I had such a great time with fourth graders today. Do you know that fourth grade is one of the hardest years for today’s students as they learn to take ownership of their own studying? As I came in the room, I noticed one tapping his foot on the floor in subtle movement and another shot his hand in the air with most every new idea I presented- not a question, just relating to the things we were talking about. Another had her colored pens lined up on her desk. These were all clues.
Each student described something for me, their room at home, their backyard, the kitchen. We talked about how they like to study, what they would like to do on a trip to the zoo (would you rather interview the zoo keeper, draw a new design for a monkey habitat, or visit the petting zoo?) One’s eyes lit up and a smile spread across his face as he answered that interviewing a zoo keeper would be “awesome!” All of these things gave me clues of how I could help them learn to study independently. Mostly, though, the eyes have it.
When asked to describe something, almost three fourths of students looked up and away as they made a visual picture- quite important before a space could be properly portrayed- then returned their eyes to mine to tell me about the colors, the accessories, the things they remembered most. Another large group of fourth graders began with their hands. “The desk is over here,” they motion. “The shelf over there,” they point. “And the rug is round.” I miss half of what they are saying if I look away. Just a few are primarily auditory learners. They look straight at me and describe the room in question (no hands, no visual clues, just the facts). But then, they are ready to talk about anything else on their mind or mine.
Are you the person who talks to yourself as you read the directions carefully to assemble a new bookshelf? Do you skip all the writing and go straight for the pictures and diagrams? Or, do you forget the directions altogether and dive right in figuring it out as you handle each piece? These are all clues on how you best process information- and how you might study best.
I have long believed that learning styles in the classroom are really a small thing- after all, information and learning activities vary enough in these grades to not only play into students’ many strengths but also to teach them to have success in their less dominant learning mode, to compensate, if you will. But studying? This is of consequence. If a parent wants to always call out a 6th grader’s study sheet in the car, or require a 5th grader to sit at the kitchen table to work, or memorize Bible verses to a song with a 2nd grader, it might work- but it might work better to try something else. If students understand how they learn best and STUDY that way, it will usually take less time to master content, be easier to recall, and be more interesting all the while.
My favorite techniques include:
- White board, highlighters, and colored pens for visual learners
- Shut the door and talk yourself through the content for auditory learners (and yes, have a parent or friend call out the study sheet or spelling words)
- Pace and study in various rooms of the house for the tactile kinesthetic learner who needs to be on the move.
- For more ideas, including an app to try for all learning types, check out this longer list of study style techniques.
It stood out to me that God has gifted all of these fourth graders to process information by hearing and speaking, by moving and interacting, and by seeing and visualizing. They can do all three. However, if they learn some little tricks along the way that make them more efficient studiers and test takers, the whole process will be better as they get older and come to more challenging content.
What style are you?