How Your Student’s Dominant Learning Style Affects His/Her Reading
It’s impossible to stress it enough: reading is the core of academic study. Without a solid set of reading skills, a student is severely handicapped. However, different learning styles capitalize on (or deal with) the written word in different ways. It is imperative that students and parents understand how learning styles affect thought patterns and reading habits.
This seems like a no brainer. Visual learners can just read books, auditory learners can just pick up the audio book version, and kinesthetic learners can act out the play. Go figure — it’s not always that easy. Students of every learning style may encounter reading comprehension difficulties for a variety of reasons. The complication arises in how to rectify the problem and help the student learn to love to read. Bear in mind that everyone uses each style of learning; try promising techniques from each category and see what piques your student’s interest. (Or, better yet — ask your student what appeals to him or her.)
While most fluent readers are visual learners, not all visual learners are fluent readers. While the realm of the visual learner does include literature enthusiasts, it also includes the mathematicians, architects, artists, and anyone else who prefers to see things laid out for them. There is no guarantee that someone who does well seeing things laid out in an orderly fashion will automatically take to reading.
However, visual learners tend to do well with charts, graphs, and visual representations. Try helping your student learn to diagram the plot of a short story. (There are countless ready-made diagrams online.) This allows the student to “see” the plot, which helps to sort out the important parts. If your student is having trouble getting to that point, have them draw a flow chart to graph out the action of the story. Have your student outline the setting, putting in as much detail as possible, or draw maps of the regions (if the story’s setting is described well enough).
Alternatively, if your visual learners are interested in art, try using comic books as a tool. However, once the student has finished the novel, have them use the charts described above to map out the plot of the graphic novel. It’s great practice, the student is reading, and you’re earning cool parent points all in one fell swoop.
Audio books are great ways for auditory learners to get the point of a story, but that is not enough to overcome reading difficulties. If your student’s problem is reading comprehension, audio books may help by allowing the student to listen and absorb the story that way. However, unless your student has IEP or 504 accommodations that allow for a reader, your student will have to do all formal and test-taking work without reading aloud.
The easiest way to do this is to strike a balance. Get your student hooked on stories and reading through fun audio books, but also give them harder, academic novels. Those novels should be done as a read-along. Your student can either read the paragraph, listen to the audio, and then go back and read the paragraph again or your student can read along with the narrator. The point of this exercise is to link the sound and the written meaning in the student’s mind.
The third way involves assistance. Read aloud with your student, reading every important section twice. Stop every few paragraphs and have your student summarize what you’ve just read. Try to make this into a fun activity; make popcorn, order a pizza, do something else that the student finds enjoyable (two player video games or go out for dinner), and make the reading night into a guardian/student night rather than a punishment. You don’t want your student to dread reading.
Kinesthetic learners are more complicated. Since the kinesthetic learner thrives on doing and experimenting, a stagnant and static text will not catch their eye. Unfortunately, school reading lists are littered with those books. If there is a play or accurate movie version of the book (so, the Winona Ryder version of Little Women is a poor choice), watch that or let your student act it out. Then, compare it to the book, section by section.
Unfortunately, an accurate theatrical rendering of a book is pretty rare. Younger students often get a kick out of creating their own with sock or bag puppets, but older students tend to find these activities too puerile. Try re-creating, re-setting, or re-writing short stories with your student. Let your kinesthetic student explore what-ifs. What if Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” was re-set in your town and time period? What valuable item would the protagonist lose instead of a diamond necklace? What would a “director’s cut” of Julius Caesar look like? What scenes would you add or axe to add some extra meaning to the play? Why?
Above all, keep emphasizing to your child how important it is to read. Even if your child never becomes a true bookworm, s/he will have a much easier time if s/he can understand how to adapt his/her learning style to best facilitate reading and writing.
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