Teachers adapt lessons to student learning styles

October 28, 2009 — by Nandini Ruparel and Parul Singh

How many times do you wish for a different type of learning in your class? Many students absolutely despise simulations, while others are enthusiastic and dress up for them like it’s Halloween. Similarly, while diagrams may help one student learn, lectures appeal to another.
Teachers often try to account for these learning styles in their lessons. And, contrary to popular belief, many teachers were students once themselves and reflect their own distinctive learning styles through the way they teach.
English department head Jason Friend is one such teacher.
“I am a verbal and social learner,” said Friend, “and that certainly influences the way I teach.” Friend believes in group work and tries to get the students to communicate as they learn. “In a small group, students can work together to build off each other’s ideas or will be challenged to face opposing views,” said Friend.
Other English teachers also incorporate games and have their students act out scenes of plays in class. These types of activities tend to be helpful for visual learners. For example, when freshmen read “Romeo and Juliet,” they often act out parts so that they can more fully understand the play. Sometimes watching the play at the end of the unit helps students visualize the scenes.
The world languages department uses many of the same methods. World language students often do group work and projects. Department head Arnaldo Rodriguex stressed that skits are also a common practice.

“Some kids are auditory learners, and some kids write better than they speak,” he said.

Another great opportunity for appealing to different types of students lies in science, where concepts are presented in multiple ways to appeal to all the students rather than one or two.

Physics teacher Kirk Davis tries to present different strategies to help students learn.

“I myself more like numbers, I don’t really need visual representation, but I know that it helps students, ” said Davis.

Davis also tries to spend the extra time with students during tutorial to see what will make concepts clear.

“If a student comes into tutorial, then I try to find out how they think so that I can represent the material in a way that they can understand,” said Davis.

In math classes, students often represent concepts in multiple ways to grasp the concepts.

“We try to represent things both algebraically, for conceptual learners, and graphically, for visual learners,” said math department head Michelle Drouin. Other math teachers also find the use of a SmartBoard , or an electronic white board, helpful in explaining geometric concepts to students.

“Instead of saying ‘Visualize this line moving here,’ with a SmartBoard a teacher can actually move that line to show the students,” said Drouin. Some classes have also found the use of a SketchPad program on the computer helpful in understanding difficult concepts. In geometry, for example, students use laptops to create geometric structures on the computer.

Junior Neya Vishwanath has found that when she is taught a concept in two different ways, it is easier for her in class.

“Especially in classes like AP Biology, both reading a concept and looking at a diagram helps me understand it better,” said Vishwanath. “Mostly, I do better on [science teacher Bob] Kucer’s tests when I have learned a concept in different ways.”