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Engaging Children with Various Learning Modalities

Last updated Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The following article was written by long-time educator and Reading to Kids volunteer Susan Thibodeaux, with concepts taken from Patricia Hutinger, Ed.D The Issues: Learning Modalities, PBS Teacher Source, (April 5, 2005), at http://www.pbs.org/teachersource and H. Gardner, Multiple Intelligences, New York: BasicBooks. (1993)

Learning modalities or learning styles are word labels which describe different ways in which children and adults learn best. We not only come from differing localities, abilities, cultures, and home experiences, but we inherently have different learning modalities.

We possess varying combinations of these styles--it's not an all or none issue. Your own learning style also affects your interaction with children.

The four main modalities are:

Visual--learn by watching and looking at pictures
Auditory--learn by being told verbal instructions
Kinesthetic--learn by being involved and active
Tactile--learn by doing and handling materials

As Reading to Kids volunteers, most of us expect children to sit quietly and listen to stories. Many children are capable of doing this, but for others it can be a challenge.

As part of the preparation for the story reading, we should plan ways in which we can engage the kinesthetic and tactile learners so that we can give them a legitimate reason to move and/or touch.

The various activities created by the Reading to Kids Curriculum Committee are structured to offer opportunities to engage students who have a variety of learning modalities.

Visual and auditory learners are engaged during the book reading and discussion.

Kinesthetic learners are engaged through vocabulary study and story discussion. For example, the April 2005 book for Kindergarten was The Earth and I by Frank Asch.
•  What is "the earth?" What kinds of things do we do on earth? (Act them out--walk, sing, dance ... )
•  What is your favorite kind of weather? (Act windy, rainy, sunny weather)
•  Vocabulary: turtle, rain, lightning, umbrella, rainbow, backyard, dance, leaf, trash, deer, stars, moon. (Use body language to show what selected words mean)

Tactile learners are engaged via the craft session that is built into the program.

If we readers plan story reading sessions that incorporate a wide range of modalities, we are likely to produce a group of enthusiastic, engaged learners.