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Learning Styles and Teaching the ABCs: Work With Your Child’s Strengths
What is your child’s dominant learning style? When observing your child, does he prefer to paint, dance to music, build with LEGO, learn about animals, or play outside? What activities capture his attention and hold his interest? Choose activities that align with your child’s favorite ways to play and learn. As a preschool-aged child, Cole spent much of his time in the sandbox with his tractors. Drawing letters in the sand with a stick for a pencil and arranging stones in the shape of letters captured his interest. Focus on topics your child is attracted to. We all love to learn about subjects we are fascinated about. Three-year-old Addy is black on a tiger. Alphabet activity for the letter “Tt” focuses on tigers. We read about tigers and went to the Zoo to see tigers. His excitement about tigers accelerated his learning about the letter “Tt.”
Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor, presented a theory of learning styles. Gardner suggests eight learning styles. Each of us uses a mixture of learning styles. Learning our children’s dominant styles can help us adapt our approach and make learning more effective. To help determine your child’s areas of strength, simply observe him playing.
The eight styles or multiple intelligences are:
1. Bodily (or kinesthetic): These children like to play roles and often use their hands when speaking. These children may have trouble in a situation where they are expected to sit. Kinesthetic learners often enjoy sports, dance, hiking, or acting. Kinesthetic activities for learning the ABCs would include making letters with your body. For example, put your arms straight out to the side to make a “T.” Coordinated hand movements and letter sounds add a strong kinesthetic component to learning. Active ABC songs like Hap Palmer’s “Alphabet in Motion” get kids moving while teaching the ABCs.
2. Spatial: Can your child build amazing things with LEGOs? Artists, architects, and builders have great spatial knowledge. These children love to draw and use play dough. Make ABC letters out of play dough or bend pipe cleaners into letter shapes for spatial learning.
3. Interpersonal: These children relate to others well. They prefer to learn in a group setting. These children are often helpful to siblings and others. An interpersonal approach to teaching the ABCs might include playing ABC Bingo with a small group of friends or family members.
4. Music: Does your child tap to the beat of a song or make music? All children benefit from listening to music and enjoying simple instruments. Even if you don’t sing well, sing with your child. There are many fun ABC songs. They sing while playing homemade musical instruments. Fill a water bottle with rice to use as a shaker, recycle a can of oatmeal into a drum, or tap rhythm sticks.
5. Linguistics: Does your child like books? This is an important area for school success and like any area of intelligence and can be practiced and improved. Linguistic intelligence involves language, writing, and reading. Read alphabet books for ABC practice. There are many fun ABC books including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Alphabet City, Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC, 26 Letters and 99 Cents, I Spy A to Z, and Animalia.
6. Naturalist: This is the most recently recognized area of intelligence added since the original list was published. Does your child enjoy observing and learning about birds, plants, stars, or dinosaurs? Work on your child’s favorite subject while practicing the ABCs. For example, for the letter F, learn about fossils. For letter B, go bird watching. For letter D, check out books and movies at the library about dinosaurs. Another powerful technique for your outdoor-loving child is to draw letters in wet dirt with a stick or pie tin in a mud pie. The letters can also be fashioned from stone rows or sticks.
7. Intrapersonal: Does your child prefer to work alone? Intrapersonal Intelligence involves understanding yourself and thinking. Some adults as well as children prefer to work alone. Pull out a page from the newspaper or a supermarket ad and have your child highlight or circle the letter you are working on. We all need time alone once in a while.
8. Logic (or math): Does your child like to count? Logical/mathematical children are the scientists, computer programmers, and mathematicians of the future. Have your child count the number of a specific letter you find while at the grocery store. In the check-out line you can complete it, “Wow, you got the letter D twenty-four times!”
For all children, a multisensory approach is best, combining multiple senses and styles. After observing your child, find two or three of his strongest learning styles. Focus on activities that match your child’s learning strengths. Building your child’s confidence and learning success will benefit him throughout his school years. You are the expert on your child. Your understanding of your child’s passion is profound and can spark a lifelong love of learning and exploration.
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