What Is Your Learning Style?

Auditory Visual Kinesthetic (AVK) modes of learning incorporate sound, sight, and touch into the learning process.  By incorporating all three modes together, it allows for more avenues of input to the brain, which make learning easier.  Most people have a particular strength (for example, mine is visual) but by incorporating as many modes of input together into a learning experience, it can not only strengthen the weaker modes but make long term recall of the information learned much easier.

I came across a questionnaire called the VARK (Visual Aural Read-Write and Kinesthetic) which is divided into four modes of learning.  There are 16 items in the questionnaire, and you are to check the answer(s) that best match your preference for each situation.  You are to check more than one box if the answer applies to you.  At the end of the questionnaire you are given the results of your learning style preference which may be multimodal (more than one mode), visual, aural, read-write, or kinesthetic.

After you complete the questionnaire, or if you prefer not to take the questionnaire, you can read the VARK Helpsheets which give you study strategies for each mode type.  I believe it is beneficial to understand your own mode of learning because you are then better able to understand the other modes of learning.  Whether you are homeschooling, teaching in the classroom, doing speech therapy, or just playing at home with your kids, by making a learning environment multimodal (AVK or VARK) you are much more likely to meet the needs and strengths of every child and create the success you desire.  Also, when age appropriate, I believe it is beneficial to take the time to teach each child about his own learning style and preferences.  You can then teach him the study strategies that will build on his strengths and make learning the easiest and most enjoyable for him.

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Learning at the Grocery Store

The grocery store is a great place for children to learn different concepts.  Initially trips will revolve around being able to label or identify different types of food, but then trips to the store can be expanded to include numerous math concepts.  Ideas are listed by age group.

Toddler/Preschooler:

  • Labeling/identifying foods- (“What is this?”) It makes it easy to learn all the different types of fruit, vegetables, etc. when the objects are right in front of them as compared to say a picture in a book. Let your child hold the fruit or vegetable even!
  • Learning about categories- Mention how the store is set up…all the fruits are together (see how many you can see/think of), the vegetables are together, the meats, different types of crackers, cookies, etc. Visually seeing how all the items are grouped together helps solidify this concept.
  • Types of jobs- Different people work in the store…baker, stock person, cashier, etc.
  • We buy things- Introduce the concept that we have to pay money and buy things from the store before we are allowed to take them out. The cashier is the person we see at the end who sees what we are buying, tells us how much it costs, and takes our money.

Elementary:

  • Prices- Point out that everything in the store has it’s own price, and that’s what the label is underneath each item. If you haven’t discussed money (dollars and cents), this is a good time to start doing so. Then as you shop, have your child practice reading the amounts on some of the labels ($2.99= “Two dollars and ninety nine cents.”)
  • Price per unit- Show how (in most stores) the label has a price per unit, such as cents/ounces. Teach how to compare different products to determine which one is the better deal. Your child will first need to understand the concept of higher and lower numbers (e.g. 55 is bigger than 49).
  • Reading- Practice reading signs and product names on packaging throughout the store.

Middle/High:

  • Volume and weight- Identify what a gallon looks like compared to a half-gallon compared to a quart. Estimate the weight on something, and then check the package label to see how close you got. Usually in the produce section a scale is available too!
  • Budgeting- Set up a budget. Plan a meal or shopping list within that budget. Are there any good deals at the store? How much can you save?

Also, I never leave home without a travel sized Magna Doodle but it is especially handy in the grocery store.  My oldest daughter loves to draw and write on it, so it makes the trip go much more smoothly (for me anyway!).  If you have one handy, then here are a few extra ideas.

  • Letter ID- You write a letter of the alphabet and he tells you what it is. Once he is good at this, you say a letter and have him write it.
  • Number ID- You write a number and he tells you what it is. Once he is good at this, you say a number and have him write it for you.
  • Reading- You write a word down and have him read it to you.
  • Writing- You say a word and have him spell it for you, or have him spell different items he sees in the store. This could be a fun way to challenge a reluctant speller.
  • Play Tic-Tac-Toe! This is a good game to introduce the idea of strategy. Not only that he has to get three in a row, but he has to try to stop you from getting three! Until he gets the hang of it, point out that you’ve got two in a row, and then ask where he wants to go next to stop you. Do this game enough times and he will start to catch on. (This is also a great game to do in restaurants while waiting for your food to arrive!)

Have fun learning while you shop!

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Fun Learning at the Beach!

We are headed to the beach this weekend and it is the perfect place to incorporate learning with fun.  The sights, sounds, and feel of the sand make it a perfect multisensory experience.  Here are just a few ideas that come to mind…I will definitely try some of these with my daughters.

Younger ones:

Opposites- Big/little (shells, buckets, sandcastles, holes you dig, handprints & footprints),  short/tall (sandcastles, shadows), wet/dry (sand, people, towels, buckets), hot/cold (sand in sun and shade, sun/water, cool drinks, hot skin).

Hide objects in the sand (like shells or her toes!) and see if she can find them.  Show her how a shovel, rake, and sifter can be helpful with this task.

Show her how her hands and feet make prints in the sand.  You step on her footprints, and have her follow in your footprints and step on yours.

Writing:

Have your child spell her name in the sand using her fingers or a stick.

Practice writing ABCs in the sand.

Practice spelling words in the sand.

Have her write a poem or create a song about the beach.

Have your child write a letter to a friend or grandparent telling about her trip to the beach.

Math:

Have your child write numbers in sand using her fingers or a stick.

Practice counting objects- the number of shells you have collected, the number of waves you jump over, birds or beach umbrellas you see, etc.

Have your child do addition, subtraction, or any other math problem written in the sand.  She can use shells or other beach objects to help with solving the problem.

History:

Research a specific castle and try to make a sand castle replica.

Discuss the purpose a moat serves for a castle, and other protective strategies that were used.  Seeing a moat around a sand castle visually will help your child see how an invader would have a hard time getting in.  Even have her use a shell or other object to represent an “invader” and try to get into the castle with the drawbridge up and moat around it.  Can she come up with another creative way in?

Science:

Research sea birds at home and draw pictures of them.  Use these pictures to identify birds you may see at the beach.  What do these birds eat?  Observe them and see…what are they busy doing while you are there?  Write what you observe down and do even more research when you get home.

See how many different examples of sea life you can find- jellyfish, crabs, sand fleas, starfish, fish, shellfish, etc.

Discuss how the moon’s gravity affects the water level/tides.

Do sea turtles nest on the beach?  If so, research the type of sea turtle you might see, how the turtle migrates, why the turtle is protected by law, etc.

Discuss how salt is in the ocean water.  Scoop up a cup of sea water and let water evaporate (also another good topic to discuss!) until only salt is left.

Compare specific gravity of sea water versus tap water (why does a certain object float better in sea water compared to regular tap water?).  Use different objects and try to guess what will happen before testing your prediction.

Do you have some ideas to share?  I look forward to reading them…

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My Teaching Philosophy

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As a mother of two daughters, I believe one of my main responsibilities is to teach them about our world.  Every day is an opportunity to teach them something new.  Being so young, teaching moments in our household usually revolve around our daily routines such as cooking dinner, bath time, grocery shopping, folding laundry, or going for a walk.

Sometimes something unique happens (such as a slug crawling on the sidewalk) and it catches our attention.  With childlike curiosity we begin asking ourselves questions like “Do slugs have legs?”, “What does he do when we touch him?”, and “Where does he live?”  On our search for these answers, new questions are spawned and before we know it we are learning about other bugs and insects, insect habitats and the habitats of other animals, and on…and on…

From my experiences I believe that:

  • A child is born wired to learn (although each at his own speed)
  • Teaching and learning can be fun
  • Learning happens best through everyday experiences
  • The more avenues to the brain the better (AVK or multisensory approach)
  • You should let your child lead (it’s like a dance!)

From birth, a baby is bombarded by new stimuli to his senses.  He starts to process this information and rapidly begins learning.  For example, a baby will quickly learn that by crying he will get picked up or when he pushes the button on a toy, music will be played.  I believe we all come here to learn, but it just occurs at different levels and at different paces for each of us.

I believe that a good teacher is someone who is also learning.  A perfect example is the pollywog experience with my daughter.  Before this, all I really knew was that tadpoles changed into frogs.  I didn’t know much detail about how this happened and had never watched it in person.  I would say that I learned just as much about polliwogs as my daughter from this experience, but most of all we had fun together.

“To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner.  I am not a teacher, only a fellow student.”

-Soren Kierkegaard

I’ve never sat my daughter down for a couple hours each day to do drills, flashcards, or anything of the sort.  Everything she knows has just been an extension of our everyday experiences.  For example, I had foam alphabet letters in the bath tub and she learned the alphabet and sounds each letter makes while splashing in the tub.  She learned colors while playing with play dough or painting; learned fruits and vegetables while shopping at the grocery store; learned matching from pairing socks while I folded laundry; learned measurements while helping me cook dinner or bake cookies; and learned basic telling-time skills because we feed our dog at 6 o’clock and her favorite show “Wheel of Fortune” comes on at 7 o’clock.  These are just a few examples, but all serve to show you that it has been through our daily routine that she has learned the foundation of numerous concepts.

I also believe a multisensory approach (also known as AVK) to learning greatly increases a person’s ability to remember information.  People usually have one or two modes of learning that are their strength and especially with young children it is difficult to know what mode of learning is their strength.  By using a multisensory approach, you are covering all bases.  To do this I incorporate sign language, music, and art as much as possible into our daily lives.

Lastly, you should let your child lead.  It truly is like a dance in that I see what my daughter’s interests are as a starting point, and we go from there.  By finding your child’s particular interest you can then incorporate other subjects such as science, math, reading, and history all while it remains fun.  Also, by letting your child lead you are allowing him to learn at his own pace rather than going at your pace.  This is important because you don’t want your child to feel pressured to learn, rather that learning is fun and something he wants to do.  If learning is child-driven then it will be a natural process stemming from a child’s curiosity about the world, and by feeding that desire, you will create a child who develops a love for learning.

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Pollywogs in a Bog – Our Multisensory Learning Experience

April 22, 2009 by Karianne Wilkins  
Filed under Multisensory Learning

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I use this pollywog story as an example of how you can make any learning experience a multisensory one.  The inspiration can come from a song, book, painting, or idea that your child comes up with.  If you pay attention your child will tell you, so follow her interests!  It may take some time and a bit of effort on your part, but you can create a fun experience that will be informative and rewarding for your child.  You might even find yourself having fun too!

The Great Pollywog Hunter!

When my daughter was 2 ½ years old, she frequently listened to a favorite song about pollywogs (a.k.a. tadpoles).  We’ve talked about caterpillars changing into butterflies, but I wanted to show her that tadpoles also go through metamorphosis and change into frogs.  So I found some video of tadpoles changing into frogs online and she enjoyed that.  We learned that the back legs form first, then the front arms, and finally the tail shrinks away.  We created some art showing the process by drawing and using play dough.  Then I remembered that when it rains, our water retention pond becomes a very loud orchestra of frog noises.  So after the next good downpour we went out and caught some tadpoles.  My daughter had on her ladybug rain boots and a small net, and had an absolute ball being a pollywog hunter!  We put them in an old jar and while she watched them swim around, I got online to research how to care for tadpoles.  After a couple weeks we were rewarded by watching the entire metamorphosis from tadpoles into frogs right before our eyes!

Now if you go back and look at this from a learning perspective you will see how it was a multisensory learning experience.  We:

  • Listened to the pollywog song repeatedly upon her request (you parents know what I mean!) – auditory
  • Watched videos online – visual
  • Drew and used play dough to show metamorphosis – kinesthetic and visual
  • Caught pollywogs outside, raised them, and released them – kinesthetic and visual

It is now almost a year later and she still is able to remember the process of how a tadpole changes into a frog.  And every time we pass a water retention area with some water in it she says, “Mama, that’s pollywog water!”

For those wondering what to feed pollywogs, I took fresh spinach leaves and blended them with a tiny amount of water.  I kept the mix in a container in the refrigerator, only making small batches to last about 2 days at most so it didn’t go bad.   You can also use any type of lettuce leaves…spinach leaves were just the only thing I had at the time.  I started with a teaspoon of mix and put it in the water with the pollywogs.  Just watch the pollywogs to see how much they eat and add more if needed, especially as they get larger.  Also, initially the pollywogs only need water in the container but once their legs and arms start growing make sure there is a way for them to get out of the water onto land.  I placed a landscaping block in the container with pebbles (like that used in fish tanks) leading up to the block so they could easily climb out and start breathing air. Good luck and have fun!

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What is Multisensory Learning (or AVK)?

istock_000001082166smallMultisensory learning happens when more than one sense is used to acquire and retain information.  Learning is typically categorized into three modes or types: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

  • Auditory learners acquire information best when it is presented verbally- by listening. They succeed best when directions are read aloud, by listening to and giving speeches, and when information is presented and requested verbally.
  • Visual learners acquire information best when it is presented visually- by seeing. They succeed best when directions are written, by writing things down, and when information is presented in pictures, movies, diagrams and charts.
  • Kinesthetic learners acquire information best when it is presented in a way that can be touched and experienced- hands-on. They succeed best by participating in field trips, science labs, using manipulatives (blocks, felt, props), and by being actively involved in some type of activity.

Every person has a different learning style with one mode usually a strength, but we all usually learn best when information is presented using a combination of all three modes called Auditory-Visual-Kinesthetic (AVK) learning.

Sign language is not only a beautiful language, but a perfect complement to teaching children in a multisensory way because:

  • The auditory aspect of sign is when you say the word along with the sign. Of course, people who are deaf do not necessarily speak when they sign. But when using sign language with hearing children, using your voice along with the sign reinforces the sign through the auditory avenue.
  • The visual aspect of sign allows for words and concepts to be represented and discussed in a more tangible way with children. For example, the concept of wind. Wind is invisible, so how do you get this concept across to a child? With sign language, your hands provide a visual representation of wind which makes the invisible visible.
  • The kinesthetic aspect of sign is when the child makes the sign. Feeling how the sign is made creates additional avenues in the brain to connect the word with the concept.

By combining the auditory-visual-kinesthetic (AVK) aspects of sign language, you are giving your child three avenues to understand, remember, and recall information.  Once older, you will be able to determine which learning style (auditory, visual, or kinesthetic) is your child’s strength and can use that to maximize his potential.

Multisensory learning is especially useful for children diagnosed with a learning disability.  While commonly misunderstood, children with learning disabilities are actually of average intelligence -a requirement to qualify for the disorder.  These children just have a processing deficit that interferes with their learning.  By presenting information in a multisensory way, it greatly assists children with acquiring and retaining information, whether diagnosed with a learning disorder or not.

While sign language is not the only way to present information in a multisensory way, I believe it is an excellent starting point for babies and toddlers learning the foundation of language and for students who have a learning disability.

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