The Five Learning Styles You Need to Know
There are five basic learning styles that we utilize – each as unique as the people who use them to learn and communicate with others. Understanding and implementing these types of learning styles can be beneficial to early childhood development, and foster educational and creative prowess. And, as we never stop learning, knowing your strengths can provide productivity and achievement in the workplace. But how do you know which learning styles to incorporate?
Visual, or spatial, learning is when a person learns more effectively through seeing and watching. This type of learner uses pictures, images, videos, and spatial understanding to memorize and organize information, and grasp concepts. For visual learners, the mind’s eye is everything. If they “can’t quite picture it,” then they are less likely to understand and remember it. The intentional use of simple, but eye-catching images are appreciated.
Visual learners can struggle with note-taking, as words don’t always do the trick. To aid in this, visual learners may use color to sort data, use pictures in place of words, and are proficient in their sense of direction. Visual learners have an easier time learning through videos and visual scenarios and retain more information through reading than listening. It is all about what they can see. Maps, charts, graphs, lists, and flashcards are all useful tools for visual learners. Outlining essays and other writings may aid in the thought process, as visual learners can work through thoughts in an organized manner.
Traits of Visual Learners:
- Able to convey complex ideas visually
- Comprehends charts and graphs quickly
- Prefers to read than listen
- Good at putting puzzles together and recognizing patterns
The ease of access to resources is, perhaps, the best part about visual learning. The internet has no shortage of videos and other visual aids on just about any subject. There are Prezis, YouTube walkthroughs, Quizlets, and so on. If you are a visual learner or are teaching visual learners, there should be no problem finding a way to translate an idea. Allowing visual learners to take notes in their own way is crucial for them to retain information, as these become their visual resources when studying and attempting to recall. Sketch notes are a great way for visual learners to process information. When giving presentations, visual cues will help this type of learner know what information is essential. Images and colors are likely to bring their attention to the lesson, even if they can’t wholly focus on what they’re learning. Written directions and lesson summaries are an unexpected necessity. Who knew?
Now for the big question: How do you go about incorporating the visual learning style into your lessons? You may have already been implementing this style without knowing it. Teachers use models, video lectures, images, graphs, and charts on a daily basis. However, if you’d like to take it a step further, here are some examples of how you might use visuals in your lessons.
VISUAL LEARNING STYLE IMPLEMENTATION IDEAS
For those who prefer class handouts, a chart or two can make a world of difference! Clear connections between the chart or graph’s content and the text will give enough room for the student to analyze these connections and draw their conclusions from them.
Using maps and images to explain ideas and sort through ideas will help visual learners understand how something happened and why. A visual learner draws conclusions based on what they see. When explaining the Northern and Southern divide during the Civil War, or the spread of Nazi influence in WWII, a map can aid in the visual learners understanding of why and how these things happened. A Venn Diagram can help this type of learner sort the similarities and differences of a subject in an organized and aesthetically pleasing manner.
Long, complex explanations can be difficult for a visual learner. Explaining that ATP releases energy through breaking a phosphoanhydride bond, the process of hydrolysis, and converting the ATP into ADP, are too many words and ideas to process all at once. Instead, visual learners could benefit from a demonstration in which three students represent the phosphate groups, and their interlocked hands are the bonds (volunteers are good for this). Together they are ATP. The breaking of one of the holds, or bonds, would symbolize the breaking away of a phosphate group to release energy. The two remaining phosphate groups would then be ADP.
An aural, or auditory, learner, prefers to learn through sound and music. This type of learner may do better with mnemonic devices, memorization songs, and repetition, as well as rhymes and rhythms. Aural learners are listeners and are the opposite of visual learners. Aural learners are often an active part of lessons, asking and answering questions. Discussion is their best friend when attempting to understand an idea, verbally walking through a problem or explanation. They may paraphrase to simplify and use repetition to memorize difficult concepts.
Aural learners may listen to music to focus, associate sound with specific actions, emotions, or knowledge, and may become anxious and antsy in total silence. The aural listener is great in aiding their teachers with this because they’re more likely to speak up and ask questions that some of the more introverted students might be afraid to.
Traits of Aural Learners:
- Follows verbal directions
- Often speaks up or participates in class (i.e., volunteering to answer questions)
- Good at explaining ideas out loud
- Skilled at oral reports and class presentations
- Able to work through complex problems by speaking out loud
- Loses concentration quickly due to noise
Children are known to respond to auditory learning well, taking to music and rhyming for easy memorization. Almost every American child learns their ABCs through song, and the music is so effective, high-schoolers will do the same in their Spanish classes when learning the Spanish alphabet. Mnemonic devices like PEMDAS or My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos (think planets…) uses words and sound for memorization and are great for auditory learners, especially younger students. By reciting these devices, students memorize them and their meaning. This also goes for the general use of repetition to reinforce ideas, like dates, cause and effect, and so on. Students may forget everything they’ve ever learned in Pre-Calculus, but they will never shake PEMDAS from their memory or that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.
But how does aural learning fit into your lessons? There are only so many mnemonic devices to go around, right? Thankfully, teaching aural learners doesn’t always have to be clever. Reading aloud as you go through your lessons and maintaining an open discussion is the key to engaging the aural learner. Lectures, small group discussions, and explanations of graphs, diagrams, and maps are especially helpful to this type of learner. Video and audio explanations of concepts are useful tools when studying, aiding in memorization. Here are some additional examples of ways to capture the attention of your auditory students.
AURAL LEARNING STYLE IMPLEMENTATION IDEAS
Debates! Aural learners tend to shine in debate style scenarios, as putting their opinions and support into verbal arguments allows them to more productively communicate their points, as well as memorizing the opposition’s argument so that they might counter it. Assigning a bias rather than allowing students to choose their own makes them think outside of their norm and will open their minds to other points of view.
Reading aloud is a favorite amongst aural learners. Seminars, group presentations, student interaction, role plays, and dialogue are all great ways to get students thinking about the subject and hearing and sharing thoughts and opinions. When reciting “the Scottish Play” in Lit, they tend to retain more of the text when it is read as a class production. This is a good opportunity to immerse your students in their class work! Being a part of the bigger picture, like taking a role in a play, causes them to pay more attention so that they’re ready for their parts.
Asking questions is a simple, but effective tool in affirming your class’s understanding. Aural listeners will be able to follow along without much difficulty if they are listening to a response from a peer’s point of view.
Verbal, or linguistic, learners prefer using words and language, both in speech and writing. Verbal learners are a combination of visual and aural learners, focusing on the sound and meaning of words when seeking understanding. Similar to aural learners, verbal learners benefit from rhymes, repetition, and mnemonic devices. However, unlike aural learners, they are focused more on the meaning of the words than the sounds they make. They are the distinction between poetry and music.
Verbal learners use words, phrases, and dialogue to create a mental image or imagine a scenario, much like visual learners. Verbal learners tend to be quick with picking up new words or languages. They are able to understand different linguistic styles and remember linguistic information, knowing when something is wrong with grammar and syntax. This type of learner is especially attracted to reading and writing, and will view writing assignments like essays and short stories to be a positive challenge.
Traits of Verbal Learners:
- Excels in reading and writing
- Are self reflective, understand philosophy and abstract reasoning
- Enjoys learning new words and new languages
- Outspoken and opinionated
- Good at memorizing information
- Good at debating or giving persuasive speeches
Verbal learning strategies are regularly included in average class activities. Many teachers find it beneficial to use vocabulary and writing to improve student understanding. Verbal learners take tests and essays in stride, as the language used to format questions is familiar and comfortable to them.
VERBAL LEARNING STYLE IMPLEMENTATION IDEAS
For verbal learners, it is the way you ask questions, rather than what you ask. This type of learner is primarily focused on language, so phrasing is everything
Talking through issues allows verbal learners to make meaning from what they are learning, and process their own understanding.
Physical, or kinesthetic, learners use their hands, body, movement and their sense of touch to understand things. To grasp an idea, they actually need to grasp an idea–touching, feeling, and manipulating objects is a very important part of their thinking process. This type of learner has difficulty focusing on visual and aural presentations, and will become distracted or move around, as they are generally central focused.
Keeping the physical learner invested in their studies is a task in itself, and they are infamous for their trouble in school due to the lack of allowances made for their particular learning style. While physical learners can retain information just as well as any other learner, it is their lack of movement that inhibits them. A physical learner can study more effectively while walking and running, and find study tools to hold help them focus.
Traits of Physical Learners:
- Enjoys creating things with his or her hands
- Tends to remember by doing, rather than hearing or seeing
- Likes to do things rather than read about them
- Excellent physical coordination
- Attuned to the physical world around them
- Good with hands-on activities
Neurodivergent students, such as those with autism, and students with behavioral disorders like ADHD often adhere to this learning style. The physical learning style offers an interactive approach that keeps learners focused because they themselves are interacting with what they are studying, or remaining active while studying. Physical learners don’t always need to study something interesting, but they do prefer to be moving or using their hands or feet, especially if the subject isn’t as interesting. Fidget cubes and other sensory toys allow them to multitask, and thus, remain focused.
In a classroom, accommodating physical learners can be difficult. But, fitting it into the classwork can be a potential learning opportunity for everyone, even if done in small ways. Taking breaks, for example, gives physical learners the opportunity to move and work out their energy so they can go back to focusing with minimal distraction.
PHYSICAL LEARNING STYLE IMPLEMENTATION IDEAS
Translating concepts through games and projects can be fun for any type of learner, and just so happens to engage the physical learner. Kahoot is a particular favorite among students, and the speed required and motivation to win holds the physical learner’s attention without the need of excessive movement.
Use physical objects as often as possible! Keeping the physical learner active in note-taking may be easier with annotation, cutting and gluing, and other activities that make creating their resources not so droll. Writing and drawing graphs, diagrams, and maps rather than viewing them are also a good way to engage the physical learner. Consider using big sheets of paper and large color markers for your diagrams, allowing for more action from the drawing.
Moving around to different stations and parts of the classroom to complete an activity satisfies the physical learner’s need to move, keeping them focused on completing the activity while giving them room to work with their hands and body. In science, doing labs is beneficial to the physical learner. Building a track to study kinetic energy, a circuit to study electricity, or a model to study an atom are both intellectually challenging and fun for the students!
Logical, or mathematical, learners use logic, reasoning and systems to understand concepts. They are generally proficient with numbers, patterns, and relationships like cause and effect. The question for logical learners is not why something happened, but how. Logic, facts, and common sense help them draw conclusions, and they base their arguments on this rather than emotion or intuition.
Logical learners are great at supporting facts with evidence, but when it comes to writing down their emotions and personal experiences, they aren’t sure how to go about it.
Traits of Logical Learners:
- Excellent problem-solving skills
- Enjoys thinking about abstract ideas
- Good at solving complex computations
- Easily recognize patterns and make connections
- Good at analyzing problems and mathematical operations
Logical learners are especially gifted with technology. Using computers in class to create study concepts, create graphs, and write papers come naturally to logical learners, as they thrive in order. Computer games are a fun way to keep this type of learner’s interest while teaching them, as well as online activities. Electronics aren’t the only way for this type of learner to work. Here are some other effective learning tools for logical learners.
LOGICAL LEARNING STYLE IMPLEMENTATION IDEAS
Setting goals is a good way to motivate logical learners to complete tasks. Logical learners strive to accomplish, so having something to reach for pushes them to put their best into all that they do. Even with the smallest tasks, creating criteria to meet will cause this type of learner to be more thorough in their work.
While studying, the logical learner may benefit from creating and using lists to organize thoughts and key points in their notes. Making connections through classifying and categorizing can increase understanding and memorization for this type of learner. They are fascinated by how the world works and the relationships between subjects, so finding ways to challenge their abilities is a good stragegy to engage them.
Using reason when teaching a logical learner will more effectively convey an idea to them. Logical learners are more focused on the process by which something happens than why they happen.
Leveraging the different learning styles in your classroom will allow you to meet the needs of all learners. There are many technology tools to allow you to make this process easier and differentiate for your students. Using an LMS like Converge can allow you to post different content for different students. EdTech tools like Nearpod and Flipgrid will allow you to deliver instruction and assess in ways that are more dynamic and allow students more freedom of choice. Whatever your learning style, and the learning styles of your students, being familiar with them is half the battle!
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