In this Different Strokes column we look at techniques children with a visual preference can use to maximize their learning. You can read more about the VARK theory of learning styles and find the learning preference test here.
The definition of visual as it pertains to learning styles is somewhat different than the dictionary definition. Visual learners don’t gravitate towards just any old images; realistic paintings, photographs or movies may be more appealing to kinesthetic learners. Rather, visual learners use abstracted visual or spatial information to understand information. For example, a photo of caldera in a geography book may leave them cold, whereas a cross section of a volcano may really fire them up.
Techniques and Resources to Aid Visual Learning
Children with a visual learning preference understand information through seeing it. For them a picture paints a thousand words. You might notice your child loves schematics, charts, graphs, maps, symbols, and diagrams. They best use graphical and visual representations of data and visual techniques to remember and understand information. Often they have a better sense of direction, because they can memorize and recall maps easily. They also prefer to see information modeled and represented rather than listen to the teacher explain it, or read text describing it.
Let’s look at some techniques and resources which aid visual learning.
Mind mapping is a technique to graphically represent information. It’s often used for brainstorming, note taking, and planning, but it’s also a very useful tool for students to use to memorize, review, categorize and recall information. Mind maps are short on text and long on facts. Writing is kept to a minimum, whereas pictures and symbols are used liberally, especially to emphasize key data points.
There’s an excellent article on making mind maps here. You can make free mind maps online using coggle.
When note taking, students can write information with different colored pens, according to what sorts of facts are being discussed. Each factor can be represented by different pen color. For example in a history class a student might use blue for primary sources, black for secondary sources and red for quotations. Or they might use color to represent factors such as economy, society and religion. Some students may prefer to make use of symbols in the margins of their notes to achieve the same affect.
Teach visual learners to read and research using multiple highlighters to differentiate between various categories of information. This helps them to break a wall of text into manageable and related chunks of information. They can also use colored page markers to the same effect. When they begin analyzing and recombining their research into a paper, they can find the categorized information quickly and easily.
Infographics combine words and graphics to represent complex data points in compelling new ways. Fortunately for visual learners, infographics have become incredibly popular over the last few years, and you can find infographics for almost every topic. There is even this amazing infographic explaining what infographics are!
For some other lovely examples see this infographic of wind patterns in the US or this one on the distance to Mars from the earth, or this one showing the global carbon footprints by nation.
The Different Strokes series of blog posts examines current intelligence theories.