The Five Most Common Learning Styles

The Visual/Spatial Learner

The visual/spatial learner is the student who prefers to use pictures, images, and color to organize information and communicate. They learn best by seeing what is being taught. Imagery or other visual aids can be crucial in helping this student learn and retain information.

Since he has good spatial sense, his strengths may be in understanding maps and directions since he can visualize things in his mind. He is creative and loves to doodle, draw, and scribble, which might aid him in his learning process during a lecture.

When teaching a visual learner, it is important to know that when they are disengaged in a lecture or instruction because they are distracted by doodling; in actuality, they might be processing by engaging the visual part of the brain, which helps them learn best. Encouraging them to draw about what they are hearing can help focus their attention on the lesson. Only you can know whether your student is truly distracted, but for a visual learner, the whiteboard and use of a projector can be the tools that help this child succeed.

How do you know if your child is a visual/spatial learner?

Your child could be a visual learner if she likes to read, is a good speller, and has nice handwriting. Memorization may come easy to her when she see things on paper because she can visualize the words later. She tends to be organized and notice details. She would rather watch than talk or do something, and she can be distracted by verbal directions and find it hard to concentrate when it is noisy. Can a visual learner have terrible handwriting and be a bad speller? Yes. These characteristics of visual learners are not concrete in determining if your child is a visual learner; they are only guides.

If your child is interested in the visual arts, she might be a visual learner. Does she spend time taking photos on her iPod or making films to upload to YouTube? Does she enjoy projects that involve building, architecture, cake decorating, drawing, or strategic planning? Is she the navigator in your car? Does she like to go geocaching?

Common Phrases and Words Visual Learners Use

  • Let’s look at it differently.
  • Let’s look at this from a different perspective/angle.
  • I don’t see what you’re saying.
  • See how this works for you.
  • I can’t picture it.
  • I never forget a face.

Teaching Tip: These phrases can also be used to teach your child, to help him in a lesson, and to help him learn better.


The Auditory Learner

The auditory learner remembers what they hear and retains information best by listening and processing by talking aloud. They excel when working with sound, music, mnemonics, and rhyme set to jingles. This student can be gifted in singing or playing an instrument and has a proficient sense of rhythm and pitch. They are the vocal students who hum, tap their pencils to a beat, or can’t go throughout the day without singing or sharing a story.

When teaching an auditory learner, it is important to know that using sound, rhyme, music, and sound recordings will help them visualize and remember concepts. Repetition and reading aloud are key for retaining information. Music can be used to set the mood in the learning environment, provided that it’s not too noisy or distracting. Verbal instructions as well as written instructions are crucial for this student to remember assignments. This student thrives in group discussions, debates, and read aloud activities. They often need to read out loud, ask questions, or talk through problems they are having with their work. Long periods of silence, especially while reading, can be a challenge for an auditory learner. Silent test taking may be difficult for this student, and longer periods of time to complete an assignment might be needed. It is a good idea to break up test taking for longer exams.

How do you know if your child is an auditory learner?

Your child could be an auditory learner if she likes to sing, listen to music, tap out rhythms, be read to, or always has a hand up ready to answer the question or just share a story. Memorization may come easier if sound triggers are used and she is able to read aloud while studying. She would rather talk and verbalize her lessons than work quietly and has a hard time concentrating in a noisy environment.

If your child is interested in music, whether singing or playing an instrument, he might be a visual learner. Does he spend time listening to his iPod or singing? Does he enjoy composing rhythms and songs on the piano or playing games like Rock Band?

Can an auditory learner be a terrible singer? Yes. These characteristics are not the only way to determine if your child is an auditory learner. And just because a child doesn’t excel in one area of music, such as singing, doesn’t mean he couldn’t be gifted in composing.

Common Phrases and Words Auditory Learners Use

  • Do you hear what I’m saying?
  • That sounds about right.
  • I don’t hear you.
  • That rings a bell.
  • It’s coming through loud and clear.
  • That’s music to my ears.

Teaching Tip: These phrases can also be used to teach your child, to help him in a lesson, and to help him learn better.


The Verbal (Linguistic) Learner

The verbal learner should not be confused with the auditory learner. Though there may be similarities, the verbal learner uses linguistics and prefers using words in writing and speech, whereas the auditory learner excels using sounds and music. Self-expression comes easily to this student when writing and vocalizing. This learner has similarities to the auditory learner in that they like rhymes and rhythms and may excel at poetry.

The verbal learner may use the same study techniques as the auditory learner but will emphasize words instead of sound. For example, when studying, a verbal learner will find it helpful to speak the information or even role-play with dramatic speech. Mnemonics, acronyms, and jingles are a powerful tool for information retention and recall and are best used when recorded and played back to the verbal learner.

Since her strengths are in linguists and words, a verbal learner might excel in both creative writing and nonfiction essays as well as speech and debate. They prefer math word problems rather than solving equations, since they enjoy reasoning rather than processing information.

How do you know if your child is a verbal learner?

Your child could be a verbal learner if he likes to write, act out scenes, role-play, or debate. Is she drawn to the stage and wants to be an actor when she grows up? Does she enjoy role-playing, playing house, or having a tea party where conversation is the center of the play? Is he interested in being a news reporter, lawyer, politician, or writer? These could be clues that your child is a verbal learner.

Common Phrases and Words Verbal Learners Use

  • Tell me word-for-word.
  • Let’s chat later.
  • I’m not sure that’s the word you’re looking for.
  • I hear you, but I’m not sure I agree.
  • Let me spell it out for you.
  • In other words…

Teaching Tip: These phrases can also be used to teach your child, to help him in a lesson, and to help him learn better.


The Logical (Mathematical) Learner

The logical learner excels when using reason and mathematical calculations. He can see how seemingly unrelated content and information relate to one another. Recognizing patterns, classifying, and grouping things can help this student learn. If things don’t make sense to the logical learner, he will not be able to grasp the information, thus making it hard to retain and recall necessary concepts. This student excels at mental calculations and can work advanced math such as trigonometry and algebra with ease. He may also have a knack for different languages and computer operations, such as coding.

Logical learners thrive with routine and often create their own study processes and goals. They are list makers and prefer to plan out their weekly agendas, often ranking them in order of importance. This student might be a good debater, and a parent or teacher might see this child as oppositional or defiant because he is able to point out flaws in reasoning and might not hesitate to correct those in authority.

Rote learning will be a detriment to the logical learner. Understanding the big picture as well as the details behind a concept will help this student retain and recall the information. Creating lists, outlines, and using highlighters while studying can help a logical learner. Problems in their education can occur when the student over-analyzes information or when they try to change a process but are unsuccessful. This can paralyze the logical learner, and it’s important that the educator realizes this and aids the student in taking a break and refocusing. Giving the student a list of things to do in the proper order can help set a student back on track.

How do you know if your child is a logical learner?

If your child likes to work through math problems, brainteasers, or puzzles, he may be a logical learner. Does she like to debate, challenge information, or play devil’s advocate? Does he gravitate to and excel in science and math? Does a messy room sometimes paralyze her because she doesn’t know where to begin? Does he prefer playing a game of chess rather than Xbox or “Apples to Apples”? If he is into video games, he might gravitate to ones like Starcraft, Dune II, or Age of Empires, rather than Call of Duty.

Common Phrases and Words Logical Learners Use

  • Prove it!
  • That sounds logical.
  • That doesn’t make sense.
  • I don’t understand the pattern.
  • Let’s make a list.
  • We can work it out.

The Physical (Tactile or Kinesthetic) Learner

Physical learners use their bodies, specifically their hands and sense of touch, to explore the world around them and take in information. Hands-on learning is essential to bridging the gap between information and concepts to learning and understanding. When learning something new, this student prefers to work with objects or to touch, build, or play with manipulatives as soon as possible. He is the child who likes to take things apart to see how they work instead of referring to a book or diagram. If he is given a choice to write a report or to act out a scene from a book, he will choose the latter.

Since a classroom setting might be the most challenging for the physical learner, it’s important to incorporate physical learning techniques into the educations process. Using flashcards as well as writing and drawing are great ways to incorporate physical activities in a more structured environment. When listening to a lecture or read-aloud story, the student can focus on the physical sensations that the information evokes. If the student is learning about history, like the Revolutionary War, he can imagine how cold it was during the winter at Valley Forge or how the musket felt when being fired.

Scripting instead of note taking might also aid the physical learner. For example, if studying marine biology, the student can imagine he is a deep-sea diver and journal in first person about his experience, including all the physical sensations and how certain types of marine life may feel to the touch. Role playing and having the physical learner dramatize something he is learning in class is a great way to help him learn.

Sitting still for long periods of time is a challenge for the physical learner. He is the child that can’t sit still or needs to fidget with an object, like a pencil or rubber band. Oftentimes this student will get out of his chair and walk around for no apparent reason; but this is common with physical learners, and instead of being scolded, he should be redirected. This student needs to be moving, sometimes preferably in an outdoor environment.

How do you know if your child is a physical learner?

If your child likes to play with Legos or K’Nex, work with play dough or clay, or do jigsaw puzzles, he may be a physical learner. Does he prefer sports, drama, or dance instead of quieter activities, like reading? When learning how to do something new, does she have to practice it to learn it? Is she interested in gardening, caring for animals, or building things? Is he helpful in the kitchen, especially when you are baking or cooking? If your child is upset, would he rather go for a run, ride a bike, or shoot baskets? These are all physical activities that might help you understand if your child is physical learner.

Common Phrases and Words Physical Learners Use

  • That doesn’t feels right to me.
  • I can’t get a grip on this.
  • Let’s stay connected.
  • Get in touch with…
  • My gut is saying…
  • That doesn’t sit right with me.
  • I don’t have a good feelings about …
  • I follow your drift.

by Gina Conroy, ACA Parent