I teach elementary school and I’ve worked with many different kinds of children over the years. Each child is unique in the way they learn. Some kids like lots of pictures, and learn best when you can show them what you’re talking about. Some kids need peace and quiet to focus on their work. They cannot be in a room with a lot of distraction. Some kids need to move around. They can’t stay in one place for long and they can focus in when they do things rather than hear about them.
Let me illustrate this idea with a story. A few years ago I was teaching second grade. The first day of school I try to get a handle on each child’s personality. After a few days of school, I pretty much know what to expect and what kind of activities each child might enjoy. During the first week of school I had a student, let’s call him Brad, and he was all over the place. He never walked anywhere, his desk was just a home base for his stuff, and he was very bright, yet had troubles reading. Brad was never going to sit at his desk and preferred to be in the other children’s faces. I had to find some way to reach Brad so that the other kids could learn and Brad could catch up.
Some teachers believe in learning styles. There is research that claims that certain people learn different ways. Some people learn better if they can visualize something, while others learn best by listening. Some teachers change the way they teach to fit their student’s learning styles. There is controversy over whether this is really true, and how we could divide people into learning “types.” However, I had to something, and so I decided to give it a try.
I found ways of teaching the material using movement and dance. Brad loved these exercises! We did vocabulary and phonics drills with musical chairs, with games that involved slapping the board with a giant fly swatter, and I even include brain breaks in my class where the children get to get up and move. It helped immensely. Brad was able to focus in class better, he was engaged, and above all, he started liking school. No one likes to be constantly scolded at school, so when Brad finally started to get praise, he responded.
Even if, scientifically speaking, Brad would learn the same material by sitting at his desk and listening to a lesson, if he can’t keep himself in his chair. He didn’t enjoy school. He felt like he wasn’t smart. Changing class around made school feel more natural. So it’s that personal touch that helps kids learn.