Raising Diverse Learners

Kids and their teacher looking at electronic devices

What do thumbprints, snowflakes and children have in common? Differences! Differences!  Differences! Isn’t it amazing how children raised in the same household by the same parents can be so different?  As a teacher and a parent, I know that a “one size fits all” approach in the classroom doesn’t work any more than it does at home.  Children have different talents, interests, abilities, needs, learning styles, and on and on.  Yet, we want all our kids to be successful.  How can we as parents give our children the best chance for success in school? The important thing for parents to remember is that they are the most important teachers in their child’s life. So what do we teach our children?

Learning Styles

Children need to know how they learn best. When children are given information in a way that makes it easy for them to understand, learning happens. Then we can create “teachable moments” at home that work, and we can share that information at school to make sure that type of learning is reinforced in the classroom.

Check out this learning styles chart and the tips and tools for each type of learner provided by HELPGUIDE.com in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School.

Learning tips and tools for visual learners:

  • Use books, videos, computers, visual aids, and flashcards.
  • Make detailed, color-coded or highlighted notes.
  • Make outlines, diagrams, and lists.
  • Use drawings and illustrations (preferably in color).
  • Take detailed notes in class.

Learning tips and tools for auditory learners:

  • Read notes or study materials aloud.
  • Memorize using word associations and verbal repetition.
  • Study with other students, talk things through.
  • Listen to books on tape or other audio recordings.
  • Use a tape recorder to listen to lectures again later.

Learning tips and tools for kinesthetic learners:

  • Get hands on: do experiments, take field trips.
  • Use activity-based study tools, like role-playing or model building.
  • Study in small groups and take frequent breaks.
  • Use memory games and flash cards.
  • Study with music on in the background.

Stetson and Associates, Inc. provides many resources for differentiating instruction based on learning styles, interests, and abilities.  One tool, the Multiple Intelligence Survey is used to determine a child’s multiple intelligences.  Here’s the link to the tool on the Stetson website.

So what must we teach our children?

Everyone has a “spark”! “Sparks are akin to the human spirit”.  “It takes a spark to ignite the flame, that burning desire to succeed. Our challenge is to strike the flint that ignites the spark and then become the keepers of the flame.”

Dr. Peter Benson, President, Search Institute

What are your child’s interests and passions? Find out what gets them excited.  This, too, is important information to share with the school.  Discovering their passions and strengths and encouraging them to develop those gifts will help them work through the challenges and difficulties at school.

Meaningful Relationships

What do we want to teach our children?

”With good relationships in place, all other instructional strategies seem to work better.”

Robert J. Marzano, Educational Leadership, March 2011

Keys to Building Relationships

Three factors that have a major effect on a child’s motivation and performance in the classroom.  These same factors have an impact on relationships at home.

  1. Feeling of belonging
  2. Trust in the people around them
  3. Belief that they are valued

A Parent Report Card

“Secure relationships are believed to foster children’s curiosity and exploration of the environment, positive coping skills, and a mental representation of oneself as being worthy of love and of others being trustworthy.

Kathryn Wentzel, Handbook of Motivation at School (2009)

And what else do we need to teach?

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Learning involves the body as well as the brain, so healthy food, adequate sleep, and regular exercise is critical for school success.  As parents, we know our kids—which child needs more sleep, which one needs to run off stress and frustration, and what foods work best.

But, do we also encourage our children to have healthy emotional habits by giving them outlets for expressing anger, frustration or feelings of failure?  A home environment that is open to listening and expression helps kids connect with their feelings and learn how to cope.  These coping skills transfer to the classroom and allow children to focus, concentrate, and work hard.

Although healthy habits may seem like common sense suggestions, think how many times we, as parents, neglect one or more of these ourselves.  As teachers of our children, it is important that we take care of ourselves so that we can model and encourage healthy lifestyle habits for our children.   What an advantage in the classroom and throughout life!

References and Resources

  • Benson, Peter, (2008) Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers. Search Institute Press: Minneapolis, MN.
  • Kirby, Elizabeth, (2009) Engage Every Student—Motivation Tools for Teachers and Parents, Search Institute Press: Minneapolis, MN.
  • Marzano, Robert, (2011) The Highly Engaged Classroom, Marzano Research Laboratory: Bloomington, IN.
  • Parents Helping Parents, www.php.com
  • Stetson and Associates, www.stetsonassociates.com
  • Tomlinson, Carol Ann, (2003) Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom, ASCD: Alexandria, VA.
  • Wentzel, Kathryn, (2009) Handbook of Motivation at School, Routledge: New York, NY.

Cathy has 40 years in education, with teaching experience at both the elementary and secondary levels. She is the Director of Inclusive Schools Network and an Adjunct Associates at Stetson & Associates, Inc.

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