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I have updated my “short course” that comes with subscription, but I am so convinced that this material is helpful, that I want to make sure current subscribers hear about it. My husband and I both have mental health degrees and many combined years of teaching and writing lessons. We’ve both become convinced that while learning styles are real, the current model (auditory, visual, kinesthetic) is more descriptive than diagnostic. Learning style has more to do with personality than eyes and ears, and it just so happens that each of those processes has a primary sense mode.
I’ll first explain the types and at the end of the post, I’ll connect it to the older sense-based model. Let’s start with the bread and butter for learning…memorizing.
There are two ways that brains memorize, Sensory Repetition and Idea Repetition. This is how material STICKS.
This student memorizes via sensory repetition. Muscle memory. For my son to learn his Latin translation, we started with a big list of sentences. The first day, we marked them according to our Latin program (crossed out articles, circle subjects, etc). Once he had that down, we wrote the vocabulary word above each English word. Same piece of paper. Once that was learned, we declined or conjugated them. Each step was installed with a huge swath of sensory repetition. His eyes and ears and hands had to learn the drill for each step. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
This student memorizes via fundamental idea repetition. The same Latin curriculum works for my daughter, but she needs the ideas to be fundamenral principles repeated, not the mechanics. We can orally go through a translation. We can do it out of order. We can do it in colors, diagrams, or sing it. What has to repeat is the mental process pieces. “Each translation involves three basic pieces.” Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Coming Alive with Exploration
Each brain, along with having a retention function, has an exploration function. These “play” functions bring material alive in unpredictable ways. Things connect that never connected before.
Idea Repeaters Play with Senses
For an Idea Repeater, new colors, tastes, and open-ended tactile exploration adds layers of understanding. Let me give you an example, I have taught place value forever and used base ten blocks many times. However, the day I picked up Montessori Golden Bead material (the blocks contain the actual number of beads they represent) it was like learning it for the first time! The bead material not only corresponds in size and shape to place value, but weight, sound, and stackability. There are even changes in light density passing through them! It’s crazy all the levels on which I now “understand” place value.
Sensory Repeaters Play with Ideas
To bring the lesson alive, they need idea play. Tell me how this material reminds you of your favorite video game. Who would the characters be? What celebrity does this remind you of? Like my experience of place value above, a sensory repeater finds all kinds of levels on which to understand through open-ended idea discussion.
Now, a person, because of their personality, prefers one process over the other, but the fact is, when it’s time to buckle down and memorize, they HAVE to go with their repetition function. To shake them out of a rut, they HAVE to go with their exploratory function. However, their preference will often dictate what “sense” style they seem to be.
- An Idea Repeater, that naturally leans toward his internal function often tests out Visual Print. That’s likely because principles are usually organized, presented, and repeated in print. It’s not because his eyes work better than his ears.
- A Sensory Repeater that leans heavily toward his external Idea Play function seems Auditory. Why? They like to play with ideas, aloud, in conversation. Talking is auditory. Once something is down on paper, playtime is over.
Kinesthetic Criss Cross
Of course, everyone responds to a multi-sensory experience. However, they need opposite multi-sensory experiences. One brain needs variety in the sensory experience to bring principles alive, the other needs sensory repetition to memorize.
- And Idea Repeater, that naturally leans toward his external Sense Play function seems kinesthetic or visual spatial. They want to get into everything. Let’s touch, taste, roll in it! Let’s draw it, decorate it, play a game with it, cook it in a casserole.
- A Sensory Repeater that leans heavily toward his internal function seems kinesthetic because he has to “do it” over and over, physically. He would dislike the Idea Repeater’s sensory play.
So there you go.
The first trick is to ID yourself and your kids. The easiest way to figure out a person is to talk about food. Sense Repeaters stand out in contrast to Sense Explorers. “I’m not tasting it until I know what it is.” “This sandwich smells wrong. Did you use the other mustard?” Sense explorers are like, “Ooo, that looks different. Let’s try it!”
The next is to practice converting lessons into their styles. Whichever kid matches you will be the easiest. Just do what you would need to to do memorize and/or explore. There will be some customization, but it will at least be in your brain language.
The other kid might take some trial and error. His exploration function will seem like a waste of time and his memory function might bore you to tears. But, the fruits are really worth it!