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How to Accommodate Learning Styles

by Michael Stratford, studioD

Teachers teach with words, which is verbal learning. They also use PowerPoint for visual students. However, there are learning styles these methods ignore: the kinesthetic or physical method of learning; the aural or hearing learning style; the logical or mathematical sequencing style. Students need group work for social learning style; they need time alone for solitary style. With seven learning styles in play, teachers need multiple strategies to accommodate them.

Accommodating Styles in Literature

Teachers can accommodate different learning styles with in-class exercises, group work and independent creations. In Literature, a short story's lesson plan includes text with pictures in a PowerPoint, appealing to verbal and visual students. For students learning through logical sequencing, the teacher demonstrates a graphic organizer with the story arc; the "tableau" strategy, where students act out the story and disclose key motivations, which pinpoints narrative structure for kinesthetic learners. Finally, students create a class product, such as a story, poem or essay, through group brainstorm -- social style -- and then individual creation -- solitary style.

Kinesthetic, a Great Style for Science

Kinesthetic learning, the physical style, is the most challenging and most fun in the classroom. One strategy for elementary kinesthetic learners is the science learning station, a separate table, cubicle or space for hands-on science projects. Based on adult models used in medical schools, the "lab" allows students with no regular science class to do hands-on activities that use magnets, build batteries, create terrariums, experiment with sound, smell and taste. These can become group and individual class projects; the station thus augments social, solitary, mathematical, aural and visual learning also.

One Lesson, Three Accommodations

A widely-used learning style accommodation is Fleming's VAK model, which addresses visual, aural and kinesthetic learning in classroom teaching. The model suggests multiple-stage teaching elements to accommodate each learning style, on the theory that each style augments the others. Students receive a textbook assignment. For visual learners, teachers color-highlight the text to organize ideas. For aural learners, teachers also read the text aloud, and encourage verbal analogies -- "this situation on paper is like this real-life situation." For kinesthetic learners, teachers require text annotation and question-and-answer sessions.

Even Math Can Go Multiple

Mathematics classes, which are usually all lecture and classwork, can accommodate different learning styles by allowing student group work. Groups can brainstorm problems, thus applying verbal, logical and social styles. They can report findings for aural learning and reflect on answers for solitary learning. They can also work with flash cards and hands-on models to problem-solve for kinesthetic learners. Virtually every classroom and every student benefits from the accommodation of multiple learning styles.

About the Author

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

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