Last time, I shared how kids learn at different rates, and some of the theory behind the learning process. Now, let’s take a look at specific ways to leverage different learning styles.
Active learning is the process by which kids are busily at work, involved and engaged in their own learning. You can watch kids at work while they are playing with their toys on the floor, creating a picture for Grandma, or doing a science experiment. It is taking responsibility for learning and enjoying it. The motivation to learn grows when kids are exposed to new sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and things to touch. You can almost think about the brain of a child as a sponge, soaking up all the experiences through the senses every day. The more kids are involved in their world, busy at the work of learning, the more they are thinking, writing, building, reading, analyzing, searching, creating, solving, playing, talking, listening, loving, dancing, sharing, singing, exploring, understanding, discovering, and climbing.
All of these verbs are characteristics of learning. A big goal of active learning is to be able to solve problems and, as more knowledge and skills are practiced and mastered, kids are able to solve more difficult problems and challenge themselves even more.
7 Learning Styles
Some of the ways kids learn are academically, socially, emotionally, and creatively. While some children talk early and enjoy books and puzzles, others may walk and run early and enjoy being outside on their tricycles. Researchers have identified 7 learning styles that can be found in children. Most kids learn visually, through pictures or images. Some children are very verbal, using the printed word and spoken word to learn. Kids that are auditory learners learn through sound and music. The kinesthetic learner responds to touch, movement, and physical activity. Some children seem to be able to reason and logically follow through in thought processes; these kids have a logical learning style and will do well in math. Some kids are social learners, responding to group work, activities, and discussions, while some learn better alone and are able to study by themselves, needing very little stimulus from others. Discovering a child’s dominant learning style can help in selecting the types of activities best suited for mastery of new information.
How Much Information Can Kids Retain?
Kids continue to learn and make new connections throughout most of their elementary years, but around age 10, those experiences that have not been used for a long time begin to fade from the memory. This is a good thing because now the brain begins to make new connections, remembering newer experiences, facts, emotions, and real-life interactions that come with the pre-teen years and beyond. Connections that are used more often remain in the brain, like interactions with family, special days, and especially traumatic experiences. The same thing happens at the end of adolescence, as kids prepare to go to college and their studying becomes more advanced.
What Can We Do To Help Kids Learn?
There are many things we can do to help kids learn more effectively. Providing good nutrition, ensuring a good night’s sleep along with good health and safety habits and making sure they feel secure are all very important. Kids need to feel and know they are loved. Physical affection—holding and hugging—communicate love and security to them. Probably the most important thing is to respond to them when they talk or ask questions. Daily conversation, with its constant dispensing of information, requires acknowledgment and affirmation. This give and take between kids and their caregivers opens the door to active learning. Even the discipline involved in training a child should teach them new ways to behave or respond to situations.
Kids who do not have their basic needs met and are not exposed to life experiences, printed material, and a variety of language experiences enter school with a huge disadvantage. These children will need a lot of time to make up for what they didn’t get in their 5 years before entering school. They will need extra time from parents, volunteers, and mentors in order to fill the gaps in their learning and “catch up.”
Kindergarten is still probably the most important year in school for most kids, but they may come to school on that first day knowing much more than we can ever imagine. We might consider a new poster that could be given to expectant moms that reads: “All I Really Need to Know I Can Learn Before I Turn 5!” This puts a lot of responsibility for learning on parents or other caregivers, but this is what it takes to produce life-long learners. These kids will continue to grow and learn as they contribute to their communities, becoming good citizens and global learners. Eventually, they will pass this baton of knowledge acquisition on to the next generation, who will then teach their kids how to learn.
Patty Bedzyk has recently retired from a 30- year career in public and Christian education. She holds a BS in Education, an MS in English and Education and a Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction. After teaching 24 years in grades 3-8, she spent 6 years as an instructional coach in elementary school, supervising teachers and instruction and implementing and integrating elements of the CCSS into the existing curriculum. She has taught Sunday school and Bible studies, directed VBS and served on several church committees. Currently she serves as the Childcare Coordinator and as a member of the Women’s Enrichment Ministry Team in her church. She works at OneHope as an Education Specialist and is grateful for the opportunity to help spread the Gospel to children all over the world. She is married to Vic, and they have 4 children and 7 grandchildren.