Walk into Diane Dahl’s second grade classroom at Clegern Elementary in Edmond and you can observe all things “brainy.” From a mass of intertwined chenille stems representing brain connections, to a diagram of what it takes to be good reader, Ms. Dahl is all about the brain and how understanding students' multiple intelligences and how they learn can make all the difference for student success in the classroom. “We talk about metacognition a lot, and we start the year off talking about it—the importance of how you learn—thinking about your thinking. We analyze our thinking and learning styles along with our multiple intelligences and we figure out what those strengths are. I make it a point throughout the year to teach to those [multiple intelligences],” Dahl said.
She recognizes that every child and every brain is unique, and that children learn in very different ways. For example, Ms. Dahl explains that she has many kinesthetic learners, who learn by touching or moving. To reach those students, she includes activities such as students spelling words with their finger on a classmate’s back or writing spelling words in shaving cream. Visual learners may be asked to write spelling words with colored pencils while words are being spelled orally, which reaches auditory learners. This approach caters to each child’s individual needs and Ms. Dahl is seeing success in her students. One may think that this is a lot to keep up with in a class full of little ones. However, Dahl documents in her grade book each student’s learning style along with their dominant intelligence type to make it easy.
Student interest is key. Once a child finds a topic he is interested in, he can explore that topic across many subjects, such as reading, math, social studies and science. In a recent study of Japan, Dahl had students choose a topic they were interested in, join a group and then choose a way to present their information. Students were interested in raising money for the March, 2011 tsunami victims, and they learned money skills while doing so (math). Their presentation of information helped further develop their writing skills as well as oral language skills (language arts), and Japanese culture was learned through discovery (social studies). “Making the learning meaningful is so important,” she said.
How Can Parents Enhance Their Child’s Learning Style?
Dahl suggests doing a little research to determine your child’s learning style. (EDITOR'S NOTE: For tips on how to research, go to www.metrofamilymagazine. com/learning-styles.) Once that is determined,cater to his needs. For example, if he is a naturalist and a kinesthetic learner, have him practice spelling words by writing them in the dirt outside. Another example: If he is rhythmic and musical, practice spelling words by adding knee pats or claps with letters or endings (-ed, -ing) to help them remember. “One thing I think is so important for parents to understand is that their children’s brains are absorbing things like a sponge. It’s so important to talk to your children, to read to your children, because they get the oral language development. The more words that they know, the better it is when they start reading because they are able to connect the words that they know. Read, read, read with them. Read to them. That gets those connections in the brain working.”
- The visual learning style uses ideas, concepts, data and other information associated with images and techniques.
- The auditory learning style is dependent on speaking and listening.
- The kinesthetic learning style involves movement or action to learn a concept.
What are Multiple Intelligences?
The Multiple Intelligences theory was described by Howard Gardner in 1983 as a way to better describe “intelligence.” This theory is impacting classrooms today, referring to the
uniqueness of each individual learner.
- Spatial: Visual learner that prefers learning with pictures, shapes, images and space.
- Linguistic: Retains best by written and spoken words.
- Logical-mathematical: Logical thinker that prefers numbers.
- Bodily-kinesthetic: Learns by physical movement, touch and feel.
- Musical: Rhythm, music and sounds help this learner.
- Interpersonal: Learner who prefers human contact and cooperation.
- Intrapersonal: Self-aware of the process of changing personal thoughts; likes selfreflection and self-discovery.
- Naturalistic: Prefers a natural environment, outdoors and nature.
To learn more about brain-based teaching and learning, visit Diane Dahl’s blog at www.fortheloveofteaching.net.
Julie Dill is a National Board Certified Teacher from Oklahoma City and mother of two.