Determining Your Child's Learning Style

How to make the most of your child's cognitive learning style.

How to make the most of your child's cognitive learning style. ADDitude Magazine

Does your child zoom in on the details - or step back for the broad view?

Karen Sunderhaft, fourth-grade teacher in Shaker Heights, Ohio

You may have already identified your child's sensory learning style — whether she's better at processing information taken in visually, aurally, or kinesthetically (through touch or movement).

But what about her cognitive learning style? Does she zoom in on the particulars, or step back for the broad view? Is she a "global" learner, who sees the forest, or an "analytic" one, absorbed in the trees? Determining how she learns lets you support her strengths and teach strategies that work for her.

Through different lenses

Have you ever listened to children discuss a movie and wondered if they'd seen the same film?

A child who views the world globally tends to "experience" the movie. He readily grasps the theme, and can give a general description of the plot. But he probably won't recall details about the characters, the story line, or the setting. For that information, ask the analytic learner. He'll relate the story in great detail, provide snippets of dialogue, and tell you what the characters were wearing in each scene. Asked for an overview, however, he often comes up short.

The same distinction is apparent in the way children approach tasks. Before starting a jigsaw puzzle, for example, a global learner studies the picture on the box for content, design, and color. In contrast, an analytic learner examines the puzzle pieces and begins to fit them together, even before glancing at the picture.

In the classroom

Whether in getting organized or taking tests, the analytic learner has different strengths and needs than the child whose approach is global. Here's what you should know—and how you can help.

AN ANALYTIC LEARNER...

  • prefers to finish one task before beginning another. Praise him for a job well done, and help him move on by maintaining a daily schedule or checklist.
  • works better without distractions. Provide a quiet work space, and encourage him to write down questions to avoid breaking his concentration.
  • needs to find meaning and relevance in what she's learning at school. If the teacher doesn't make those connections, have a discussion at home.
  • tunes in to details, but misses the general theme. Have her write down key words from a chapter, and prompt her to think about the larger concepts.
  • favors true/false and multiple-choice tests. Create practice tests that include lengthy answers or essays.

A GLOBAL LEARNER...

  • needs to see the big picture before he can focus on details. To help him do both, specify facts to hone in on before he begins reading. If he tunes out the details during lectures, have him use a tape recorder in class, so he can listen to them again.
  • tends to procrastinate. Get her started on a project and keep checking on her progress. Working with another person may help her stay on track.
  • leaves tasks unfinished or skips to the creative part. Provide a step-by-step checklist to take her through an assignment.
  • prefers tests that require essays instead of a recital of facts. Highlight important facts in study materials. Teach him test-taking strategies, such as using the process of elimination on multiple-choice tests.
 

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