Let’s get right to the bottom line because this is a hot topic! Focus on kid’s strengths and not their struggles. Our kids have unique learning styles that are innate. When we apply learning styles that are contrary to their natural strengths, we get frustration, chaos, boredom at school, lack of engagement and stress.
When we adjust learning to fit the kid, we get what I call ‘Love to Learn’ kids.
If it sounds simple, I assure you it is but it is not easy to apply. Our current education system is primarily focused on one learning style, the Fact Finder. This is not the fault of our wonderful educators. The teachers I work with want and try to apply individual learning styles but to a great extent, their hands are tied with the prominence of standardized tests and a ridged curriculum environment.
The good news is that parents can take ownership of how our children approach learning by teaching them specific learning strategies.
How Parents Can Help Their Kids Be Better Students
To start, we need to identify our children’s unique learning style and we do this by watching them play…
Johnny, Megan, Matt and Christine are very excited. It’s playtime at school. The sun is out as they run from the classroom to the play yard. Their teacher, Mr. Moore, encourages them to build a sand castle in the sandbox.
As they approach the sandbox, Megan stops with her hands on her hips and begins to ask questions. “How big is the castle?” “Remember the last time we built a castle?” “Why are we building a castle?” Megan solves problems by gathering information. It’s important for her to know all the facts before getting started. This is a child who might get frustrated at school if simply told to do something. She needs to know why and she needs information, lots of information, and then watch out, she will go to town. Megan’s learning style is a Fact Finder. She is our ‘why’ child who is very logical and loves to explore and search for answers.
Johnny is not stopping for anything! He has great ideas! Johnny is holding court in the middle of the sand box, gesturing very enthusiastically as he tells his friends all his amazing ideas for the best sand castle ever made. His ideas are imaginative and creative and he is not shy about telling his friends all about them. He can see the castle in his head, complete with a moat and drawbridge. He is a visionary and likes to do things his own way. This is a child who doesn’t pay particular attention to the details of his school homework and will become disheartened if told to do things without the freedom to put his spin on things. Johnny is a Quick Start, a visionary child who can create wonders out of nothing.
Matt is the kid with a plan! He has a process for building the castle. First you level the sand, then you gather pebbles for a walkway, next you very carefully construct the walls of the castle. His approach is very systematic. Matt needs to be able to sort information and organize it. If asked to “wing it,” Matt will get nervous that a mistake will be made. Matt likes to do things one at a time and gets discouraged when expected to multitask or to work without a plan. Matt’s learning style is a Follow Through and he can be seen making order out of chaos. This is the kid who has a particular way that he prefers to line up his toys on the toy shelf.
Mr. Moore decides to check in on the little monkeys. As he walks towards the evolving sand castle he notices that Christine is knee deep in the sand, building the castle as if it will stand the test of time. Christine likes to get her hands dirty and will get frustrated if the castle is not of the highest quality. When given math homework, her mom knows that numbers need to be more than figures on a piece of paper. Christine needs tangible items like blocks, or something to get her hands on in a three dimensional way. Christine is an Implementor, she learns by demonstrating and engaging in her environment.
Now that we recognize our children’s unique learning styles, their natural talents, we can find simple and everyday ways to structure learning environments and homework so that they can actually love to learn.
Tips for structuring homework and learning based on kid’s innate strengths:
Fact Finder Kids:
- Strengths: These wonderful ‘why’ children are very logical and like to find the answers. They play, learn and solve problems by gathering information and asking questions.
- Toys that foster their talents: When looking for toys that will engage them, think about logic and ways they can discover answers on their own. Science kits are great because it encourages the child to find their own conclusions. Any type of flash cards work well as long as it contains detailed information on one side. Another great option is information rich board games like jeopardy.
- Homework Tips:
- Give them ample time to find and explore answers. You will probably find yourself answering a lot of ‘why’ type of questions. Once they have gathered enough information, they will get moving on the assignment.
- Studying for a big test? Resist the urge to tell them the answers. Instead play a jeopardy style game with post-it-notes and post them on a larger piece of paper. Write the question on the front of the post-it-note and put the answer behind it.
Quick Start Kids:
- Strengths: These visionary children have a great imagination. They play, learn and solve problems by putting their unique spin on things…they are our ‘idea’ children.
- Toys that foster their talents: When looking for toys that will engage them, think about toys that promote creativity and nurture their need to imagine solutions without too many constraints. Costumes are a great option; in fact…they don’t have to be a costume for a particular character. They like what I call, ‘a box of randomness’. Collect random costume items like silly hats and props and they will create something new and unexpected. Arts and crafts work well as long as they are not expected to follow the rules or color inside the lines.
- Homework Tips:
- Homework needs to be more than an assignment. Let them get involved in the story, literally. If they have a book report due, have them act it out first then complete the book report. If this sounds like a waste of time, it’s not. They will actually get the report done much faster once they had a chance to put their spin on the assignment.
- Studying for a big test? Get creative. Replace the pencil with a paintbrush and let them paint the answers. Use mnemonic songs or a poem to help with memorization.
Follow Through Kids:
- Strengths: As a process orientated child, they thrive with order and routine. They play, learn and solve problems by organizing and systematizing.
- Toys that foster their talents: When looking for toys that will engage them, think about toys that inspire their natural ability to think in a linier way. Games such as Battle Ship or Brain-Quest and even Chess really nurture their amazing abilities. Any toy that encourages them to organize chaos will be a welcome addition.
- Homework Tips:
- These children like to know the order of things…what comes first, second or third. Get them an ink board and have them write down what homework assignment they are going to tackle first, second…a homework agenda!
- Studying for a big test? Get organized. An organized study environment is key to success. Matching and color-coded subject folders, boxes for supplies, and pens and pencils in a container. Play ‘homework chairs’ when studding for a big test. This strategy works well with their need for a system. Put several chairs in a line. On each chair put a different question. Have the child sit on the chair and answer the question, then move onto the next chair in the sequence.
- Strengths: These hands on kiddos love to move about their environment. They play, learn and solve problems by building, creating, learning and developing in a three-dimensional way.
- Toys that foster their talents: When looking for toys that will engage them, think about toys that foster the ‘doer’ in them. Playdoh and Legos are wonderful because it allows them to be hands on and create actual models. These are the kids who would rather ‘show you’ then ‘tell you’.
- Homework Tips:
- Homework needs to be more than numbers or words on a piece of paper. Get hands on. If doing math, for example, get marshmallows and pretzels and create editable geometry.
- Studying for a big test? Get out of the chair and away from the desk. These children are kinesthetic learners who need to explore their environment. Put the study questions around a table. Have the child run around the table, picking up the questions and answering them and quickly running to the next question. If they are learning letters, have them act them out by creating the letters with their body.
Give your child, and yourself, the freedom to structure play and homework that works for their unique strengths. Once they learn strategies that support their strengths, they will naturally take that to the classroom.
Go ahead, break the rules and teach children to love to learn. Next time you are playing with your child, take this article with you and see if you can identify their natural strengths.
Need more information or assistance? Go to zebecs.com/family resources for a complete list of simple ways we can teach children to love to learn.