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Understanding Your Child's Learning Style

Knowing your child's own learning style can assure academic success. Here's what to look for.

Learning Styles: Playing to Your Child's Strengths continued...

"If a little girl has a lot of spatial problems (difficulty picturing things), but is terrific in English, she can learn math by putting everything into her own words," Levine explains. "If you show her an equilateral triangle and ask her to talk about it, boy, will she understand it.

"She can only understand things in words, which is why she is such a terrific English student."

Another way to enhance learning is to focus on your child's affinities and areas of interest.

"A lot of strength could ride on the coattails of their passions, and you can build academic skills in that area," Levine says. "Have him became an expert in the area that he feels passionate about."

Pelullo-Willis agrees. "Parents really should encourage children's interests, talents and what they love to do," she says. "Parents tend to say 'If you are not doing well in school, you can't take horseback riding lessons,' but those are things that can build self-esteem.

Further, she says, "acknowledging and honoring their interests and talents tells you a lot about their learning style. If your child is really interested in plants and gardening, you can see if they are more hands-on and they need to go out there and garden. Or do they learn better from pictures about gardening, or reading about gardening?"

Learning Styles: Increasing Awareness in Schools

As it stands, schools mainly teach to print, auditory and language learners, according to Pelullo-Willis.

"They teach by saying 'Read, answer the questions and listen to me talk' and that only covers a small percentage of children," she says.

If your child is a hands-on learner, "You can say: 'Of course school is so hard for you; you need to move a lot and they don't do that in school,'" she says. "Then learn everything you can about how to use their learning style to make school easier."

Adds Levine: "We are learning more and more that there are differences in learning, and to treat everyone the same is to treat them unequally."

The good news is that growing numbers of teachers are focusing on learning styles and reaching out to all types of learners.

For example, Levine helped launch the Schools Attuned program. This professional development program helps teachers acquire the knowledge and skills they need to accommodate learning differences. To date, the program has offered training to 30,000 teachers.

But if your child's teacher has not been trained in learning styles, don't despair, Pelullo-Willis says. Instead, talk to him or her about what you have observed about your child's learning style.

"Say, 'Wow, I have just discovered this and I tried it, and he got it. Do you think we could work together using this kind of information?' And the teacher may even get interested in reading a book or article on learning style," she says.

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Reviewed on February 01, 2007

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