How can we meet the learning styles of our students?
What difference does it make when we teach to the different learning styles? How can we determine what learning styles our students have? Teachers have been asking themselves these questions for years, and the best teachers will continue to ask them looking for better and better answers. These are valid questions and ones worth looking into, but sometimes their answers might be simpler than you might think. Here are some quick tips you can use to make sure you teach to your students’ learning styles – whatever they are!
Try These 20+ Simple Tips for Meeting Your Students’ Learning Styles
Visual learners often do well in school because most teachers know how important it is to write things on the board. These learners see things and absorb the information into their minds. For these learners, what they see is key. Here are some ways to meet the needs of these students.
- Don’t shy away from the text book. Assign reading and book work, which will give these students a chance to see the information they need on the printed page.
- Use the white board. You probably do already, but even in beginning level classes, write vocabulary and grammatical structures on the board for these students to see.
- Provide visual keys when you can. These may include picture dictionaries, physical items and object lessons.
Bodily or kinesthetic learners can be easily overlooked in the classroom. Traditional classrooms don’t necessarily encourage students to get up and move in the middle of class. However, kinesthetic learners can really flourish in the ESL classroom if you take the time to plan the right activities.
- Try total physical response, a proven effective teaching method. I have found this style of teaching particularly effective at the beginning level.
- Play games with dice, cards, popsicle sticks or any other manipulatives. I have found that teaching vocabulary can be fun and engaging when I make ways for students to handle the words.
- Have your students take notes in class. Though they will need to process the information they hear, the motion of writing words on the page will help them absorb the information that they are hearing.
- Similar to note taking, encourage students to mark up their text books (if you won’t need to reuse them with your next class). Highlighting and making notes in the margin will help your students retain the information they are reading.
Aural Learners (auditory, music, rhythmic)
I’m not one to advocate heavy lecture in English classes, but that doesn’t’ mean you can’t explain new concepts from the front of the class. Your aural learners will absorb information best when they hear you explain a new concept and will also benefit from hearing a native speaker use English.
- Allow and encourage your students to read aloud. Out loud reading is particularly helpful with directions for test taking. Remind your students to be respectful of the rest of the class, but allowing them to hear the directions and not just read them may make or break their test scores.
- Most ESL classes already include speaking activities, and these will surely benefit your aural learners, but don’t limit them to speaking class. Including opportunities for your students to talk and work together will benefit students of everything from grammar to writing.
- Feel free to get jiggy with your class and include songs that model grammar or teach a concept. (Think School House Rock) Hundreds of these types of songs are available on line, and you’ll be surprised at just how catchy some of them are.
- If you are teaching elementary ESL, don’t under estimate the value of chants in the classroom. Simply sitting your students in a circle and having them keep a rhythm by clapping on their legs can be key to helping them remember that day’s lesson.
Verbal or linguistic learners will naturally excel in language classes, and your ESL class will be no exception. You will probably have no problem identifying these students who pick up on language with little to no effort and may sound the most like native speakers. Linguistic learners will connect through any language based activities, which is what ESL class is all about, so you won’t need special accommodations for them unless it is to challenge them.
- Including word puzzles, games and tongue twisters in class will appeal to your linguistic learners and help add some excitement to classroom activities for them.
Logical and mathematical learners are just what they sound like. They learn best through logical and organized methods or through mathematical and abstract concepts. You can include specific activities in your ESL class to reach these hard science lovers.
- When teaching grammar, take time to teach sentence diagraming and linguistic sentence trees. Your logical learners will appreciate the linguistic science behind the grammar.
- Don’t shy away from abstract diagrams or visuals in your classes. These learners will love them.
- Logical learners will also appreciate word puzzles and the challenge of working out grammar on their own before you give the explanation to the class.
Though the goal of every ESL class is English fluency, some students will need some independent work to get there. These students who learn best on their own may find a highly communicative class more challenging than other students. Here are some ways to reach these members of your class and decrease their potential stress.
- Use learning centers in your classroom. By setting up a few stations and allowing students work on their own for a few minutes each day, you will be sure to give these independent learners what they need.
- Plan independent activities in class from time to time. You can assign exercises from a text book or give students worksheets. Though keeping these activities to a minimum is best, don’t exclude them all together.
Social or interpersonal learners learn best when they interact with other people. This may be the easiest type of learner to target in the ESL classroom since most teachers use group activities on a regular basis anyway. Here are some ways you can be sure to reach these learners.
- Invite conversation partners from another class. When these learners interact with native speakers, they will pick up on language points that come up in conversation.
- Plan group activities for class time. Having discussion groups within your class will help meet these students’ need to work with others.
- Challenge groups to solve problems together. Rather than giving your class all the answers, see if they can figure things out on their own. Try using a jigsaw and other similar activities.
- Use interviews with native speakers and people on the street. Any time you can get these learners interacting with native speakers, especially with a clear directive in mind, they will flourish.
Ultimately, ESL teachers, just like other educators, must remember that everyone learns through a combination of learning styles.
For some people, one style is clearly dominant. For others, they will learn equally well through two or three styles. Regardless, teachers who include activities geared toward every learning style will find their students become successful language learners and, eventually, fluent speakers of English.
What language style do you find it easiest to cater to in your ESL class? Which is most difficult?