It’s been a known fact for decades that different children learn, well, differently. Even before the pioneering work of Cynthia Tobias in her book, The Way They Learn, educators have understood that different children process information and store it through different “gates.”
These learning styles manifest themselves in observable ways early on. It is one of the ways God made us beautifully different in His creative work. No single teaching method works well with all of these learning styles. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with children (or adults) who prefer a different learning style from you or other children. It’s just useful to know how best to get God’s message into their heads and hearts.
Easier to Teach
The most common learning style, and possibly the easiest to teach, is the “visual learner.” You can identify visual learners by how they are always quick to look around and watch what is going on. If you ask them to close their eyes and spell TUNA FISH, they will do it by actually seeing the word in their head, and then spelling the letters they see.
Children who are visual learners prefer a study area that is quiet, well-lit, with clearly printed materials, and pictures, please. They love to doodle. You may see them coloring or drawing a picture in their Bible. Their homework might include sketches and cartoons. Conventional public school classrooms generally work well with the visual learner, because teaching materials have long depended upon visual teaching aids – the blackboard, the flannel graph, Show and Tell, printed textbooks, etc. So teaching them is often a breeze.
Most children’s Bible teaching resources come with brightly colored pictures to hang on the wall or whiteboard as well as reproducible coloring pages and crafts for them to look at, color, and admire. Using these teaching tools along with the story will be sure to keep the visual learner focused on God’s message, as long as the picture goes along with the story. They do very well with movies, video clips, coloring pages and pictures. Highlighting important words in a different color helps them learn. A Rebus or pictogram puzzle is a good way to get their attention.
Easier to Distract
Unfortunately, visual learners can also be easily distracted – by a butterfly outside the window, by the teacher’s flashy dress or by a leader’s fancy ring. Flashes of color and light can focus their attention but can divert it as well. So it’s best to keep distractions like that to a minimum. If you have a picture, show it early on, for the kids to focus on, while you read or tell the story. If you are reading a picture book to them, be sure to turn the book around frequently so they can see the pictures.
While the visual learner may, in some ways, be the easiest to teach, don’t forget the other learning styles in your lesson plans. All children, no matter their preferred learning style, need to hear what God has to say. That’s why we’re covering how to reach the other learning styles as well. Because Fidget and Gabby are not really troublemakers, they’re just kids, in need of the life-giving message you bear.