additional styles. Here is a systematic breakdown of each learning style and some suggestions for addressing these styles in the classroom.

Teaching Auditory Learners

Auditory learners learn best through hearing the message. Students who are auditory learners respond well to lectures and verbal instructions. They may also be interested in books on tape or listening to review material. Some auditory learners have greater success with oral exams due to the fact that they are able to process verbally, hear the questions, and hear their own responses. Teachers auditory learners requires the teacher to use rhythmic memory aids such as acronyms, short songs, or rhymes. For studying, auditory learners do best when they are able to read their material aloud. Flip cards which can be read aloud may also be useful.

Teaching Visual Learners

Visual learners process information according to what they see and the images they have created in their mind. When teaching visual learners, their seating position should be in the front of the room to help them avoid external visual distractions. Illustrations, diagrams, and charts are very helpful when working with visual learners. Students who are visual learners are often the best note-takers because they need to see the information being presented. Flip cards can be very helpful for visual learners as it isolates an image of the material they are studying.

Teaching Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic, or tactile, learners learn best through touching, feeling and doing. Teachers trying to reach kinesthetic learners should incorporate hands-on projects, multi-media assignments, skits, movement, and physical artifacts as examples. Assigning a diorama or skit is a great example of how to reach a kinesthetic learner. These students also respond well to object lessons if they are able to touch the object involved.

Hands-on experiments are another great tool for teaching kinesthetic learners. This is easily done with science material, but can also be incorporated into social studies and even language arts, if teachers keep a close eye on the environment of the history lesson or the story being studied. Information about geography, customs, and food can often be reworked into a hands-on experience. Examples of this include mummifying a chicken in association with a social studies unit on ancient Egypt or preparing an ethnic food in conjunction with a culture-based language arts story. These sorts of ideas attract and engage the kinesthetic learners in the classroom.

Teaching Logical, Social or Solitary

These learning styles are not as commonly discussed as the above three, but to warrant some mention. Logical learners are those students who most enjoy problem solving, logic games and reasoning. These students love riddles, word problems, and problem solving games or worksheets, so provide many when teaching them. The categories of social and solitary describe how the students prefer to study, either in groups or individually.

Determining a Student's Style

Teachers should consider ways they can determine the learning styles of their students. This can be a very different process for various age groups. For older students, teachers can use curriculum for teaching learning styles and then offer personality tests specifically designed to help identify their students' styles. With middle school students, teachers should incorporate a variety of learning styles in an effort to reach all students as testing this age group can be particularly difficult due to shyness, reading readiness and social pressures.

For kindergarten and early elementary teachers, the use of an object lesson, such as an unusual pet or particularly old item, can help identify the students primary learning styles. Young students who are kinesthetic learners are generally the first ones to ask “Can I hold it?" while visual learners are the ones who sit right in front, but may not want to touch what is being shown. Auditory learners are the ones who talk about the lesson the whole rest of the day. To observe students, it is best to have the object lesson taught by a co-worker or have a co-worker observe the students.

Is it worth it?

While incorporating such a variety of techniques into curriculum and teaching can be difficult, the reward of reaching every student is well-worth the effort.