Teaching Strategies that Engage Different Learning Styles
Note: This blog was updated in May 2019
When you’re teaching a lesson, there’s no way to ignore that some students are actively engaged, while others are less so. Don’t worry, you haven’t lost your touch! The key to reaching your students could be a matter of their preferred learning style. You will have students who happily follow along with classroom discussions and read alouds. Other students will quickly grasp information when you share a visually-impactful presentation. Another group of students will retain content longer if they’ve participated in an interactive learning game.
Can you immediately picture a few students who illustrate these learning styles? Each student has a method of absorbing, processing, comprehending, and retaining information that works best for him. Mastering teaching strategies for different learning styles will help you reach each student and allow them to excel.
There are four dominant learning styles which are commonly referred to as VARK — visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Some students may overlap into all learning styles, while others may strongly identify with a single style.
Take into consideration the different types of learners in your class. Then, format your teaching strategies and lesson plans with instructional activities that appeal to different learning styles.
Pictures, images, and spatial understanding are key for these learners. For them, seeing is believing. Look for resources with illustrations, photos, charts, and graphs. For visual learners, your teaching toolkit should include:
- Flashcards with pictures as well as numbers
- Workbook pages that are heavy on illustrations
- Online programs with vibrant colors, motion, charts, or tables
These listeners take to lessons that incorporate lectures over written notes, reading out loud, songs and music, and groups discussions. To engage auditory learners, utilize:
- Dialogue, discussions, or play-acting to identify a problem/solution
- Rhythmic patterns to recite math equations and answers that are set to tunes of simple songs
- Videos, audio files, or music to help messages sink in
Reading/ Writing Learners
This group of learners retains information best in written words and enjoys doing research. These students will appreciate the opportunity to:
- Take notes as they read or listen to instruction
- Utilize journal writing for all subjects
- Go online to conduct further research
Get up and get moving! These learners respond best to hands-on lessons and activities that keep their bodies in motion. Try these strategies for tactile and kinesthetic learners:
- Clapping, hopping, or other movements to help memorize key facts
- Scavenger hunts around the classroom
- Activities like grouping, sorting, and counting or using tactile materials such as clay and salt trays
Identifying Social & Solitary Learners
In addition to teaching strategies for the four main learning styles, you should also recognize students who are social and solitary learners.
Social learners prefer working with partners or in small groups, bouncing ideas, and sharing insights with other students. Solitary learners prefer to work alone, finding it hard to concentrate in the buzz of conversation that occurs during group work. Although both styles of learning should be utilized as they both hold merit, be sure to provide opportunities where students can choose their preference.
Whether you’re adapting your teaching strategies for different learning styles or different subjects, using various methods will surely give each student the chance to shine.