Most of us know that people learn in a variety of ways — perhaps you’ve noticed kids who count on their fingers, prefer to read aloud or always write things down. But did you know that there are seven different learning styles? Many individuals demonstrate a balance between all of them —others show a primary affinity towards one.
By identifying a child’s preferred learning style, parents can partner with teachers to target activities that complement these inclinations. Recognizing and supporting how your children learn best will help them thrive at school.
Seven Learning Styles
- Visual/Spatial: This type of young learner has a vivid imagination, good recollection, an interest in art and books, and an aptitude for reading. She loves to observe the surrounding world and responds best to written instructions or demonstrated examples.
- Auditory/Aural: This child tends to excel at musical or vocal activities, enjoys conversation, asks lots of questions, often talks and sings to herself, and prefers working in groups. She responds well to verbal instructions, music and discussion.
- Physical/Kinesthetic: Also known as a tactile learner, this child likes to move around while learning and often tends to fidget when sitting still. She learns by doing — and enjoys sports or hands-on activities.
- Verbal/Linguistic: These individuals prefer using words to learn — both in speech and in writing. Word-based techniques, scripting and reading aloud benefit them.
- Logical/Analytical: This style learner loves to discover how things work and interrelate, asks a lot of questions, and thinks logically from a young age. She may show an early aptitude for math and is excellent at strategy-based games and activities.
- Social/Interpersonal: These kids love working with others and benefit from group learning situations.
- Solitary/Intrapersonal: A solitary learner prefers to learn alone and through self-study.
How does the use of technology impact a child’s learning style?
Technology’s influx into the classroom brings a wealth of opportunities for positive change — as well as some challenges and concerns.
Every child has the potential to learn when teaching methods are adjusted to their preferred learning style(s), but teachers often don’t have the time and resources to give each child such individualized focus. The use of technology can help personalize education in such situations.
Pros: To start, technology can help children learn at their own pace. They can repeat lessons when needed for greater comprehension. Visual learners can download supplementary charts and graphics to support math lessons; auditory learners can read via audiobooks; kinesthetic learners can make use of electronic keyboards to keep their hands busy when struggling to sit still in class.
ESL (English as a second language) learners and children with physical or learning disabilities — of all learning styles — can also benefit from technology at school.
In many ways, technology is changing the role of the teacher. In the past, teachers lectured from the front of the room and children listened passively. Now, kids can take a much more active role in learning by accessing a world of information with a touch of their fingertips. Teachers can also incorporate technology to supplement old-school lessons with updated visuals, audio clips, or hands-on activities to target and support particular learning styles.
Cons: Using technology also comes with some potential pitfalls — no matter the learning style. For example, many young kids in our region are now provided with iPads. While educational apps and programs are effectively used at school to engage learning, these same iPads are then sent home. Kids are supposed to practice reading and math skills, but teachers are expressing concern that this doesn’t always happen. Instead, kids are using iPads in non-educational ways.
Belle Basa, long-time third grade teacher, conveys unease that technology might lead to addictive behavior. To mitigate potential issues and ensure that kids are reaping the educational benefits of school-issued iPads, she recommends close parental supervision, “If parents are diligent, there are some awesome programs on there for reading comprehension and math.”
How can parents support their child’s learning?
Discover your child’s learning style. If you’re not sure which learning style(s) your child most adheres to, try talking to her teacher(s). Carve out some time to observe your child in the classroom to better understand her learning preferences.
Ask your child’s teacher for recommendations. Discuss what she is doing well and where she needs extra support. Ask for suggestions on targeted activities that favor her learning style. For instance, Basa suggests that auditory kids do well singing songs to learn multiplication tables, whereas visual and tactile learners would benefit from a jigsaw puzzle to learn the 50 states.
Supervise technology. Always monitor your child’s digital activities to ensure that school-issued electronics are being used for their intended purposes and that kids are not exceeding recommended daily screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends creating a personalized family media plan that leaves plenty of time for real life interactions, family time, outdoor play, exercise, other forms of downtime and sleep.
Learn more about the seven learning styles at www.literacyplanet.com/au/news/engage-7-types-learners-classroom.
Create your family’s media plan (in English or Spanish) at www.healthychildren.org/English/media.
Self-assess your learning style by taking the quiz at
Lisa Pawlak is an award-winning contributing writer who lives in Encinitas with her husband and two sons.
This article won an award from San Diego Press Club! Lisa Pawlak received Second Place in the Education category. See all of San Diego Family's awards HERE.