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Learning Styles

How Do They Learn?

By Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Early Years Coordinator

Children learn best if they can place new material in the context of what they already know, sort of like having “hooks” on which to hang the new material. Jesus did this with his disciples, every time he said, “Ye have heard it said…. I say unto you….”

They also need to understand the relevance of what they are learning: “What am I trying to learn and why do I need to know this?” They need a clear picture of the goal toward which they are working.

Imagine handing your child a thousand-piece puzzle. Do you give him all the pieces with no box, and expect him to put it all together? Or do you give him the pieces with a picture so he can see what it should look like when he is finished? He will probably group all the sky together first, or build the straight-edged border first and then add on from there—beginning with what is familiar to him (his hooks) and fitting the new pieces in from there.

Your child’s natural strength and learning preference is his learning style. The sensory way he remembers things is his learning modality.

According to Cynthia Tobias in The Way They Learn, five guidelines can help you understand how your child learns and processes new material best:

  1. Observe patterns of behavior. When your child experiences success, what were the circumstances?
  2. Listen to how he communicates with you. This is generally what he needs back.
  3. Experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Keep an open mind. We don’t all learn the same way.
  4. Focus on natural strengths, not just weaknesses. It’s easier to pinpoint weaknesses and work on them, but we should also build on the strengths. This gives us a better foundation!
  5. Learn more about learning styles in general. Pay attention to your child and to yourself.

We all overlap in the different categories, so use the learning styles information here as a guideline, not as a hard-and-fast rule or to label your child. Our goal is to help you find ways to unlock your child’s mind to be receptive to the knowledge and information you want to input. In other words: He is accountable to let you know the key isn’t fitting—not to make it fit! Your job is to find the right key.

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