If you have a kid or student that’s being educated in a blended classroom or hybrid learning environment for the first time, chances are they could be feeling a bit lost.
From adapting to digital coursework to staying disciplined with minimal face-to-face interactions, getting used to this new type of education may cause them to struggle — especially if their individual learning style isn’t being addressed.
Gaining momentum in the 1960s through tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the learning style theory posits that different students learn best when information is presented to them in a particular way. The learning style theory was popularized in 1992 when Fleming and Mills suggested a new model of learning. The VARK Model is used to explain the different ways that students learn. For example, if a student is a “visual learner,” a verbal lecture alone might leave them feeling unengaged, confused, and frustrated.
While some critics doubt the efficacy of the learning style theory, its popularity in schools today makes it a topic well-worth paying attention to — specifically if some of your students are having a tough go at retaining information while learning remotely.
At Sphero, we believe that understanding individual learning styles are important for both parents and teachers to consider, as your struggling students might need coursework uniquely presented to them to effectively absorb the material. However, we recognize there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to education. Students may benefit from one or all of these learning styles depending on the subject or information being presented, for example.
With this guide, we will help you identify the four core learning styles among your students, as well as provide you with helpful resources to easily implement changes in your curriculum to meet the needs of all.
What are the four learning styles?
The four core learning styles in the VARK model include visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. Here’s an overview of all four learning style types.
Visual - Visual learners are better able to retain information when it’s presented to them in a graphic depiction, such as arrows, charts, diagrams, symbols, and more. Similar to how designers use visual hierarchy to emphasize specific design elements, visual learners thrive with clear pictures of information hierarchy.
Auditory - Sometimes referred to as “aural” learners, auditory learners prefer listening to information that is presented to them vocally. These learners work well in group settings where vocal collaboration is present and may enjoy reading aloud to themselves, too.
Reading & Writing - Focusing on the written word, reading and writing learners succeed with written information on worksheets, presentations, and other text-heavy resources. These learners are note-takers and perform strongly when they can reference written text.
- Kinesthetic - Taking a physically active role, kinesthetic learners are hands-on and thrive when engaging all of their senses during course work. These learners tend to work well in scientific studies due to the hands-on lab component of the course.
The VARK Model: Four Types of Learning Styles
Successfully implementing the VARK model into your classroom means recognizing your students’ unique educational needs on a fundamental level.
Learning Style Type #1: Visual Learners
How to Identify This Learning Style Type: Visual Learners
Visual learners enjoy analyzing and observing things like pictures, diagrams, and charts that showcase clear information in order of importance. You can oftentimes find visual learners by paying attention to students who are doodling, list-making, or note-taking.
How to Teach This Learning Style Type: Visual Learners
Whether you’re using a whiteboard, smartboard, or giving a presentation, make sure visual learners have enough time to process and absorb visual cues. When possible, visual learners should have access to supplementary handouts that detail subject matter through clear visuals whenever possible. Additionally, allow these learners to draw pictures, diagrams, or doodles of what they are learning to reinforce retention.
Sphero and littleBits Activities Visual Learners Will Love
Draw 1: Shapes
With this visual learning activity, your child will be introduced to Sphero’s Draw canvas by drawing shapes that represent code. Then, they can execute that code with a Sphero robot. Perfect for visual learners, your students will be able to hand-draw their very own robot to showcase their programming skills.
BOLT: Light Sensor
With flashlights or other portable light sources (cell phones work well), this activity for visual learners allows your students to discover BOLT’s ambient light sensor. The light sensor allows BOLT to sense the amount of light it is exposed to during a program, which means your students will be able to see light act as a trigger for conditionals or dynamic functions.
Learning Style Type #2: Auditory Learners
How to Identify This Type of Learning Style: Auditory Learners
Auditory learners prefer learning subject matter that is presented through sound. You can find auditory learners by paying attention to students who are actively engaging with a lecture. You may find them nodding along or asking frequent questions rather than taking written notes. Additionally, these learners might read slowly, read aloud to themselves, or repeat things you tell them to help with retention.
How to Teach This Type of Learning Style: Auditory Learners
If you’re giving a lecture, make sure you are addressing your auditory learners directly to get them involved in the conversation. Have them do things like verbally detailing a new concept they just learned, and ask them follow-up questions while giving them the time they need to respond. Group discussions, engaging videos, and audio recordings are other great ways to engage auditory learners in your classroom.
Sphero and littleBits Activities Auditory Learners Will Love
Back to the Future
In this exciting activity for auditory learners, your students will recreate the Delorean time machine from the “Back to the Future” movies. First, they will program RVR to accelerate to a speed of 88 to time travel. Then, they will build their very own invention with the littleBits RVR Topper Kit, which triggers a buzzer when RVR is safely back to the future. If your students have never seen the “Back to the Future” movies, you can show them short scenes to help orient this activity.
With a few simple materials and a littleBits STEAM Kit, your auditory learner can use the sound of their voice to create bubbles. This challenge allows your students to experiment with sound waves and learn how common items interact with each other to make something new.
Learning Style Type #3: Reading & Writing Learners
How to Identify This Learning Style in the Classroom: Reading & Writing Learners
Preferring written word, reading, and writing learners are drawn to textbooks, novels, articles, journals, and anything that is text-heavy. Similar to visual learners, you can find reading and writing learners by paying attention to students who take elaborate notes, reference the dictionary to learn new words, or use online search engines to find answers to their questions.
How to Teach This Learning Style Type: Reading & Writing Learners
Writing essays, performing in-depth research, reading textbooks, and more, reading, and writing learners prefer more traditional methods of subject matter delivery. However, make sure these learners have ample time to absorb written course material and give them every opportunity to get their ideas down on paper or a digital device.
Sphero and littleBits Activities Reading & Writing Learners Will Love
The Bridge Challenge starts with your students researching and learning about different types of bridges used in architecture, which is perfect for reading and writing learners. Then, using common household belongings or craft supplies — such as tape, string, glue, and popsicle sticks — they can use their newfound knowledge to build a bridge that a Sphero robot can drive across.
The Masked Sphero
In this activity, you can have your reading and writing learners research the history and importance of cloth face coverings. Then, they can write a short essay on how wearing a mask can help protect others by minimizing airborne bacteria. Afterward, your class can create a mask out of tissue paper for their Sphero BOLT to protect its sensor against incoming light. This activity provides a direct representation of how germs can spread more easily without face coverings.
Learning Style Type #4: Kinesthetic Learners
How to Identify This Type of Learning Style: Kinesthetic Learners
Kinesthetic learners are “tactile” learners, meaning they prefer to physically act out events or use all of their senses while learning. These types of learners are easy to find, as they likely have a difficult time sitting still and might need frequent breaks during heavy studying periods.
How to Teach This Type of Learning Style: Kinesthetic Learners
When possible, get kinesthetic learners up and moving. If you’re teaching Shakespeare, for example, have them act out a scene with a few of their kinesthetic-focused peers. You can also create learning games that encourage these types of learners to move about the classroom at different points in the lesson.
Sphero and littleBits Activities Kinesthetic Learners Will Love
Sphero Long Jump
Sphero Long Jump is the perfect challenge for kinesthetic learners, as you can easily get your students up and moving. During this activity, have your students learn about what the long jump is and how science can be used to maximize jumping distance. With supervision, students could even try their own long jump in a safe area and measure their distance! Afterward, with just a few craft supplies, they can create an adjustable, homemade ramp and DIY long jump pit for their Sphero.
With this hands-on activity, your kinesthetic learners can become ethologists and technologists at the same time. To start, your students will study the movements of their favorite animal (including how the animal sees, smells, and interacts with other animals) and program RVR to mimic how it navigates in the wild. Plus, your students will be able to utilize littleBits inventions to mimic this animal’s behavior. To go one step further, your class could even act out their chosen animal’s behaviors!
Implement the Right Learning Style for Your Remote Students
If you have a student that’s struggling, uncovering their unique learning style could help you get them back on track. Whether they are a visual, auditory, reading and writing, or kinesthetic learner, you can implement a plethora of activities in your curriculum that facilitate subject matter retention, course engagement, and an enjoyable educational experience.
To learn more about how to programmable robots and STEM kits appeal to all learning styles, and for more information on how to integrate Sphero and littleBits in the classroom, check out our getting started resources page for educators.