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Learning to teach: Alternative learning styles for kids

By Jennifer Willow

In 2015–2016, more than a million kids had been diagnosed with specific learning disabilities and were receiving special education. While technology has opened up a lot of new learning options for these children, there are many more methods of teaching and learning that can further enhance their education. What works for one child may be very difficult and ineffective for another. Different children benefit from different types of learning; there is no one size fits all.

A bit about the brain

The left and right hemispheres of the brain process things quite differently. The right side possesses more creativity and responds better to stimuli such as  music and visual aides, while the left side’s strength lies in logic, math and language. Different activities stimulate different sections of the brain. One child may do very well with sitting still and receiving information through stimuli on a digital device, while another might need physical movement incorporated into their lesson plan.

In other words, some kids learn best with styles more in tune with the left side of the brain, while others do better with right-sided methods. A child can prefer either or sometimes both—everyone has their own strength. Learning styles are shaped by a number of things throughout a child’s development and based on their genetics. Consider any impaired senses, such as limited verbal, auditory or sensory abilities. When information is presented to a child in a way that allows them to more easily process and store it, then they are capable of taking in a lot more information in general.

Visual, auditory and kinesthetic styles

Historically, all children were educated using just one method. Information was presented verbally or through the written word, and learnt through repetition. As we have progressed and grown as a society, there has been a rise in alternative methods of learning, encompassing many styles. Visual, auditory and kinesthetic (VAK) learning styles give children the opportunity to maximize their learning potential.

This is great news for children with disabilities, who often struggle with the old-school (no pun intended) conventional learning process. Moreover, a combination of the VAK learning styles (with an emphasis on the one that plays to their strength) can help them to retain more information. This is because the more senses that are involved with taking in information, the more areas of the brain it is stored in—and thus the easier it is for our brains to find it when it is needed.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong learning style; only what is best for a specific child. Take some time to evaluate the children in your care. Kids are not one-sided—and their education shouldn’t be, either.

Jennifer Willow has been an educator for over a decade, and recently, have taken up freelance writing to share her knowledge on non-traditional learning, homeschooling, online education for children today.

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