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Multisensory Teaching Reaches All Types of Learners

A common question and frustration plaguing teachers is how to meet the diverse learning styles of all the students in their classrooms.  With as many as 12 learning styles, teachers can get overwhelmed thinking about teaching a topic in 12 different ways. 
Happy students with a rainbow background
There is a solution.  First, it is imperative to understand the different learning styles or ways of learning.  Second, one must consider a number of teaching strategies.

Understanding the 12 Learning Styles:
There are 12 ways of learning: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, sequential simultaneous, reflective/logical, verbal, interactive, direct experience, indirect experience and rhythmic/melodic.  Although most students can learn in some capacity using all 12 learning styles, when students’ unique profiles or preferences are accommodated, they often experience joy in the learning process and celebrate remarkable gains. 

Below, the 12 learning styles are defined and 3 to 4 teaching suggestions are made for each.

1) Visual Teaching: This method allows students to learn by seeing.
Seeing a diagram
Seeing an image
Seeing a movie

2) Auditory Teaching: This method allows students to learn by listening.
Listening to a lecture
Listening to a debate
Listening to a story

3) Tactile Teaching: This method allows students to learn by touching.
Touching and manipulating an artifact
Conducting a hands-on experiment
Copying or tracing diagrams or tables

4) Kinesthetic Teaching: This method allows students to learn while moving.
 Role-playing scenarios or doing skits
Participating in field trips
Conducting interactive experiments

5) Sequential Teaching: This method allows students to learn the material in a specific order or series of steps.
Breaking down information into a series of steps
Making flow charts
Placing events in sequence on a timeline

6) Simultaneous Teaching: This method allows students to learn “the big picture,” or how the information is interrelated.
Producing summaries
Explaining the overall meaning
Creating concept maps or webs
Looking at a timeline to gleam the overall relationship

7) Reflective/Logical Teaching: This method allows students to solve problems and ponder complex issues.
Brainstorming solutions to problems
Asking students to analyze material
Offering reflective writing opportunities

8) Verbal Teaching: This method allows students to learn information by talking about it.
Breaking students into discussion groups
Encouraging students to verbally rehearse their understanding of information
Asking students to think aloud

9) Interactive Teaching: This method allows students to learn information in the company of other people.
Organizing a group debate
Breaking into small group activities
Conducting a question-answer session

10) Direct Experience Teaching: This method allows students to learn through experience.
Conducting experiments
Going on field trips
Taking part in an apprenticeship program

11) Indirect Experience Teaching: This method allows students to learn from the experiences of others.
Telling about your own experiences of learning from peers
Reading a biography
Watching demonstrations

12) Rhythmic/Melodic Teaching: This method allows students to see patterns or pair melodies and rhythm to the information they are learning.
Suggesting patterns/themes across course content
Pointing out songs that address the course themes
Bringing in a musical piece that reflects a time period and
creates a mood

Teaching Strategies that Accommodate the 12 Learning Styles:
When you understand the different learning styles, there are a number of strategies that can be employed:

·    Create learning stations that enable students to pick activities, practice materials, complete handouts and make projects that teach and reinforce new knowledge.  Each learning station should accommodate different learning styles.  For example, there could be a tactile learning station, a sequential learning station, a kinesthetic learning station…
·    Step out of your own learning style and try other methods. 
·    Design multisensory lessons. A lecture, for example, does not have to be exclusively auditory. To name a few, visual, simultaneous, tactile and verbal approaches can be woven into the lesson.  Also, certain instructional techniques are naturally multisensory.  For example, doing a skit is highly multisensory because it is auditory, visual, kinesthetic, verbal, and interactive.
·    Consider assessing the learning styles of your students so that you can tailor lessons to meet their needs.  An excellent option is the Eclectic Learning Profile.  This can be used to look at individual or class profiles.  The manual is also packed with teaching suggestions, lesson ideas, and handouts.
·    Provide homework or project options.  Say, for example, you wanted students to show mastery of a process.  This could be the steps to complete a math problem, the plot of a story or their understanding of a historical time period.  In all three cases, students can select assignment options such as:
o   Create a timeline or sequence chart
o   Create a web or flow chart
o   Draw a series of images that show the steps and write a caption for each.
o   Do a PowerPoint presentation that shows the sequence
o   Do a skit that illustrates the steps.
o   Write a song that illustrates the steps.

Learning to accommodate the diverse needs of your students will make you a more popular, confident and creative teacher. 

If you would like to see a video on the 12 Learning Styles click on the link below.

Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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  1. Hi there!

    I love your blog! So helpful! As an English teacher in a high priority high school, it is difficult when you have so many different learners. Thanks for this post!

    I am your newest follower :-)

    Bergin's Classroom


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