Let’s take a trip down memory lane to our 9th grade English class. You’re discussing Great Expectations. The teacher is reading excerpts that correlate with the notes she has on the board. Your assignment is to copy the notes, read the excerpts for homework and study the notes for a quiz the following day. Have we lost you yet?
If we did – like 65% of all people, you might be a visual learner. Meaning, you have to see it (touch it and break it down) to learn it. In other words, you are not an auditory learner. Although some sources say that only 20% of people are actually auditory learners, this 9th grade classroom scenario is typical, and it’s auditory learning approaches that are predominantly used in elementary, high-school, and college curriculums. In short, when a teacher “lectures” or uses other auditory learning approaches, they’re reaching 20 to 35% of their students – so what about the rest?
Let’s put that 9th grade English class back in our minds, and by comparison think back to our Kindergarten class, where interactive and visual learning techniques kept all students engaged and learning, regardless of their individual learning styles. Unfortunately, these interactive and visual learning techniques are dramatically cut once students reach the elementary levels.
Instead, elementary students have been forced to adapt to the teaching approaches of the “oral” classroom. They’re not necessarily interested in what they’re learning, nor are they retaining it – but the lucky ones learn to get by with varying degrees of success. However, will “getting by” even be possible for the new “short attention span” generation?
From infanthood, today’s students have been exposed to an incessant supply of visual stimuli via television, books, video-games and computers. Whether it is a highway billboard, a monitor or an iPhone, visual communication is the medium that children are using to gather (and retain) their information. If our education system won’t learn to speak their language, we risk the chance of not only leaving students disinterested in the classroom – we run the risk of leaving them behind completely.
Students need learning strategies that accommodate their learning styles in order to remain interested in the process of learning. For the visual learner in particular, it may be as simple as re-writing notes in their own words (so that they’ve seen and dissected the information), or drawing a visual guide for the particular subject, such as a timeline, flow chart or graph. For the visual learner, seeing it is learning it! Many of these learning strategies help not only the visual learner, but also make the classroom activities more engaging and therefore better learned by all.
There are NUMEROUS excellent resources and guides on the web for parents and teachers that want to learn more about the children and the visual learning and the strategies that tap into their learning mode. Here are some excellent resources to help you get started:
- Visual-Spatial Learner: An Introduction. A great general knowledge article for parents and their elementary-aged visual learner from Education.com.
- Are You a Visual Learner? Is Your Child? A short quiz to find out!
- 30 Educational Tools for Visual Learners. A great directory of web tools/pages for visual learners.
- Articles For and About the Visual Learner. A great resource on free downloadable articles for parents and teachers.