Workshop Topic: Recognizing Individual Learning Styles
Instructions for Workshop Leaders:
1 > Goals
- To introduce teachers to the idea that each child has an individual way of learning.
- To encourage teachers to recognize and accept each child's individual strengths by asking the question, How IS this child smart? instead of How smart IS this child?
- To caution teachers about labeling preschoolers as smart in only one way so each can fully explore her world, develop skills in a number of areas, and develop her own abilities.
2 > In Advance
- Have a flip chart and marker.
- Distribute the handout "Eight Ways for Young Children to Be Smart" (pages 15-17). After teachers have read the handout, ask them to observe the children, noting:
- which children seem to enjoy art, music, math, or science activities.
- which children choose to spend time in different centers and what they do with the materials in the centers.
- which children seem to make friends with ease or are comfortable being by themselves.
- children's social interactions; ease at which they enter a group, keep the play moving along, or put others at ease; which children are especially confident in themselves and at ease when they are by themselves.
- how many different ways of learning the children in the group demonstrate.
- the number of children who seem to have special interests in, or ability with, words, their bodies, music, art, pictures, or math and science.
- Have teachers bring a record of their observations to the workshop.
3 > Begin the Workshop
- Begin the workshop by asking the teachers, In what ways are the children in your group smart? Ask them to recall when they were in school. What special abilities did they have? What were their interests? Were these abilities fostered by a teacher, parent, or school program? Were they ignored? Which of their special abilities do they continue to enjoy, and why? Which have they given up, and why?
- Relate the teachers' comments to how they work with children to recognize, support, and foster each child's special talent or way of being smart. Use examples from the handout.
4 > Continue the Workshop
- Discuss teachers' observations of children in their classrooms. Did any of the teachers see children differently? By observing HOW children were smart, did they notice skills or abilities they didn't know children possessed? Did any of the teachers observe children who seemed interested in, or spent time, playing music, exploring language, or creating art? Which children did the same with science, math, or pictures or in another way?
- Ask what would happen to children if they were labeled as "Music Smart" or some other way of being smart. Might this label negate the child from developing other skills? Or might the label force the child into a field he enjoyed but could not succeed at?
5 > Conclude the Workshop
As a group, discuss and plan ways for changing classroom materials, methods, or procedures to foster the many ways children are smart. For instance, teachers might add maps, magazines, or small chalkboards, or encourage storytelling, book making, and journal writing so children could improve being Word Smart. Or teachers might add handheld calculators, play money, or geo-boards to the mathematics area to help children strengthen their Logic Smartness.
About the Author
Carol Seefeldt, Ph.D., professor emeritus of the University of Maryland, College Park, and visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University, has worked in early childhood education for more than 30 years.