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Two Learning Styles: Auditory and Visual
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The teacher must recognize that every student learns differently. A successful lesson requires attention to structure, target language, and activities to absorb and apply the information, just to name a few important needs. However, the teacher must also realize that one lesson doesn't fit all students or all classes. The teacher must consider the preferred learning styles of the students too.

Learning styles describe a very general approach students take to acquire new target material. Students rely on their learning styles to quickly and efficiently process and apply new information. For example, some students do best with many opportunities to see the information, perhaps written on the board or in notebooks. If all the information gets presented orally, comprehension and retention suffer. Other students do best with many opportunities to listen and speak. They quickly become disinterested and disconnected when faced with long and overly detailed explanations. And still other students do best with many activities that use physical movement to support the language learning process.

No class has only one style of student. Therefore, the teacher should provide a balanced approach to his lessons. If he sticks to one kind of activity, then it hinders any students who rely on other learning styles. It also doesn't give students the chance to stretch their weaker abilities. The teacher should remind students that learning outside personal comfort zones from time to time helps language learning too. So students who like preparation before speaking should occasionally be challenged with less preparation. Or students who only look at the big picture should be encouraged to consider the details too.

It's important to note that students possess traits of several styles in varying degrees. Students still prefer one style over another, and tend to rely on that style. In addition, cultural beliefs and backgrounds influence students' styles. For example, there are few auditory learners among Japanese language students. They tend to be much stronger visual learners, requiring information to be presented on the board, in printables, or via realia. Conversely, Spanish speakers learning a foreign language thrive in classrooms that allow physical, hands-on activities.

What follows are two learning styles, auditory and visual.

Auditory Students
Auditory learners prefer to collect and confirm information via listening. Some of these students learn best when the teacher explains orally. They can quickly process and act upon the information. Other auditory students learn best when participating in speaking activities in pairs/groups. These students more effectively absorb and retain the information with dynamic use of the language.

A singular focus on listening to and acting on oral information actually becomes a weakness for these students. First, auditory students tend to pull only the relevant information that they hear, yet not glean some of the finer points. In other words, the students act on the gist of the information or instructions. This is especially true at lower-levels, which may result in less than complete comprehension of the target language or incorrectly conducting a step in an activity. It's often best for the teacher to present information with additional methods. For example, he can supply visual aids in conjunction with oral explanations for improved comprehension.

Information written down has less meaning until auditory students also hear it. This affects overall comprehension and success, particularly with homework, tests, and other activities that don't allow students to also aurally take in the information. In upper-level classes that regularly include newspaper and magazine articles, as well as other realia, students may be less adept at pulling out and applying the information and ideas in the initial communicative activities.

Auditory students should:

1: Read information aloud, such as instructions. They can even read aloud articles from magazines and newspapers at home or in the class. Choral reading activities work very well with these students.

2: Listen to CDs, podcasts, and broadcasts for language study.

3: Find opportunities to communicatively use English.

Visual Students
Visual learners need to see the information. The whiteboard, texts for reading, or information on the computer all help these students succeed in the classroom. It's important to distinguish that some visual students prefer the written form of the language, such as a book that explains grammar or vocabulary. This preference is similar to an analytical approach. Other visual students prefer diagrams or charts that illustrate grammar or vocabulary. This preference is similar to a global approach.

Both types of visual students need to write down information in order to remember it. Although most people believe notes aid memory, visual learners see notes as a prerequisite to memory. In other words, if they don't write down the information and/or draw charts and diagrams, then they won't remember the information.

In practice, information or ideas heard may not be retained as well as if the student had been able to take notes. Visual learners should be allowed to write notes in the class, perhaps with the teacher providing a minute or two after an explanation or presentation to take down the information. Longer recall times to activate the language will prove necessary if visual imagery doesn't accompany explanations.

The teacher should remember that:

1: Listening skills are a primary component of oral communication. Extra opportunities should be given to build listening ability, with many opportunities for visual students to hear and process the information.

2: Flashcards with pictures and/or words are an excellent tool for visual learners. If flashcards aren't available, then students can make their own. Alternatively, when encountering new words, students can picture the object in their heads.

3: Visual learners may struggle with pronunciation, intonation, tone, register, and other aural skills.