Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Learning Styles

Been thinking a bit about how a child learns.  It's often described that a child's brain is like a sponge.  I tend to agree with that after working with children for nigh on 15 years.  I often take the attitude that "it's never to early" when it comes to new skills/concepts.  Does that mean they will always grasp the concept or master the skill?  No, but there will be brain connections being made and the more that path is traveled, from point a to point b in the brain, the more engrained it will be and the children will begin to grasp what's being taught or experienced.  A side note...remember that a sponge can get to a point where it will hold no more until it dries up.  A child's brain is the same way.  There is such a thing as information overload for child and adult alike.  So that brings me back to why I implement brief activities and lessons regarding a concept/skill daily vs. a large lesson in one day.  They will definitely retain more in the long run.

Learning Styles.  At the preschool level, we tend to  focus on three general types of learning.  Visual, auditory and tactile/kinesthetic.  Once a child gets older it's very interesting to begin to look in Howard Gardner's Seven Intelligences (mathematics/logic, visual/spatial, intra-personal, kinesthetic, interpersonal, musical, and linguistic).  I won't get into detail on those multiple intelligences but will state that for most roles that come with adulthood, it's necessary to meld together several of the intelligences.  I guess that leads us back to preschool learning styles.  Most preschool students already have this tendency to learn in all three ways.  And though it's important that we do know our students and how they learn best...it's also important to be sure we are being sure to introduce new skills and ideas in all three ways learning as they will be required to learn in those different ways as they enter into more formal schooling and further education.  Consider college classes...even high school classes.  The majority of "learning" takes place through reading text and listening to the teacher lecture.  Consider also that the children who are often the ones who are labeled as "trouble makers" or have difficulty in school...they are often the children who are kinesthetic and that goes against the grain of many teachers' natural way of teaching.  One thing that sets early childhood teachers aside from elementary and especially middle/high school teachers is their better understanding of child development, learning styles and their willingness to work with it all.  So, in a preschool setting you would, hopefully, see that when a new skill or concept is taught, there are several activities/centers set up that allow the new information to be reinforced in an auditory way, and a visual way and a hands-on approach also.  One thing I look for in a program is whether the teachers have put something in each center (dramatic play, sensory, science, math/manipulative, library etc) that corresponds with the concept or skill wishing to be taught.  I find that this often goes by the wayside because it's time consuming.  But children learn best through exploration and that hour of free play/free choice/center time can be used to reinforce the concept in several different learning styles.

Music and Movement is something that almost all children love...and early childhood teachers, they like it too.  Ever wonder why?  Here's my opinion...it encourages involvement of the kinethstetic learners and auditory learners right off and it's very easy to grab the attention of those visual learners by adding a few simple visuals.  Merry Music Maker and Dr. Jean are two individuals that truly understand this.

http://merrymusicmaker.com/  Our library system often has her included at least twice a year and she's awesome with the kids.  I've also attended a training with her and love her outlook toward early childhood and how children learn.

http://www.drjean.org/ Dr. Jean has an Activity of the Month.  Check them out.  And if you haven't tried either of these ladies cd's yet...please do so!  Check your local library!

Have a lovely day!

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