Newborns enter a world filled with sights, sounds, and sensations.
These auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli are received by highly
specialized receptors in a babys ears, eyes, and skin. Children
reveal their preference for a particular way of learning in the first
few months of life.
I refer to the three basic types of learners as Listeners, Lookers,
and Movers. As babies, Listeners are attuned to sounds and words.
They talk early, rapidly add words to their vocabulary, and enjoy
being read to. From the first year of life, Lookers are drawn to
color, shape, and motion. Their eye-hand coordination is excellent,
and as toddlers they enjoy playing with blocks, stringing beads, and
doing simple puzzles. As infants Movers achieve motor milestones,
such as crawling and walking, ahead of schedule. They are well
coordinated and confident in their bodies. Movers crave to be held
and rocked, and they seek out physical contact.
Learning Style is Inborn
Learning style can be observed so early on because its inborn
and inherited. A babys learning style tends to be like that of
one parent or a blend of both. Sometimes, a childs learning
style is like that of a close relative such as an uncle or grandparent.
You can see evidence of hereditary factors when you catch yourself
thinking, Golly, hes exactly like his uncle Jack
when, as a toddler, your son pulls away from being touched, or as a
first grader, excels in math but struggles with reading.
The School Years
If learning style is not influenced by the adults in a childs
life, over time children tend to settle into a preferred way of
learning. In fact, in their attempts to achieve a comfort zone,
children may screen out less favored types of information.
When this occurs, by first grade a Looker may have difficulty
mastering phonics, a Listener may be unable to memorize math facts on
flash cards, and a Mover may be up and out of his seat during
Learning preferences are easy to spot in Mrs. Livelys first
grade classroom. Theres Meredith who's talkative in class and
everywhere else. She loves to read aloud and is in the best reading
group. She frequently talks to herself when doing seat work and gets
in trouble for passing notes to girlfriends.
Her favorite pastimes include listening to the radio and to her tape
player which she takes with her on trips in the car. She likes games
such as Mother, May I? Without a doubt, Meredith is a Listener.
Also a first grader, Brett is quiet, and even when he knows the
answer, rarely volunteers to speak in class. His favorite pastimes
include computer games and putting together model airplanes.
Bretts math pages are near perfect, and he is precise about
forming letters and staying within the lines. Brett, of course, is a Looker.
When called upon by his first grade teacher, Ethan responds with
short unelaborated sentences, his favorite being I dunno.
He isnt really himself until the school bell rings. Well
coordinated and naturally competitive, he comes alive on the
playground. In class, Ethan feels confined at a desk. He struggles to
print on lined paper and displays some letter reversals. Ethan is a Mover.
Rather than outgrow their preferences for learning in a
particular way, as children move through the grades, they tend to get
more crystallized in a particular way of learning. Eventually, this
will limit their options in terms of learning.
How Parents Can Help
Parents can maximize learning ability by identifying their
childs learning style beginning as early as the first year of
life. With this information they're ready to develop a strategy for
playing with their child.
This means that they choose toys, games, and activities both to
affirm a particular learning strength and to develop areas needing
support. By playing in an intentional way, parents can open up
possibilities for their child helping him or her to become a more
balanced and confident learner.
Written by: Lauren Bradway, Ph.D., Neptune Beach, FL, USA