We have so many different students in our classrooms, so it’s probably not surprising that we have different learning styles in every class we teach. When you are looking to differentiate your lessons, it’s important to provide a variety of activities to support all learning styles so that everyone can maximize their learning.
What are learning styles?
Simply put, a learning style is a how a student learns the material. We all process and understand material in a way that is unique to us. That is why some students will do exceptionally well on one type of activity but then not be engaged with something else, even if they are pretty confident with the material.
What are some common learning styles?
While there have been many that have been identified over the years, there are four common learning styles that we’ll usually see in our classrooms : visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. I’ll break down each on a bit later.
Why do I need to understand my students’ learning styles?
It’s really important to know that not everyone is going to learn the same way. The more you know about learning styles, the better you’ll understand how your students are understanding and retaining information.
Ever have a student who wouldn’t stop doodling? It’s possible that this helps the student focus.
Have students who really like to fidget with different objects? Maybe that student needs to do that to help them stay focused when they really need to move.
These are just two examples of how learning styles might affect how your students are listening and learning during your class.
A quick word about learning styles:
Just because a student prefers to learn by reading doesn’t mean that student shouldn’t do listening activities or that you’ll never ask them to create a diagram. It just means that this is the way they will often learn the quickest. By providing them with a variety of ways to practice, we’ll be giving a lot of opportunities for all students to learn!
Here are some ways you can support different learning styles in your French class.
Visual learners learn best using what they see to help them understand. They prefer to see rather than hear information. They may prefer to read a story rather than have it read to them. They will often remember new vocabulary words better if they can see an image of the word. They may struggle if they have to listen to a lecture, audiobook, or podcast without visuals to aid understanding and help them focus.
Here are some ways you can support your visual learners:
- These learners often benefit from written instructions. If you give instructions orally, consider writing short instructions on the board as they may not always process spoken directions as easily.
- They might like to have notes to highlight as you present information. Lectures can be challenging if there is not something to follow along with.
- These learners like pictures and diagrams as they learn. Using visuals like a word wall or verb chart can help them visualize the words, making them easier to commit to memory.
- When teaching new grammar rules, PowerPoint presentations can be really effective for visual learners.
Using presentations like this ER verbs presentation is really helpful for your visual students. They can follow your lecture more easily if they can see the words, and the charts and images are really helpful, too!
These learners learn best by speaking and listening. They may like listening to podcasts or audiobooks. They could be the talkative students in your classroom. They probably enjoy French speaking activities and would rather do an oral quiz more than a written one.
Here are some ways you can support your auditory learners:
- If you are reading a novel in class, finding an audiobook or doing read-alouds can be really helpful.
- These students may benefit from having directions read to them during tests.
- Providing time for them to talk with a partner is really helpful, and you’ll find that they often remember conversations better than something they have read.
- While all French students need to practice listening comprehension, activities with audio like these Boom Cards™ for French time, can be really helpful for students who learn by hearing.
Reading & Writing Learners:
These learners learn best through the written word. (This is by-far my preferred method of learning!) They enjoy writing, journaling, and reading. I worked with the student services department in college as a note-taker for students with disabilities, because I take very thorough notes! Sometimes I never even looked back at my notes, because writing everything down cemented it in my brain.
Here are some ways you can support your reading & writing learners:
This is typically an easy learning style for us language teachers, because writing, conjugating verbs, and reading comprehension are all pretty standard in language classes.
- Most worksheets, reading activities, note-taking, and writing assessments are going to be helpful for them.
- Reading and writing learners might really enjoy writing the text for a PowerPoint presentation, but they may not love presenting it.
- Being able to write an essay rather than present something orally might be their preference. That said, language learning means speaking and listening, too, so even if they prefer to read and write, they need to be able to speak and listen, so don’t miss out on giving them plenty of chances to do that!
These are students who like to move. They learn by doing, manipulating, and touching, so sitting still and listening to a lecture or doing a worksheet can be harder for them. Kinesthetic learners are often athletic and on-the-go.
Here are some ways you can support your kinesthetic learners:
- To practice spelling, let them move letter pieces around rather than write the words. They also might love bouncing a ball and spelling the words out loud.
- They may like skits or role-playing activities as a fun way to demonstrate mastery of unit vocabulary.
- Provide manipulatives to practice spelling, verbs, and sentence structure. Students like hands-on activities like this French ER verbs activity.
I’ve found that it’s a super-effective way to help students understand that they need to drop the ER ending before conjugating. By being able to move the pieces around, the activity becomes tactile. Want to help visual learners, too? Print the endings on a different colored paper so they can see the conjugations! It can be easy to reach different learning styles with the same activity!
No matter what learning styles you’ve got in your class, the key here is balance! All students need to be able to write, so even if they would rather speak, they’ll still have to do some paper-pencil activities. For students who only want to write things down, they still need to be able to maintain a conversation appropriate for their level, so they need speaking practice!
You can support all the learning styles in your classroom and teach more effectively by mixing up the activities so all students get to practice in a variety of ways.