Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Visual-Spatial Learners" Review

As any parent of multiple children can tell you, each one is very different from the others. What works with one child is doomed to fail with the others.

This is certainly true when it comes to helping our children learn. That fine system you put in place for your first child will collapse in heaps when the second child comes along.

Figuring out your child's learning style can give you insight into ways to better reach them and open up the world to their inquisitive minds.

Typically, schools are designed with the auditory-sequential learner (ASL) in mind. This child thinks in words, learns well from instructors, is a step-by-step learner, and so on. They tend to fit very well into the classroom system.

Then there are the other students, the visual-spatial learners (VSLs). These children think in pictures, develop their own methods of problem-solving, are whole-part learners (understand the big picture, before they grasp the parts that make it), and so on.

If you are an ASL, or your other children are ASLs, and you are now faced with a VSL, figuring out how to best present new material and learning opportunities can be frustrating. What worked before, simply does not work now.

This is where Visual-Spatial Learners: Differentation strategies for creating a successful classroom, by Alexandra Shires Golon, can help.

Don't let the title throw you. Although Golon definitely directs her advice to classroom teachers, most of what she suggests can readily be put into action in the homeschool environment.

Golon starts by relating an activity she gives to teachers. She has them draw a 2"wide x 1/2" tall rectangle, a space similar to the signature line on a check. Then she asks them to place their pen in their non-dominant hand and sign their name within that box. She inevitably hears groans and moans from the teachers about the awkwardness and difficulty of the task. She then tells them that this is what it feels like for a "right-hemispheric, visual-spatial student sitting in a left-hemispheric, wor-dominated classroom."

Readers of Visual-Spatial Learners can either read the book cover to cover or jump to the specific chapter(s) which interest them. (How's that for ASL versus VSL accessibility?)

Golon addresses the basics of elementary education: reading, writing, spelling, note-taking, mathematics, and organizational skills. Timed tests, written agreements, and creating a visual-spatial classroom may not apply to homeschoolers, but the basic skills are universal. Quite frankly, having taught in a classroom environment, I find many of her suggestions overwhelming wih 30-35 kids in mind (I have all this required stuff to do, and now you want me to do more?); but, as a homeschooling mom, I find her suggestions really simple to incorporate in our learning.

For example, VSLs often have lousy writing. But when writing is presented to them as art, such as with calligraphy, their handwriting skills improve immensely, as does their ability to and joy in communicating through the written word.

When it comes to math facts, all sorts of tricks come into play. Golon presents hand games, lattice multiplication, drawing assignments, and more, to help VSLs create mental pictures of mathematical information.

Perhaps her most powerful message is that, just as children learn differently, the way they present that knowledge should be different. Not all children want to write down what they're learned. Some may better demonstrate mastery through building a diorama or designing a poster or putting on a play. We, as homeschooling parents, are in an excellent position to gauge learning through unorthodox methods.

Visual-Spatial Learners will give homeschooling parents a deeper insight into their VSL children, as well as tools to create and support learning opportunities to fit their children's needs. VSL children will develop confidence in their ability to learn, explore, and understand their world in their creative, big-picture, enthusiastic way.

1 comment: