When it comes to teaching, a “one size fits all” approach will not be effective. Every student is different and offers a unique perspective. Lecturing on the history of the Ottoman Empire for an hour may be helpful for some students, but it will definitely sound like torture to others. So how then is it possible to cater teaching methods to every student?
Individual differences among students can be categorized into four learning styles. Auditory learners are receptive to acquiring new information through the spoken word. They typically benefit from lecture and discussion style settings. Kinesthetic learners prefer tactile activities that allow them to use their hands in order to learn new information. Visual learners are drawn to images, charts, and graphs as ways for them to acquire and process new information. Reading/writing learners typically learn best by (no surprise here) reading and writing. Reading and writing assignments are crucial in keeping theses learners engaged.
Adapting a lesson plan to four learning styles is certainly easier than adapting it to 20 or 30 individual learning styles. Consider using some of these strategies to engage all of the students in the classroom.
- Use an interactive lecture approach. Ask questions periodically to check for understanding, and encourage students to ask their own questions.
- Hold a discussion period after a lecture that relies heavily upon student questions, concerns, and comments.
- After teaching the information, break up the class into small groups to discuss a certain part of the lesson. This will ensure that students will have more talking time. Give them a time limit and tell them that when the timer runs out they will be summarizing the big idea of the lesson as well as any questions that they had.
- Kinesthetic learning typically lends itself to science where experiments are key. Allow students to engage in hands on experiments whenever possible.
- For English or History classes, where kinesthetic learning might pose more of a problem, identify a key object that reinforces the idea that you are trying to get across. For instance, when teaching about the Renaissance it might be helpful to bring in replicas of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions in order to reinforce the idea that the Renaissance was a time of rebirth and technological exploration.
- Allow the class a two minutes stretch break. While this may benefit the class as a whole it will be especially helpful to students who are kinesthetic learners.
- Switch up the typical lecture format by adding pictures or short graphics that reinforce the lecture topic.
- Utilize the whiteboard. It may be tempting to skip the whiteboard all together, especially if you’re not a great artist, but trying (and even failing) at drawing something on the whiteboard will keep students engaged and maybe even give them a good laugh.
- Color code notes. This will help visual learners to better remember big ideas and concepts.
- Provide short reading materials that will be manageable to read within a single class period.
- Pause every now and again and have students take five minutes to write a summary of what they’ve learned thus far.
- Encourage note-taking during lectures and discussion. It can often be helpful for students to have something to look back on when studying.
3Not every teaching method is going to be effective for every student. Changing up a lesson plan to include different aspects for students with different learning styles is a great way to keep students engaged and happy.