How do children learn? The VAK approach.
VAK for Children
VAK is the most commonly used model in schools to identify different kinds of learnings. VAK divides children into three:
Visual Learners: those who learn by looking
Auditory Learners: those that learn by listening
Kinaesthetic Learners: those who learn best through physical activity
Children learn in different ways
It is widely acknowledged that children learn in different ways. Learning styles are initially assessed so that teachers can alter their approach to suit the learning styles of individual children. It is argued that children can be tested to determine their preferred learning style and teachers should then adapt their tuition to take account of their preferences.
However, this wide-spread and hugely implemented approach actually stems from a theory based on very little scientific evidence. Indeed, the originators of the VAK approach have stated that they did not mean for schools to take their ideas so literally, and are uneasy about the way these theories are used so widely in schools. The potential problem is that children are labelled with a learning style and taught solely in that way, but each child can have more than one learning style.
What is the evidence for children learning under VAK?
Despite there being no scientific evidence to support the ‘one child one label’ approach, many teachers have found benefits in identifying different learning styles. It has also been indicated in government documents that academic standards progress when careful attention is given to individual learning styles. This indicates that learning styles are significant and should be acknowledged but how they are acknowledged is important.
Adapting your teaching of your child with a specific lesson in mind
If you were helping your kids in biology to learn about plants, you could take three approaches:
Visual learning children
You could get them to draw the plant and label it so they visually have that picture in their head. You could look at information books with different images, you could go out and observe real plants and identify different parts of it. You could then get your child to draw from life or take photographs. You could use colour codes to label a plant, or write about the plant in your own plant book.
Auditory learning children
Kinaesthetic learning children
Actually go outside and feel, and observe different plants, cut up a plant and put it back together, seeing if you can remember the different parts. Plant plants to see what they need to grow and what makes them grow better. Plan fun days out around your learning and adapt your tutoring to include hards on activities where ever possible.
Examples of how you can teach your child based on learning styles:
Practical ways to teach Visual Child Learners
- Draw visual diagrams, spider diagrams, board blasts, brain storm etc
- Create videos, picture cue cards, charts and maps
- Visualise words and ideas together
- Write out notes for frequent and quick visual scan and review
- Remember the shape of words to aid spelling
- Use colour when writing or drawing.
Pratcial ways to teach Auditory Child Learners
- Sound out words when reading
- Give verbal instructions
- Use tapes/recordings to revise
- Rehearse information; repeating it many times to hear the sound.
Practical ways to teach Kinaesthetic Child Learners
- Trace letters words as they are being spoken: in the air, in sand, in cornflower (add some water for a gooey mixture) as children will benefit from using their fingers
- Use a range of textures
- Develop movement exercises
- Use action cues such as tapping a pencil
- Teach using ractical examples, for example, count;the fruit in a bowl.
More information on children's learning VAK
Learning Styles: Times Educational Supplement, Hastings, S. (2005).
Each To Their Own: Guardian News and Media, Revell, P. (2005).