Diverse Paths Towards Learning
Visualize a typical classroom in a school anywhere in the world. There is one child gazing at the soft board, taking in the information displayed on the chart put up on it, scrutinizing the images in varied colours. Another child is hanging on to each and every word of the teacher, listening to the poem that is being recited with impressive voice modulation by her. A third child is fiddling with Jodo blocks, delving into the concept of units and tens, her face animated as she places the blocks in the correct places.
There are some others sitting in groups, animatedly discussing the pointers of a certain concept, each one sounding her idea and eagerly awaiting a response to it from her group mate, arriving at a conclusion that is unanimously accepted. It is easy to surmise that some, if not all, are whiling away their time in useless pursuits. But believe me, all these children are learning, albeit in different ways, and developing skills that withhold good in the future and lead them to success.
You must be shaking your head in skepticism, unwilling to accept that all these are learning strategies. Yes, my dear parents, each of these activities indeed lead the concerned child to knowledge and understanding, adding to her abilities effortlessly and with added comprehension. Every child is unique, and processes knowledge in a different way; and as educators and parents, it is our duty to identify their unique style and guide them to skill development along their chosen path.
To each her own – we should say, and instead of trying to force one established and set way to communicate with children, we should adopt different ways in line with each one’s learning styles, making the learning process fun and memorable.
So how do children learn? Basically, children learn by seeing, listening, reading/writing and touching. These are the layman’s terms; let us get acquainted with the formally accepted terms too – they being the Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic (VARK) strategies that are used for learning. A child is instinctively attracted to a particular strategy and adopts it as her style of learning. It is imperative that parents and educators identify the style of learning of specific children so that the teaching-learning process is based on them, and the learning is proper and effective.
The Visual Learner:
Observe your child as she takes in information. Is she drawn to charts and diagrams, and uses a flowchart to list points? Does she use different coloured pens to segregate points under different headings, and loves to pour over maps to locate cities and their capitals? If that is so, your child is a Visual learner and learns by ‘looking’ and incorporating that into her kitty of skills.
These are the qualities that a Visual learner displays with ease, and would improve with active support from you:
- A fertile imagination
- An ability to remember information that has been visually observed
- An aptitude to decipher maps and locate directions of places
- A desire to read books
- Capability to analyse cover pages of books and predict the story
- An ability to recognise the faces of people that she has met, and places that have been visited
- An interest in art and craft activities
Related Topic: Inquiry-based Learning in the 21st Century Classroom
A strategy that can be adopted:
The best way to arouse interest in such learners is to make use of charts, mind maps, smart boards, drawings, flow charts and video clippings in the teaching-learning process, and allow them to express their understanding in the form of diagrams and illustrations. Concept maps may be used to display connections between the learning material for ease of understanding for such learners. Making use of body language and gestures that depict ideas, and providing visual clues like writing on the board, and charts with images and words in bright colours will work wonders. Encouraging them to read the text silently to themselves before it is discussed as a class will be beneficial to them.
The Aural Learner:
How does your child react when you sing a rhyme or narrate the bedtime story every night? Does she sing along with you, learning the rhyming words effortlessly, and refuse to sleep till the story has been completed, betraying interest? Does she tap her feet when a song is played, and talk whenever she finds an opportunity, asking you to respond to her infinite questions with long, drawn-out answers? Well… if that is so, your child is an Aural learner, and learns by ‘listening’.
These are the traits that an Aural learner exhibits, and as educators, we should give them opportunities to hone their skills for optimum benefit:
- An incessant desire to talk and communicate using words
- An ability to listen to verbal instructions and understand them correctly
- An aptitude to express oneself through discussions and conversations
- An interest in music – both in songs and in musical instruments
- An interest in participating in musical programmes
- Capability to sing songs in tune, and also to frame songs and assign tunes to them
A strategy that can be adopted:
So how do we ensure that such a learner is learning as per her capability and interest? The answer is simple – by ensuring that the teaching-learning process involves lots of words, sounds, music, conversation, and discussions. Texts may be read aloud, both by you and the child, or an audio recording may be played for better comprehension. Verbal directions may be repeated, and word association games may be played for the development of cognitive skills and the integration of concepts. Recitations, reading aloud, group discussions, and music as a tool for learning may be used as a teaching-learning strategy. Appropriate music in the background that is related to the concept being done in the classroom will set the mood for their learning, help them to ingrain the information with ease, and lead to better understanding.
The Read/Write Learner:
Does your child display a keenness to consult a dictionary to seek out interesting words? Does she prefer to read and write, and enjoy extracting meaning from titles of books and headings of paragraphs? Are you often pleasantly surprised at her use of interesting words and clarity in her writing that is way above her age level? Then you have a Read/Write Learner in your child – a learner that uses the ‘read/write strategy to learn.
The following are the characteristics that a Read/Write learner possesses:
- A passionate interest in reading books
- A liking for words that have interesting meanings and unique philological backgrounds
- A desire to take down notes
- An ability to simplify abstract ideas into intelligible sentences
- An aptitude for the presentation of learning information in the proper sequence and order
A strategy that can be adopted:
Guiding your child who is a Read/Write learner to learn to the best of her abilities is to do the obvious – which is providing her with infinite opportunities to read and write. Encouraging silent reading and ensuring that the environment is conducive to uninterrupted reading will work wonders for her. Flashcards may be used that she will ‘read’ and then ‘write’ and ‘rewrite’ for practice. Your child will learn effectively if she is encouraged to reword the main idea of a given passage or convert diagrams or charts into meaningful sentences. Such exercises will help her in understanding concepts in a constructive manner.
The Kinesthetic Learner:
Is your child restless when asked to sit quietly at the desk as you read a story to her, or show her a video clip? Do you see her fingers moving over each other, or on the objects on the desk as she stares at you with vacant eyes as you tell her a story? Does she love the building blocks that you had given her years ago, and surprises you each time she builds a structure, each one unique, each one a work of art? If that is your child, you have a Kinesthetic learner in your hands, one who learns by ‘touching’.
A Kinesthetic learner displays the following traits, and would develop skills for future success if these are honed:
- Very active and agile
- Uses gestures to explain what she is saying or displaying
- Enjoys hands-on activities and role play
- Loves to write, draw, make lines, build and construct
- Loves dancing and sporting activities
- Possesses excellent eye-hand coordination
The strategy that can be adopted:
There are many ways to engage kinesthetic learners in the teaching-learning process and ensure that their learning process is enjoyable as well as effective. First and foremost, these children should be given the opportunity to learn by experimenting, performing, dramatizing and engaging in physical activities. Making bodily movements to memorize important concepts will be easier for these learners. Activities related to counting by using Abacus beads or Jodo blocks, clay modelling, constructing models, putting together jigsaw puzzles, and tracing diagrams using tracing paper – in fact, all activities that involve ‘touching’ and ‘feeling’ will work wonders.
Apart from the above-mentioned four types of learning styles, learners may be broadly categorized as Social learners and Solitary learners. As the names suggest, Social learners learn best in a group where they offer their opinions and ideas and keenly accept those given by their peers or group members. They learn while discussing in groups, and are not bashful even in the presence of strangers, eager to learn from them.
On the other hand, Solitary learners prefer to study alone without consulting anyone else. They feel intimidated in groups and are often silent in such situations, and little or no learning takes place then. It is thus our responsibility to identify the learning style that our child is comfortable in and provide relevant learning experiences for optimum benefit.
It would be prudent to remember that most children begin their journey of education by adopting different learning strategies as they grow, and then involuntary choose the one that suits them the most. As parents and educators, it is our duty to help them choose the one that they are comfortable with and enjoy the most. Learning that is enjoyed while being ingrained is the learning that stays, and aids in skill development that is conducive to a successful future.
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