The 4 Types of Learning Styles and How You Can Support Them
| Teaching House Nomads Blog
February 15, 2022
As an ESL teacher, you would encounter all kinds of students in a classroom. These students would be unique in their own way and also in their learning styles.
So how can you understand these different types of students and give them the support they actually need? The VARK model is a popular theory on learning styles that groups students into four types of learning styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic learners. While students might have a combination of different styles, their learning styles are often dominated by one certain type.
Understanding and acknowledging these different learning styles can greatly improve the effectiveness of your English teaching and how well your students are actually learning, as opposed to putting every student into the same box. Both our CELTA Face to Face and CELTA online course focus on these different methods to ensure our graduates are ready to engage all types of learners.
Here’s how you can meet your students’ unique needs based on their learning styles:
Students with visual or spatial learning style often respond well when information is presented in visually-engaging ways, such as with pictures, shapes, diagrams, maps, charts and so on. This makes it easier for them to interpret patterns and relationships between ideas. Your visual learners are the students who tend to doodle and take notes during the lessons!
To support visual learners, our students on the CELTA course are taught to annotate a lot of the teaching materials they use in class, such as utilising whiteboard, smartboard or on-screen annotation features if you are teaching online.
You can recognise auditory learners by noticing students who learn better when the materials are reinforced by sound. They usually prefer listening to the lessons, than reading teaching notes or slides.
They also learn better when they read those materials out loud to themselves, as this is a way for them to sort out abstract ideas and language concepts in their minds. Which is why they tend to speak up in class and explain their understanding through talking.
For that reason, auditory learners tend to have a difficult time staying quiet for the whole duration of the class, since they learn better in English lessons that involve talking, such as lectures or discussions.
As such, catering to auditory learners would involve asking questions, encouraging them to explain their own take on the topics or to share their insights with the class. Group discussions are also a great way for students to exchange ideas and add more perspectives to their language understanding. This type of students also respond better to listening tasks, interactive video or movies than static notes or handouts.
Reading/writing learners are students who respond better to written words, whether by writing or reading. They often perform well on written assignments, as these students understand concepts better as they write information out, research more of the topic online, or read more articles and books about it.
A large part of the traditional education system, mainly through research, essays and article assessments, has already catered to the reading/writing learning style. That being said, it is still important to give them enough time to process what they are reading, and to encourage them to write out their own ideas and understanding on paper.
Lastly, kinesthetic or tactile learners are the students who often have difficulties staying still (which is why they prefer to take more frequent breaks). They also prefer to move around, act out scenarios or touch objects, in order to fully understand the concepts and topics being taught.
This is because this type of students learn better when they do things directly and through actual, hands-on experiences.
To support kinesthetic learners, you can get them moving and encourage them to act out some scenes from the lesson. By incorporating movements into language lessons—through games or icebreaker activities—you would help kinesthetic learners sense abstract ideas physically, making it easier for them to understand difficult concepts.
It is also important that these students learn new information through personal experience, practice, illustrative examples or simulations. As they understand concepts better when they experiment or try things out themselves.
Supporting all types of learning
- Be creative!
Avoid being monotonous in your lessons and class activities. You should try out different tasks and activities to give every single one of your students the opportunity to learn in a style that suits them best.
- Help them understand their individual learning styles
Make time to talk with your students one-on-one to discuss their particular learning style. By helping them grasp their own learning style, you can introduce them to all the different ways they can learn and explore English outside the classroom.
Encourage open and supportive communication! This way, your students would feel comfortable expressing their needs to you (such as how they would like to learn, what they struggle with, or what kind of activities they prefer), and can give you insightful feedback to improve your teaching.