Teachers dream of well-mannered and gracious students who eagerly grasp content and contribute to their lessons. Some of us have been fortunate enough to experience one of these exceptional educators and others have only heard about them. Remarkably, they seem to be able to engage and empower even the most discouraged and challenging learners. What’s more, they remain adored and praised and their lessons have a lasting impact on the futures of those who were fortunate enough to have them in class. So how do they do it?
These teachers tend to be multi-sensory learners. They like to process in many different ways, and it is comfortable for them to create materials and design lessons that tap into diverse ways of learning. You see, people often teach the way they learn, because that is what they know. When they instruct a class, they use methods that have helped them to process information when they learn.
So for those of us that are not multisensory learners, how do we step out of our comfort zone and teach to the different ways of processing information?
1. First of all, we must learn about the 12 ways of processing or learning.
1) Visual Learners: learn by seeing information or visualizing content.
2) Auditory Learners: want to hear information.
3) Tactile Learners: encode material by taking notes or typing.
4) Kinesthetic Learners: need to move around while learning or thinking.
5) Sequential Learners: like ordered or step by step instruction.
6) Simultaneous Learners: learn by categorizing information or conceptualizing the “big picture.”
7) Verbal Learners: need to process their ideas aloud.
8) Interactive Learners: like company of others when there are learning.
9) Logical/Reflective Learners: need to think about what they are learning.
10) Indirect Experience Learners: encode best when watching a demonstration.
11) Direct Experience Learners: want to learn in their environment and have “real-life experiences.”
12) Rhythmic Melodic Learners: like to learn to a rhythm or beat. Some like to learn while listening to music as it serves as “white noise” that blocks unexpected auditory distractions.
2. Next, teachers need to assess their best ways of learning as well as the preferences of their students. This can be done qualitatively through discussion or dialogue or you can looking into an inventory such as the Eclectic Learning Profile.
3. Then, expand instructional methods, go multisensory, accommodate the diverse needs of students and expose them to the many ways of processing. This doesn’t mean that instruction has to presented 12 different ways. Instead, these modalities need to be woven into lessons. A lecture can, for example, become visual by simply integrating images, sequential and simultaneous by adding a timeline or flow chart, and verbal and interactive by breaking into cooperative groups.
3. Finally, offer engaging assignments and class work that presents students choices so they can select the best processing method to show their mastery of the material. For example, to assess knowledge of a historical period, students could chose from the following options: Make a collage of the time period and write about the meaning; create a color coded timeline with images and captions; write a song or poem that illustrates the accomplishments of the period; design a time-travel brochure that presents images, points of interest and the historical background; conduct a skit that illustrates the customs, issues and resources.
The best part about multisensory instruction is that it’s enjoyable for both the students and the teachers. If you have had any success using these methods, please share your stories and ideas.
Dr. Erica Warren is a Learning Specialist and Educational Therapist that lives and works in New York. She works one on one with students as a “personal trainer for the brain” and also creates and publishes multisensory and mindful materials online at http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/ You can also read more of her blogs at http://learningspecialistmaterials.blogspot.com/