Teaching Strategies Designed To Reach All Learning Types

Since the dawn of formalized educational programs, educators have known that all people do not learn in the same way. When children enter a classroom, they bring to the room different life experiences as well as different levels and styles of learning. They have different levels of language development and different views of school. Some are eager to learn and others view school just as a place to interact with their friends. Yet, they are all expected to learn the same material.

The job of the teacher is to develop differentiated instruction strategies that can, as much as possible, meet the needs of all types of learners. This does not mean that teachers are expected to have different lesson plans for different students. The idea is to have one lesson plan with one goal that incorporates activities directed toward the different learning styles.

Three different areas of differentiation are generally recognized. A broad overview includes: 

• Content: The lesson begins with an assessment of what students know so that the content of the lesson can be either slowed down or accelerated. Students can be grouped according to knowledge they already have and proceed from their own levels. Some groups may be homogeneous and others may include different learning levels so students learn from each other.

• Process: Relates to keeping the content the same for all learners, but incorporating various strategies that will reach all types of learners. Some students may choose to listen to audio tapes while others prefer videos or reading the material quietly to themselves. Some like fill-in-the-blank worksheets and others like to take their own notes on material they read in textbooks.

• Product: Differentiation focuses on allowing students to choose how they will fulfill the requirements. For example, students may study the Lewis and Clark Expedition and be expected to create a project to demonstrate their understanding of the subject.

Some may choose to keep a journal similar to the ones Lewis and Clark actually kept during the expedition. Some students may choose to do a written report. Others may create a board game or a game similar to the game show Jeopardy. Allowing students to create their own projects gives them the chance to succeed in their own way.

Other strategies geared to specific types of learners.

• Visual learners like to read. They prefer to be handed written materials to read on their own without the distraction of a teacher talking. They actually become frustrated when the teacher is talking. They read ahead in their textbooks. They generally excel at independent learning assignments.

Visual learners also like to take notes and write down what they hear. They like to read their textbooks and take notes on the written assignments.

• Auditory learners: These students learn better by listening. They like lectures and prefer that instructions be given orally. They also like audiotapes. They learn by repeating out loud portions of their assignments. They are eager participants in class discussions. They represent the traditional student in a traditional classroom.

• Kinesthetic learners: These students like to be shown how to do things and learn best by viewing demonstrations and then trying things for themselves. They learn best by having materials to touch and manipulate and learn best by participation.

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