This summer I enjoyed a book written by one of our past CHEC speakers, Carol Barnier. ‘What Now’ gives humorous and practical examples of how to discuss various learning styles. All too often as a Learning Services Consultant, I have teachers sharing about children struggling with their schoolwork. Often the struggle is not necessarily because the child has a learning disability or a cognitive challenge. Perhaps the child is not having his/her learning style considered. It’s easy as a parent or a teacher to teach in the way that we learn. Barnier suggests, “The goal is to find the key – any key – that will unlock the door to understanding for every child in our care.”
In The Big ‘What Now’ Book of Learning Styles, Carol states that various learning styles, such as auditory, kinesthetic, and visual, all need to be addressed when teaching children. In order to meet children’s learning styles we need to teach using a multi-sensory approach that makes learning more enjoyable and easier to retain. Carol has written a chapter demonstrating how to teach various subjects – Spelling, Math, Writing, Geography, Science, etc. – utilizing the various learning styles. Subject icons before each suggested lesson identify the learning style or styles that lesson will accommodate.
In her last chapter, Carol writes about incorrect assumptions that we have about our children’s learning process. For example, if someone takes time to process, it does not mean that they are lacking intelligence. Also, some students that are active during learning need to be active in order to learn effectively. This chapter also encourages us to be accepting of creative answers from children, who may not always answer exactly the way we want them to, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t answering correctly.
Carol says that when we try to teach children using a style that works best for us as learners (and not the student) it can be “a recipe for frustration”. Perhaps there is more than one type of learning style that work? In order to keep track of what style is effective, she suggests keeping a journal when teaching, and taking notes on what works. Spending time figuring out what type of style(s) work for your learner takes much less time than wasting years on curricula which use learning styles that don’t help your student learn.
Carol presents lesson ideas that are fun and much more interesting than workbooks. She’s a strong proponent of teaching using songs or ditties. These are methods that become more memorable for a child when trying to recall information. She also suggests that when teaching children it’s important to teach them concepts that are part of a scaffold (ideas that build upon other pieces of known information.)
Some other techniques Carol uses are:
- Involving the children in the lesson: For example, when children study the planets, have each child be a planet dressed in a color or carrying something that would represent the planet/sun and stand in proper order. Play music or games from the era/area that a child is learning about in geography or history.
- Ways of doing review: games such as “pairs” where one card represents the word and another the definition, or the practice of requiring a child to respond to a review question before each turn on any given game.
The most important message that can be taken away from this book is that all children can learn. It’s a matter of parents and teachers finding the right ‘key’ to unlock the learning for each child.
Carol completes her book by demonstrating to us how important it is that we praise our children’s work more than we criticize it. We want our children to know that we believe in them and to help them to believe in themselves. Most importantly, I believe we need to teach our children that God created them with the ability to learn and that each of them is special and has a unique learning style.
I hope you get the opportunity to read The Big ‘What Now’ Book of Learning Styles and enjoy Carol’s insights into the different approaches of teaching.
Other Books By Carol Barnier:
If I’m Diapering A Watermelon, Then Where’d I Leave The Baby?
How To Get Your Child Off The Refrigerator And Onto Learning
Book review by Lis Johnston. (Learning Services Consultant)