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Understand What’s Your Child’s Learning Style is Will Help You and Your Child Maximize Learning

“Educators don’t just teach subjects, they teach knowledge”.

As we enter the 21st century, the study and research of children’s growth, development, and learning have gotten more interesting than ever. The study continues to generate interest as we are transitioning from traditional ways of learning to more conventional tech education. Now, researchers are going beyond their data to develop broad ideas that attempt to explain how children grow and develop learning.

So, how children grow and develop learning?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me, and I learn.”

Indeed tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I may learn, aligns well with how young children think, act, and learn. To understand young children and how they grow and learn parents, teachers, and or adults who care for and teach them must first have to acquire the knowledge of child development! Child development entails the biological, psychological, and emotional changes that occur in human beings from birth to adolescence, as the person progresses from dependency to independence. It is a continuous process with a predictable sequence, though no two are the same. Everyone has a unique course or timetable. Each stage of development is determined and or affected by the preceding developmental experiences because these developmental changes are strongly influenced by both internal (genetics) and external (environment) factors.

Most of the early childhood educators received extensive training courses about child development and early childhood education and early literacy to help them support early learning and literacy with the kids they work with. To reach out to all students and be able to get the best out of them requires multiple tools and strategies, but more importantly the understanding of the way they learn.

Young children are small human beings who are complex, and at times puzzling. These young children may speak an entirely different language, practice different customs, expect a different kind of nurturing, embrace different values, be surrounded by people who look different, or have a variety of special needs! And if there were a code you could learn that would lead you to become a great parent of your defiant child or a great teacher of your passive/unresponsive student, all of us would have crowded the classroom to learn to un-code that child or that student! This, however, is still a doable process that needs to be learned to better support the children in their growth and learning.

I believe that children’s most important role is learning while their parents, teachers, and or adults help in supporting their growth and development by affording them with the developmentally appropriate environment for them to respond, practice, and experience life as we would expect them.

A well-rounded teacher who can teach a diverse group of children knows that these children come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Today’s classrooms are now more diverse than ever as our 21st Century societies become increasingly diverse! We are not only dealing with different cultures and ethnicities, but also language barriers. And that requires teachers to do more, to learn more, and to be able to reach out to everyone. This is as hard for the teachers as it is for the children too.

Acquiring knowledge in child development and gaining in-depth knowledge of different learning styles and abilities of learners and incorporating effective instructional methods to meet all the unique interests and learning needs, and good child-teacher relationships are the foundations on which adults can help children construct effective learning and social skills. These children construct solutions to the problems and become autonomous, self-disciplined, and self-controlled, hence meaningful learning.

If teachers can adapt teaching methodologies and strategies which not only engage the children but also rich in content, then they will be able to give children what they need to succeed in 21st Century tech education. Thus, the current tech-education approach to teaching and learning can make schools and children learn effectively, achieve more, and prevent further failures and close up the achievement gaps in many schools in the country.

Also, open child-teacher dialogues help build on skills and capabilities of managing the tasks independently in the future. Young children go through their developmental transition stages successfully if parents, teachers, or adults in their lives can evaluate their young minds. And always remember that no two children are the same, every child learns differently and grows differently at their own pace.

Take toddlerhood age, for example, this is the time when a child begins to move from dependence to independence, a period in human life when the brain starts to absorb the most. At this stage learning independence and finding out that they can do many things without help happens. They are learning the importance of limits! They are learning from play and fantasy, they are learning through identification; and the more they learn, the more they develop vocabulary and language skills. In this sensory-motor period, rapidly developing gross and fine motors enable toddlers to gain autonomy and perform many tasks on their own.

Because of toddler’s constant motion and impulsive desire to explore objects and people, adults can easily become upset and frustrated with their behaviors. Adults often meet a toddler’s new independent actions with a firm “NO”. We all know, and dread-the-terrible-twos! At this stage toddlers move nonstop; their emotions can change faster than a cheetah that spotted a deer!

Toddlers have a here-and-now urgency; they are only semi-verbal and semi-rational; but they are also fun, funny, and adorable! They are like a little sponge, absorbing everything they see and hear. They spend a lot of time classifying things to help them understand their world. They say words over and over, work with objects over and over! These routines may be tedious for adults, but for toddlers such actions make them feel secure. Repetition is also a way for a toddler to control his or her environment! The only thing adults need to do here is to understand that this is a natural stage of development for this age group and to be calm and patient. What makes the terrible twos is not that your toddler does things you don’t want him or her to do, but your toddler does things because you don’t want him or her to do them.

Jean Piaget a psychologist and construction theorist views conflict as necessary for the construction of knowledge! This also means that this age group is not too young to learn or get them involved, and start applying the positive and constructive discipline strategies; teaching more good behaviors and teach consequences. There is a say in Swahili that, samaki mkunje angali mbichi, akishakauka hakunjiki (fold the fish still row, having dried up it won’t fold, it will break!).

Starting early at this stage to instill those good values, morals, and teach more “how-to” will surely build a good foundation for future behavior.

In recent years, parents have become more and more lenient to their children to the extent that a three-year-old child detects to the parents what he or she wants or do not want including but not limited to what they want to eat, wear, and want to go or do, etc. If these demands are not met, then parents are in big trouble! They cannot manage their child and the child is sure to make the parent’s day a miserable one. As a result, parents surrendered their power to a three-year-old child! Nowadays, children are taking the place of the parent! What do you think these children will be when they reach teenage years?

In some instances, with this age group more often, adults tend to intervene too soon and too often and neglect to teach toddlers ways of solving conflicts. Toddlers need opportunities to discover, experiment and solve their conflicts while adults observe and are ready to move in with helpful and supportive interventions when needed, instead of constant forbidden warnings and or limitations.

Too much “Nos” against toddlers in most cases cause chaos more than it solves the problem, and it can also limit toddlers’ learning capabilities and experiences. It is you (adults) and your reactions to your youngster’s actions or behaviors that will make you enjoy your youngsters or denounce them! Children learn the best in an environment that affords them the opportunity for meaningful learning, exploration, and discovery of their creativity and ability, as well as experiencing fun through plays-both large and small/fine motor plays and games. The role of the adult here is to observe and ensure that the environment is conducive to growth and effective learning.

A home is the first place where all learning starts, therefore, one way to ensure your children learn effectively is by making your home a welcoming learning place; and incorporating the understanding of how children learn is crucial as well. We parents are vital to our children’s learning and development. Offering our children an environment that supports their early learning will, in turn, provide you and your children a successful experience.

Before learning and understanding child development, I used to think that young children learn the best when they:

· listened and watched adults performing the task and directing them how to

· memorized facts-make they memorize and remember things we taught them

· thought about abstract ideas

· followed directions step-by-step

· had their mistakes corrected

· practice tasks selected for them by others

· sit quietly at the desks to be lectured.

After learning and understanding child development, I now know that young children learn the best when they:

· actively participate in the process of performing the task

· use real objects to witness real results, not memorized facts

· work at their own pace and style

· follow their natural curiosity, not forced to follow strictly given directions or follow someone else’s path

· experiment to find solutions to their problems and to make mistakes is part of learning; it’s okay to make mistakes.

· choose what they want to do, to build on their own experiences

· actively get involved and play-play is to occupy oneself in amusement, sport, game, or other recreation of their choosing, not forced to join and play a specific play strictly selected for them. Play is a very important part of development for your growing child. Not only is playtime entertaining for your child, but also provides stimulation, increase skills and coordination, provide an outlet for your child’s energy, and helps to encourage exploration by your child.

· Play is also an important teaching tool or strategy as it can help to teach your child concepts such as shapes, numbers, colors, and help your child to get along with others, be part of a group, and share. It allows for creativity and fantasy, learns self-discipline, self-control, self-confidence, and perseverance at the same time.

Play can be practiced anywhere, at school, at home, and in the community. A home that affords children’s positive learning and growth also has:

· A place for study with table and chairs, possibly a bookshelf with a collection of favorable books, and or other supporting materials and tools or equipment that support learning-computer, printer, etc. But also, others prefer soft cushion on the floor, if you can designate a space for learning to make it special for that purpose or whatever works with your child is what counts.

· Encourage early literacy by providing 15 to 60 minutes of educational sessions including reading and math depending on the age of the child. Every child is different.

Knowing your child’s unique talents, skills, abilities and special needs will help both you and your child find the best way to take advantage of learning opportunities and resources available. Children possess a healthy curiosity about things around them and do enjoy learning whether they are passive and at times unresponsive or struggling with learning for reasons beyond their control such as trauma from unstable or broken home, or your child possesses inborn-strong-willed traits which cause behaviors that interfere with his/her learning.

The children learning experts such as Cynthia Urich Tobias in her book, The Way They Learn: How to Discover and Teach to Your Child’s Strengths encourage and offer guidance to parents, teachers, and adults who work with children on how to get the most and best in your children by understanding the way they learn. She offered in-depth insight into learning styles and how knowing your child’s learning style can give you a better understanding of the type of learning approaches that will help your child do better in school. She began her book with these five concepts as general guidelines to keep in mind when dealing with learning styles:

“Observing (Observe the pattern of behavior. When you or your child experiences success, what are the circumstances that brought that success?).

Listen (Listen to the way a person communicates. If you only talk to others the way you want them to talk to you, you may discover you’re speaking a language that is foreign to them. Listening carefully can teach you how you need to talk to them).

Experiment (Experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Keep an open mind and remember that even if an approach to learning does not make sense to you, it may work for your children. We do not all learn in the same way).

Focus (Focus on natural strengths, not weaknesses. Unfortunately, it’s so much easier to pinpoint areas of weakness that need improvement than to bolster sources of strength. But you can’t build much on weaknesses-strengths provide a much better foundation!).

Learn (Learn more about learning styles in general. Pay close attention to your children’s and your learning styles in particular.)”

As she proceeds, she outlines four dominant learning styles and their characteristics:

· Dominant Concrete Sequential (CS)

· Dominant Abstract Sequential (AS)

· Dominant Abstract Random (AR)

· Dominant Concrete Random(CR)

Learn details and comparison of what the four dominant learning styles might be on some key issues, from Cynthia Urich Tobias's book, The Way They Learn: How to Discover and Teach to Your Child’s Strengths.

Therefore, just because your child may not respond to you accordingly, it doesn’t always mean that your child isn’t listening! It could be differences in perceptions that cause you both not to be on the same page. It’s like speaking a foreign language that cannot be understood. Learning to listen to one another may result in effective communication, and effective communication is a lubricant that makes things run smoothly!


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