Everyone has their preferred learning style, and you can assess it through close observation.
"Learning styles is a term that refers to different ways in which we learn, process, and retain information. All young children learn through meaningful hands-on experiences—through touching, doing, and moving. And children also learn through seeing and hearing." Abilitypath
As you follow what the children are doing and what their interests are, you will begin to see strengths and preferences that tell you something about each child’s preferred learning style. The 4 learning styles are:
- Visual (learning through seeing)
- Auditory (learning through hearing)
- Tactile (learning through touching)
- Kinesthetic (learning through doing and moving)
Visual learners learn through seeing. Children who are visual learners like to observe others' body language and facial expressions. Children learn through concrete examples and demonstrations. For older children who can read, written instructions are helpful in addition to verbal ones. These children tend to have a good imagination and they might even think in pictures. Maps, pictures, and other visual aids are good for this group. Too much action in the classroom may cause distraction.
→ Create a visual timetable of the day
→ When learning to count, help by drawing 2 + 2 with apples, etc
Auditory learners learn through listening and sound. Children who are auditory learners learn through discussions and talking. Verbal directions help with written information. Too much noise may be distracting, so children with this learning style are best in the more quiet learning environment.
→ Practise storytelling
→ Listen to audiobooks
Tactile learners learn through touching and using their senses. Children who are more tactile learners enjoy activities and projects that include doing by hand and touching different types of items. Children with this learning style might like to draw to help with memorizing things.
→ Make puzzles
→ Provide messy play (eg. slime)
Kinesthetic learners learn through moving and doing. Children who are more kinesthetic learners enjoy physical movement and they may have trouble sitting still. They often do two things at the same time, such as count and rock their chair. A hands-on approach that allows the child to actively explore around helps her learn best.
→ Count while jumping
→ Spot shapes from the environment
As a teacher, you may want to foster each child’s strengths by finding them suitable tasks according to their personal learning styles. It is also good to keep in mind that giving some challenges helps children to learn and grow as well. Also, some children can perform well in many learning areas. Therefore, offering a variety of learning experiences encourage the children to develop new experiences, strengths, and interests.
How to support children's unique learning styles in early education?
Early childhood education programs are often organized so that it supports the needs and strengths of all little learners! Below is a checklist that helps you to analyze your center's ways of operating.
Does your center offer?
- Places and periods for free movement (eg. gym, outdoor play, activities that include moving, breaks between activities)
- Guided activities with teacher's guidance (eg. baking session)
- Circle time with a group of children (eg. morning circle 20min every day)
- Music and singing (eg. listening to songs, playing with instruments)
- Reading area (eg. regular storytime, books from different themes available for children to look/read independently audiobooks)
- Art area (Some materials like coloring pictures and crayons can be freely available for children. Paints, markers, scissors, and glue can be used under the teacher's supervision)
- Manipulatives/areas for fine motor skills (eg. Hama beads, legos, playdough)
- Role play area (eg. costumes/masks, shop, dolls)
Circle time includes group discussion, talking, and listening so it is ideal for auditory learners. Circle time is also appropriate for visual learners as well as guided activities when the teacher shows and gives examples. Tactile learners enjoy for example art area and manipulatives. Kinesthetic learners probably head over to the home corner and role play area. As you can imagine, many activities and learning areas include good learning environments for multiple types of learners, so they can all mix and match!
All these activities support the participation of children with a wide range of learning styles, but it also offers children experiences they may not typically go for. It is great if children can freely access different stations and choose the activity they enjoy. At times, it is anyway important to have also guided activities that have been planned by the teacher and circle times and storytimes.
How to deepen children's learning experiences?
Teachers can help children understand their strengths and individual differences and to respect those similarities and differences in each other. It is also a good idea to seek out real-world experiences that extend the children’s learning. For example, if a child is interested in playing shop, visit the local grocery store. The child will develop a broader understanding of the world if the information is meaningful and presented in a way that meets his or her individual learning style.
You may also go to the library and borrow books that belong to the same theme, extend the shop play by making your own kindergarten money, invite parents and sell real products such as self-made bookmarks and cookies... The sky is the limit! The more you extend the play = the more versatile learning experiences the children are going to get.
Here are some links to further reading regarding learning styles:
- Children's Learning Styles (Abilitypath)
- Diverse learning styles in early childhood education (Resilient Educator, 2018)
- Auditory, Visual & Kinesthetic: Helping Kids Succeed Through Different Learning Styles (Sarah Mead)
- How Children Learn by Observing Behavior of Adults (Eliza Martinez)