Oh, learning styles. I don’t think they define us, but I do think we can see these patterns play out in the way that God created us – and yet, each unique and individual and not pinned down to any one label. We need not spend all of our time thinking about these things (and I don’t) but I do think that understanding and adapting to learning style can help – especially when we come up against a hard place and meet resistance.
Princess is Visual-Spatial. Or at least mostly. I think. She confuses me because I see parts of her in the definitions of all the learning styles and chunks of the definitions in all of them that don’t fit her. How can she be a visual learner if she freezes up when she looks at a worksheet that is too full of math problems or if she doesn’t put a lot of effort into neat handwriting (wouldn’t she prefer seeing the problems over hearing/saying them or wouldn’t she want to make her handwriting visually attractive?)
I suppose, in the end, it doesn’t matter which “one” we settle on, if we take each individual strength or weakness and teach her how to use her strengths and adapt for her weaknesses – right? Probably.
So I’ve been doing a little refresher reading up on Visual-Spatial learners and thinking through some of our “hard places” and trying to come up with some inspiration for how to help her do her best in her work. First, a little run down on VS learners (I got tired of writing out “Visual-Spatial” so it’s just going to be VS.) ;0)
From the site, Gifted Development Center, a comparison of Auditory-Sequential and VS learners:
(I’ve put a P for the ones that I definitely know are common for Princess. As you can see, she does have a few from the left column, but mostly from the right.)
|Thinks primarily in words||Thinks primarily in pictures (P)
|Has auditory strengths||Has visual strengths (P)
|Relates well to time||Relates well to space (P)
|Is a step-by-step learner||Is a whole-part learner|
|Learns by trial and error||Learns concepts all at once|
|Progresses sequentially from easy to difficult material||Learns complex concepts easily; struggles with easy skills|
|Is an analytical thinker||Is a good synthesizer|
|Attends well to details||Sees the big picture; may miss details|
|Follows oral directions well (P)
||Reads maps well (P)
|Does well at arithmetic||Is better at math reasoning than computation (P)
|Learns phonics easily (P)
||Learns whole words easily|
|Can sound out spelling words (P)
||Must visualize words to spell them|
|Can write quickly and neatly||Prefers keyboarding to writing (P)
|Is well-organized||Creates unique methods of organization (P)
|Can show steps of work easily||Arrives at correct solutions intuitively (P)
|Excels at rote memorization||Learns best by seeing relationships (P)
|Has good auditory short-term memory||Has good long-term visual memory|
|May need some repetition to reinforce learning (P)
||Learns concepts permanently; is turned off by drill and repetition
|Learns well from instruction||Develops own methods of problem solving|
|Learns in spite of emotional reactions||Is very sensitive to teachers’ attitudes (P)
|Is comfortable with one right answer||Generates unusual solutions to problems|
|Develops fairly evenly||Develops quite asynchronously|
|Usually maintains high grades||May have very uneven grades (P)
|Enjoys algebra and chemistry||Enjoys geometry and physics (P)
|Learns languages in class||Masters other languages through immersion|
|Is academically talented||Is creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted|
|Is an early bloomer||Is a late bloomer|
So now what? Now what do I do with this information, huh?
Just glancing at the list above we can see some of Princess’ strengths and weaknesses and some of those answers are obvious. If she prefers keyboarding to writing, let her use the keyboard as much as possible so she’s not overstressed when she needs to use her handwriting. Other things are not so obvious, however, and that site I linked to above has a lot of helpful and interesting articles with suggestions for specific issues.
I think unarguably our biggest problem is math (which as it turns out, is not uncommon with visual-spatial learners!) Which is one of the reasons we switched to Teaching Textbooks last year. But then I had the bright idea that this year, we’d do a ten dollar Spectrum 7th grade workbook first and then move to Teaching Textbooks pre-algebra. It LOOKED like the spectrum workbook repeated everything in 6th grade and I thought she could stand to be a little stronger in her math skills before moving on to pre-algebra. (And if I could do that with a ten dollar workbooks as opposed to a $120 program then why not?) As it turns out, this book actually has quite a bit of new material in it (much of which I would have expected in pre-algebra) and it has been slow going. And yet we’ve stuck with it. Why? I DON’T KNOW. I guess because I am stubborn and cheap? *banging head on wall*
At any rate, I did find a good list of math tips for teaching math to VS learner on the Time4Learning website. (Which, surprise surprise, includes using multimedia to your advantage.) So I think we need to switch back to Teaching Textbooks. And we also used to utilize Timez Attack, but the laptop that it’s on hasn’t been working so we haven’t been. I need to fix that, too.
Interestingly enough, even though notebooking involves some writing by hand, Princess doesn’t seem to mind it, but instead actually enjoy it. This is partially because it involves a creative element and partially because the writing demand isn’t too high. I’ve been trying to think over some ways for her to use this (and visual journaling) to take “notes” during other classes such as history that we don’t already have this built into. One of the things we *have* been doing for history (and also for historical fiction) is to search for pictures of places, people, maps, artifacts online after we read about them. Princess does find it interesting to see the pictures and for example, she remembered that the Ishtar Gate was blue after having seen a picture (whereas I hadn’t.) Similarly, I try to find documentaries that correspond with things we learn and I think this is helpful also.
I’m still trying to figure out all the ways that I can help Princess learn, study and understand at her best ability. (I also have 2 books that I refer to, or at least parts of for suggestions and reminders – How Your Child IS Smart and Educating the Whole-Hearted Child.) I’m still forgetful and not doing as good a job as I would like to, either. And I am still open for suggestions! What about you – do you have a VS learner? (Have any tips for me?)