University of Illinois Extension

Learning Styles

Introductory Activity

Ask yourself and your child what comes to mind when you hear the word dog. Some people see a picture of the animal, hear a bark, while others visualize the animal dog. Those who see a picture of a dog in their minds's eye or see the letters are probably visual. While those who hear the bark are probably auditory learners. Those who feel the soft fur of a dog are probably kinesthetic.

Learning is reflected in the way we respond to environmental, social, emotional and physical stimuli, to understand new information. Learning style is defined as the way that information is processed. It focuses on strengths, not weaknesses. There is no right or wrong learning style Most children show a preference for one of the following basic learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic/ manipulative. It is not uncommon to combine the primary and secondary learning styles.

Parents also show a preference for one of these learning styles. It is not unusual for parents to prefer a different style of learning than their child. In order to work effectively with your child it is important to understand your own learning style. (Take inventory at this point)

Visual learners learn by watching. They call up images from the past when trying to remember. They picture the way things look in their heads. Forty percent of secondary students fall into this category.

Activity: Spell words suitable to your child's reading level. After spelling the word(s), write the answer(s) and check your dictionary for the spelling and spell the word(s) out loud.

Example: If new spelling words are presented by calling out the letter, visual learners would not be able to picture the word, if however, they are printed on a blackboard in addition to being said out loud, visuals would see the way the word looks so they could remember it more easily. Kinesthetic learners might remember better by manipulating letter blocks to make the word as for the primary student. Creating a word poem or crossword puzzle could be used for the secondary student.

Auditory learners tend to spell phonetically. They can sometimes have trouble reading, because they don't visualize well. These students learn by listening and remember facts when they are presented in the form of a poem, song or melody.

Kinesthetic learners learn best through movement and manipulation. They like to find out how things work and are often successful in the practical in the arts, such as carpentry or design. These students make up 50 percent of secondary students and have difficulty learning in a traditional setting.

Knowing your child's preferred learning style can help you interest a child in new material. With this information you can also learn which style your child needs to strengthen because of the way most information is presented in school. Only 10 percent of secondary students learn best auditorily, but 80 percent of instructional delivery is auditory.

You may have found that you use different learning styles in different situations. Your child does the same. If your child is having difficulty in school you might want to explore the way that information is being presented in school and approach the subject with your child at home using a different learning. It may also be advisable to discuss this with his/her teacher.

Another consideration is the environment in which people learn best. While tradition tells us to have a quiet room, well lit with a straight back chair, some children learn best in a more chaotic environment. Loud music, laying on the bed, and a dimly lit environment may be the best study situation for others.

Trying different methods of learning may prevent the children from feeling frustrated and inadequate when they are not able to work up to their potential. Experimenting with different learning styles and environments may improve the child's accomplishments and feelings of achievement.