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Addressing Different Learning Styles

Helping All Students Succeed in the Kindergarten Classroom

  • Grades: PreK–K

I find that addressing the various learning styles in my classroom is a full time job in itself. But I realize it’s important to keep in mind that my young charges don’t all learn in the same manner. They need a wealth of experiences to help make connections and cement learning. Creating multi-sensory lessons and an environment that helps students focus on the material at hand are helpful ways to meet this goal.

Thinking back to my own kindergarten experience, what I remember most are the themed units of study that allowed me to connect to the material in a more visceral fashion. It’s getting involved in hands-on activities that I remember; the physical doing of things. Building the Mayflower out of the big hollow blocks made an impression on me, as did making beaded Native American necklaces. I remember making eggnog, painting spring flowers on the windows and releasing ladybugs into the garden. (I also remember making ladybug magnets for a fundraiser and later discovering that they’d all been sold. But that’s a tale of woe for another time. Back to learning styles…)

Think back to your own early learning experiences. Are you remembering sitting at a desk and having specific information fed to you? Or are you recalling some hands-on projects you did? Maybe a song or tune comes to mind? A field trip you went on? You’re probably reminiscing about a project that connected to your senses or emotions; a project that used a multi-sensory approach. It’s the ability to make these connections that makes this approach so meaningful for learning.

boy with art materials
Using Natural Materials in an Art Project


Elements of a Multi-Sensory Lesson
Chances are your students will also do most of their most meaningful learning when they’re engaged in a lesson that uses a multi-sensory approach. When I’m planning a unit I try to keep that in mind, checking to be certain that I’ve included things like:

  • a song, dance, or movement activity
  • an art or craft project
  • a play or drama opportunity
  • a model
  • a cooking project

So if I want to lend this approach to a study of butterflies, I’ll keep the great picture books like Sam Swope’s Gotta Go, Gotta Go and EricCarle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar , but I’ll make sure my students are not just being passive learners. We’ll go hunt for caterpillars in the garden, sip cups of nectar (sugar water) on paper flowers through straws, and emerge from a chrysalis (body sock).

student as butterfly
A "Butterfly" Sips Nectar


Setting Up Your Classroom for All Learning Styles
It’s also important to remember what an impact a classroom has on students. I like to check my room for unused furniture and put it in storage. In fact, I gave up my desk a number of years ago, reasoning I had better use for the space. This is a home away from home, folks, you want it to be inviting for your students, as well as yourself.

When setting up my classroom, I tone down the visual stimuli, to make the room calm and inviting. I want the children to be able to mentally and visually focus on materials that are educationally relevant. When designing my room I include natural materials like wooden furniture, baskets for books and green plants. Here are other things to try:

  • Paint the room a soothing, neutral color.
  • Put a tablecloth on the table, where the children check in for the morning.
  • Cover the bulletin boards with a neutral fabric or paper.
  • Cover open shelving with curtains.
  • Do an inventory of your walls. If visual material is so tightly packed that posters are running into each other, it’s going to be difficult for students to discriminate what’s worth looking at.

Providing an environment that’s conducive to learning and planning lesson that use a multi-sensory approach are to great ways to help teach my students. It keeps things fun and focused. Well, I hope you find these lists helpful. Now go wash your hands, head to the freshly painted block area and build the Mayflower!

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