The reason I so clearly identify with our visual/spatial and active learners is because I am one of them myself…albeit a middle-aged version. How these children learn and remember are not just things I have studied; I live them, so they’re very real to me.
There is a particular four-digit number that factors into a lot of our paperwork at home. Because I tend to do much of our paperwork, it is incumbent upon me to learn and remember this number. It is a number my husband came up with, has no trouble remembering, and has patiently reminded me of more times than I can count. Something really interesting having to do with this number happened the other day. I needed it in order to unlock a keypad, so once again I asked him for the four digit number.
That time, because I keyed it in on a number pad, I was able to remember it. If you were to ask me what the number is, however, I would first have to visualize the keypad and then because of the shape of the movement as I keyed in the four digits, I would be able to tell you that number. The significance of this to our understanding of how visual/spatial and kinesthetic children learn and remember is huge.
I still cannot memorize a random string of numbers, but I can remember a number forever if I have seen its shape on a keypad. I remember the layout visually, and I can see the shape the sequence of numbers makes. I have visualized a body motion that mirrors that shape.
Here is the keypad:
Say the number I need to remember is 2139. The shape that number makes on this keypad is a backwards L.
And this is the hand motion I attach to that number:
The knuckle on the thumb represents the starting point or the 2. I then go to the tip of my thumb, then to the base of my thumb and finally to the tip of my pointer finger. Voila. Never to be forgotten.
If you happen to bump into me in the airport, just ask me for the number and I will now be able to tell you!
So what does all this have to do with children and learning and remembering? Simply that it’s easy as parents and teachers to spend a lot of time beating our heads against a brick wall telling and reminding, and drilling, and flashing cards…to no avail. What often happens when trying to teach an active children through drill and verbal instruction is that we become frustrated and the child winds up feeling a bit dim and very discouraged.
So, taking this to the practical level, what are some ways to utilize the visual/spatial and kinesthetic learner’s strengths in learning? Here are some ideas:
1. Relate the concept to the child’s body whenever possible. For instance, when teaching a child how to correctly form letters of the alphabet, ground the various letters to her body. The capital E is her upright form, with the top bar being a table coming out of the top of her head, the middle bar being a table that comes from her belly button, and the lowest bar being a table that comes out of her feet. Capital K is her upright body, her arm and leg extended to make the slanting lines. (See Writing the Visual, Kinesthetic, and Auditory Alphabet for more alphabet ideas.)
2. Use the child’s hands to mimic the ideas they are learning. A powerful tool in learning sums to 10 is the child’s own pair of hands. Sums to 5 of course can be done on one hand.
The illustration above is taken from Kid Friendly Computation: Addition & Subtraction. When a child maps out the sums to 5 on his own hand, he is seeing the sums as tangible objects (his own fingers). He is feeling the pull of his fingers as he makes the sums, and his mind will tie those facts to what he felt and saw on his own body.
3. Use a visual as often as possible. Oh I say this every day, don’t I? But visuals are so powerful, and for children who are visual/spatial, supplying them with a visual that is directly embedded in their learning is magical.
4. Basically for anything a child would simply need to memorize, find another way to link learning to memory. It is what we do at Child1st; what we are here for. If you need ideas for teaching difficult concepts, feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to chat with you!