Working with Learning Styles

When developing activities or projects for both kids and adults, it is important to understand the different learning styles or multiple intelligences people have.

Visual/Spatial – deals with spatial judgment and the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye.

These learners often do well with visual components. This could include maps, charts, diagrams and timelines with graphics such as illustrations or photos. The maps of the mid-19th century with outlines of buildings and illustrations of homes or significant buildings around the edge of the map can be a big hit. These learners may also appreciate signs with diagrams of what they are looking at or supplemental literature with photographs or illustrations of artifacts. Images pulled from popular 19th century books or magazines could be utilized well with this type of learner such as illustrations of farm machinery or fashion illustrations with patterns.

Logical/mathematical – deals with logic, abstractions, reasoning and numbers.

These learners can work well with numbers and dates. But, their style goes beyond that into logical thinking and reasoning. This learning can get a lot out of activities like mock-digs where they need to reason through the items found during their ‘dig’ to determine what the items may signify or tell about the ‘site’. They also do well with planning activities such as the traditional ‘western trail’ game where the members of a group need to plan what to bring with them for a migration journey.

Verbal/Linguistic – deals with words, spoken or written.

These learners enjoy working with stories whether original stories in written & verbal form or stories they create themselves. They do well with reading original letters, journals or articles. They also do well with writing their own letters in a period style or keeping their own history journal. An activity this learner may enjoy is writing a letter in response to an original letter. Another is to develop a story around an ‘artifact’ either given them or that the piece back together.

Musical/Rhythmic – deals with sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music.

These learners love period music and dance. They also do well with the rhyming word games such as those for learning the names of the kings and queens. These learners enjoy singing while they work whether they are churning butter or embroidering. Sometimes they are singing what you teach them; other times they make up their own songs pulling together what they are learning. I love the latter.

Bodily/kinesthetic – deals with the ability to control of one’s bodily motions and the capacity to handle objects skillfully.

This is the learner that loves to handle objects whether original or reproduction. They like to examine pieces personally, looking at the details and how things work. They also like hands-on activities such as helping out during a demonstration of spinning, carding wool or cooking as well as make-and-take projects. This learner also likes role playing and acting out an idea with another object.

Naturalist – deals with nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings.

This learner will do well with connecting topics to the natural world around them. When discussing topics such as food or clothing, they will find interest in where the food or fibers come from, how the plants or animals grow, how the fruits, vegetables, wool or flax are harvested. These learners may also find how land is utilized for settlement or the impact a battle had on the land interesting.

Intrapersonal – deals with introspective and self-reflective capacities.

This self-reflective learner may enjoy reading the personal writings of someone they can relate to. They may also benefit from role playing activities which involve deeper understanding of their character.

Interpersonal – deals with the ability to interact, communicate effectively and empathize easily with others.

This learner enjoys working with others on activities. This can be in the form of social learning or teamwork. They also like role playing and acting out an idea with other people.

Existentialist – deals with the ability to contemplate phenomena or questions beyond sensory.

These learners could challenge you if you are not one of these learners or don’t already know one well. This learner is often the one who asks you those questions that catch you off guard. This idea learner may find the development of social dynamics interesting. With this in mind, you may want to talk with them about the effects of the Civil War on society or how the industrial revolution effected the roles of working class women and the development of social movements in the 1840s and 50s.

Which is Which?

I’m sure you are asking ‘how do I tell which learners I’m working with?’ My biggest suggestion is to watch and listen. Notice what catches each person’s attention when they first arrive. Is it the written sign, an illustration, an object they are reaching for? Listen to what they are asking and how they ask it. Pay attention to key words that may tip you off such as ‘sound’, ‘how long’, ‘why’, and ‘feel’. If you only have your audience for a short time, hopefully you can pick up some signals quickly. If you are unable to, just make a point to incorporate as many of the learning styles as possible. Talk about what appeals to the senses, offer to let them feel a reproduction item or a handful of wool. If you will have your group for an extended time, start your day with a get-to-know-you game. While each attendee is getting to know each other, pay attention to hints from each one. I’ve noticed musical learners will put a rhythm to name games while mathematic and visual learners will make mental lists. Visual learners will also identify something about a person with what they say, requiring them to look at each person in turn. Interpersonal people often look right at a person as well. Bodily/kinesthetic learners as well as some naturalist learners will put movement into the game or even get up and walk through the game from person to person. I have yet to figure out what the intrapersonal and existentialist learners do for this game. I suspect this may be some of those who can close their eyes and recite word for word what each person’s name is and the food, object or saying that went along with them.

Edit 2021: I am curious about who is reading this page. Twice a year the stats for this page go up notably. It seems like a class or such. If someone could leave a comment letting me know, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 7:22 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Many students do well when they are working with something they see or familiar with like stories that happen around the world its easier to make them relate

  2. In reply to Edit 2021, I am a student at UNISA in South Africa, and this page is now included on one of my modules as required reading because it does sum up multiple intelligences quite nicely. This may account for the increased traffic.

  3. Thank you for the reply Sean. I have been curious if it was part of a course. I hope you and your classmates find the article useful.


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