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Learning Styles

Children have different styles of learning, and those styles may be inherited. Author Lauren Bradway explains the three types, and what to watch out for in your children.

Welcome to the world
Newborns enter a world filled with sights, sounds and sensations. These auditory, visual and tactile stimuli are received by highly specialized receptors in a baby’s ears, eyes and skin. In the first few months of life, a child reveals a preference for one type of information over the others.

Depending upon their innate preference for learning, I refer to the three styles of learners as: Listeners, Lookers, and Movers.

As babies, “Listeners” are attuned to sounds and words. They talk early, rapidly add new words to their vocabulary, and love being read to.

From the first year of life, “Lookers” are drawn to color, shape and motion. Their eye-hand coordination is excellent and, as toddlers, they enjoy playing with blocks, stringing beads, and doing simple puzzles.

As infants, “Movers” achieve motor milestones, such as crawling and walking, ahead of schedule. They are well coordinated and confident in their bodies. Movers crave to be held and rocked, and seek out physical contact.

Learning style can be observed so early on because it’s inborn and inherited. A baby’s learning style tends to be like that of one parent or a blend of both. Sometimes, a child’s learning style tends to be like that of a close relative such as an uncle or grandparent. You can see evidence of heredity when you catch yourself thinking, “Golly, he’s just like his uncle Jack,” when as a toddler, your son pulls away from being touched, or as a first grader, excels in math but struggles with reading.

From crib to classroom
Learning preferences are easy to spot in Mrs. Lively’s first grade classroom:

There’s Meredith, who is talkative in class and everywhere else. She loves to read aloud and is reading on a second grade level. She frequently talks to herself when doing seat work and gets in trouble for passing notes to girlfriends. Her favorite pastimes include listening to the radio and to her tape player which she takes with her on trips in the car. She likes games such as “Mother, May I?” Without a doubt, Meredith is a Listener.

Also a first grader, Brett is quiet, and even when he knows the answer, rarely volunteers to speak in class. His favorite pastimes include computer games and putting together model airplanes. Brett’s math pages are near perfect, and he is precise about forming letters and staying within the lines. Brett, of course, is a Looker.

When called upon by his first grade teacher, Ethan responds with short, unelaborated sentences his favorite being, “I dunno.” He isn’t really himself until the school bell rings. Well coordinated and naturally competitive, he comes alive on the playground. In class, Ethan feels confined at a desk. He struggles to print on lined paper and to keep his hands to himself. Ethan is a classic Mover.

Potential problems
When left entirely to their own devices, over time children tend to settle into a preferred way of learning often to the point of screening out less familiar types of information. When this occurs, by first grade a Looker may have difficulty mastering phonics, a Listener may be unable to memorize math facts on flash cards, and a Mover may be up and out of his seat during classroom instruction. Extremes of learning style can result in learning disabilities.

This outcome can often be prevented by gently encouraging children as early as possible to welcome all types of input from their environment, and thereby maximizing learning ability.

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