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Learning Styles and Teaching the ABCs: Work With Your Child’s Strengths
What are your child’s dominant learning styles? In observing your child, does he prefer to paint, dance to music, build with LEGO, learn about animals, or play outside? What activity will capture their attention and keep their interest? Choose activities that align with your child’s favorite ways to play and learn. As a preschooler, Cole spent a lot of his time in the sandbox with his tractors. Drawing letters in the sand with a pencil stick and arranging rocks in the shape of letters caught his interest. Focus on topics that your child is drawn to. We all love to learn about topics that we are fascinated by. Three-year-old Addy is crazy about tigers. Alphabet activity for the letter “Tt” focused on tigers. We read about tigers and went to the Zoo to see the tigers. His excitement for tigers hastened him to learn the letter “Tt”.
Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor, introduced a theory about learning styles. Gardner suggests eight learning styles. Each of us uses a mixture of learning styles. Learning the dominant styles of our children can help us adapt our approach and make learning more effective. To help determine the areas of strength of our child, simply observe him play.
The eight styles or multiple intelligences are:
1. Body (or kinesthetic): These children like to role play and often use their hands when they speak. These children can be seen in a situation where they are expected to sit. Kinesthetic learners often enjoy sports, dance, hiking or acting. Kinesthetic activities for learning the ABCs include making letters with your body. For example, put your arms straight out to the side to make a “T”. Hand movements that coordinate with 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. Space: Can your child build amazing things with LEGO? Artists, architects and builders have a strong spatial understanding. These kids love to draw and use play dough. Make ABC letters from play dough or fold pipe cleaners into letter shapes for spatial learning.
3. Interpersonal: These children relate well to others. They prefer to learn in a group. 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. Musical: Does your child tap to the beat in a song or create 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 funny ABC songs. Sing them while they play making homemade musical instruments. Fill a water bottle with rice to use as a shaker, recycle a can of oatmeal into a drum, or tap the rhythm sticks.
5. Linguistics: Does your child love books? This is an important area for the success of the school and like any of the areas 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 newly recognized area of intelligence added since the original list was released. Does your child like to observe and learn about birds, plants, stars, or dinosaurs? Work in your child’s favorite topics 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 from the library about dinosaurs. Another powerful technique for your child who loves the outdoors is to draw letters in wet soil with a stick or in a cake in a mud cake. Letters can also be made from stacked rocks or sticks.
7. Intrapersonal: Does your child prefer to work alone? Intrapersonal intelligence involves self-understanding and reflection. Some adults like children prefer to work alone. Take a page out of the newspaper or a grocery store ad and have your child highlight or circle the letter that works. We all need time just once.
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 compliment her, “Wow, you found the letter D twenty-four times!”
For all children, a multisensory approach is best, combining many senses and styles. After observing your child, find his two or three strongest learning styles. Focus on activities that suit your child’s learning strengths. Building your child’s confidence with learning success will benefit them throughout their school years. You are your child’s expert. Your understanding of your child’s passions is deep and can spark a lifelong love of learning and exploration.
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