Childhood development is ultimately the ongoing process of learning. It’s when children learn who they are and what’s around them, slowly building an understanding of the world. While there is a standardized expectation for what children learn at what ages during development, it doesn’t mean that all children learn the same way. There are multiple learning styles children may have, and there are different teaching styles to accommodate them.
How do young children learn?
When everything about the world is new, it’s natural to have a curiosity that encourages learning. Children want to understand and engage with their surroundings. So, they begin learning by observing and listening at a very early age. As they get older, they’ll explore, experiment, play, ask questions, and read and write to learn. Once children start getting into more complex subjects and concepts, they may naturally favor certain ways over others. This tendency turns into a learning style.
Types of learners
Children may favor different categories of learning methods. However, just because they may predominantly learn better with a certain style, doesn’t mean the rest should be ignored or they’re incapable of effectively learning in other ways. Some children may be a balanced mix of multiple learning styles or strongly prefer one individually. The different types of learners are:
Visual learners prefer information to be presented visually, such as pictures, infographics, and written directions so that they can see and observe things. They may often doodle and take a lot of notes. They’re also known as “spatial learners.”
Auditory learners experience information through sound, such as listening to lectures and hearing things in their own voice. They prefer to read out loud to themselves, verbally explain things, and may often repeat what their teachers say.
Reading/writing learners are similar to visual learners but are specifically drawn to reading and writing. They enjoy articles, books, dictionaries, journaling, writing notes and lists, and searching the internet for information. They learn best through engaging with written words.
Kinesthetic learners prefer to get involved, do things themselves, and experience things firsthand. They may want to act out events and use their hands to touch and maneuver things. These learners often enjoy sports and dancing but may have difficulty sitting still for long periods or need to take breaks from long lessons. They are also known as “tactile learners.”
In a classroom, you’re likely to have children with various learning styles. Appealing to only one style at a time would be challenging and inefficient for getting each child to learn the same material. The other option is to focus on multimodal learning, also known as multisensory learning, which means engaging with two or more “modalities.” Those modalities are the skills employed in each learning style.
An example of a multimodal activity would be a flashcard game where the word is repeatedly spoken aloud and acted out, engaging both the auditory and visual modalities. If the children wrote down the word and its meaning, it would also engage the reading/writing modalities. If the children themselves acted it out, then it would engage kinesthetic modalities too.
Even though it’s common for children to have one or two primary learning styles, utilizing any modalities together at once is beneficial. Multimodal learning can help the brain to engage deeply and retain more information in long-term memory. It also allows children to activate different cognitive skills at once, helping improve their abilities in each, which is especially beneficial for children experiencing developmental delays.
How to accommodate different learning styles in the classroom
To create the most variety for your children, you can employ a mixture of multimodal and individual learning style strategies. This covers all the bases for accommodating different learning styles in the classroom. Plus, understanding how to work with each style can help you create more impactful multimodal activities. Use a tool like brightwheel’s lesson plan feature to help you plan a well-rounded curriculum that will suit the whole class.
Find different ways to visually present information. Switch between using the whiteboard, posters, books, and handouts to show diagrams, drawings, charts, and pictures. Also, have children participate in drawing or creating some of the materials and give them time to absorb what they’re seeing.
Have children participate in group discussions, repeat information back to you, verbally answer questions, and read aloud to them. You can also incorporate videos, audiotapes, and podcasts into lessons.
A lot of general classroom lessons and activities will already include some reading or writing, but be sure to give children time to digest the information. Also, have children write down information in their own words, compiling notes they can read later.
Incorporate movement into classroom games and activities, even if it’s just going to different stations or walking up to the front of the class to speak. Have children act out concepts they’re trying to learn or participate in hands-on activities where they can touch and manipulate objects.
Multiple ways to learn
There are endless strategies and methods for teaching. The most important thing is to remember that every child and how they learn is different. Learning styles and multimodal learning provide great direction and strategy for lesson planning. However, keeping things fun and interesting is important too. Continuously being exposed to and having experiences with new things and different methods of instruction will keep children stimulated and engaged with learning.