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    Tailor Tutoring to a Student's Learning Style

    First Meeting

    When you first meet a new student, one thing you must do is discover the student's learning style and tailor your tutoring sessions accordingly. A typical reason that children and adults have difficulty learning material in a traditional school setting is that the teaching normally focuses on only one style of learning.

    If the teacher prefers teaching using visual methods and the student learns best through auditory channels, learning is stymied and difficulties arise. This is often when parents will call in a tutor without ever realizing what caused the problem in the first place. If you've ever found yourself having a hard time "connecting" with a student or found that a student still doesn't seem to understand the subject even after several weeks of tutoring, perhaps learning style is the culprit.

    Learning takes place through three major channels: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Though most people learn through a combination of all three channels, usually one allows easier learning. This preference is stronger in some individuals and makes learning difficulty more likely. Any student who can benefit from tutoring can definitely benefit from instruction tailored to his personal learning style.

    The chart below shows characteristics of each learning style. (Please keep in mind that these are general characteristics and each one will not apply to each individual of a certain learning style.)

    Visual Learners:
    -prefer quiet when studying or doing homework
    -are good spellers
    -have vivid dreams
    -remember faces, but not names
    -prefer a map over written directions
    -prefer to sit in the front of the classroom

    Auditory Learners:
    -enjoy speaking in front of a group
    -are musically-inclined
    -remember names, but not faces
    -"hear" the words while reading silently
    -enjoy studying or workingin a group or while listening to music

    Kinesthetic Learners:
    -are athletic
    -do not enjoy sitting still
    -enjoy science experiments and lab
    -enjoy building models
    -have poor penmanship
    -are easily distracted by movements and sounds
    -do not enjoy reading or prefer action stories

    Determining learning style can be as simple as asking a few questions. "Do you enjoy reading?" "Do you listen to music when you study or do you like to keep things quiet? Which do you like better, science or spelling?" By familiarizing yourself with the traits of each learning style, you'll be able to easily identify the needs and preferences of each student.

    Of course, knowing a student's learning style is only one piece of successful tutoring. To aid your students in maximum educational success, you must tailor your teaching to their particular needs.

    Teaching Visual Learners

    A visual learner will benefit from using color coding. When plotting x and y axis in mathematics, use different colors for each line. Larger-than-normal graph paper will make it easier to plot these lines. Color-coded flash cards are helpful for memorizing math facts and formulas.

    Though visual learners are often good spellers, a student who needs extra spelling help may benefit from drawing "word shape" boxes around each word to visualize its shape. In addition to reading books, show your visual students videos and demonstrations of the material. Help your visual students to take color-coded notes when watching a video or listening to a lecture. During history lessons, for example, they can write important places in red, people in blue, and dates in green. A visual student may understand grammar better if he diagrams each sentence to see the placement of the parts of speech. Color-coding can help here too-nouns in green, verbs in blue, adjectives in purple, and so on.

    Teaching Auditory Learners

    Auditory learners should orally repeat most of the information they need to learn. Read out loud to them, and have them repeat important information back to you. Ask them to close their eyes and recite important dates, events, math facts, and so on. If your student needs to write an essay, she may find it easier to record her ideas on tape before trying to write anything on paper.

    Songs are extremely helpful is enabling auditory learners to memorize material such as countries and capitals, multiplication tables, and algebra formulas. Make up songs together, and record them on tape for the student to listen to again.

    When reading material for any subject, allow the student to use his finger or a bookmark to keep his place on the page. Auditory learners can be overwhelmed by a page full of text and need help keeping on track. Remember that this need is not a "defect" but is simply a trait of the auditory learning style.

    When working math problems or memorizing spelling words, auditory learners should look at the problem or word, say it out loud, close their eyes and say it again. They can then write the answer if doing a math problem and then repeat the entire problem aloud again.

    Teaching Kinesthetic Learners

    Kinesthetic learners-also called tactile learners-learn best by doing things and moving their bodies. All young children are kinesthetic learners, so it's important to incorporate hands-on learning with any elementary age students, even if they show a leaning toward visual or auditory learning as well.

    To give kinesthetic learners objects to handle, use manipulatives such as blocks, pieces of candy, or buttons when working on math problems. Magnets with parts of speech printed on them can be helpful during grammar lessons, and individual letter magnets are good for spelling memorization.

    Give your kinesthetic learner frequent opportunities to move-marching while talking about historic battles, for example. Take frequent breaks and try changing locations after each break-at the table, at a desk, and sitting in the floor are all acceptable places for study.

    If you are new to tutoring or have always taught by one particular method, it may feel awkward at first to use new teaching methods for the three learning styles. Rest assured that in a little while, you'll feel comfortable with these methods. Once you see the "light bulb of understanding" in your students' faces, you'll be delighted and committed to using any method needed to develop success and a love of learning in them.

    The article was written by Cindy Horton, who has been home school tutoring for five years

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