TEFL Strategies for Teaching Different Learning Styles
If you have undertaken or are currently studying a TEFL course, you will have learned all about the different TEFL Strategies and learning styles of students in the classroom. There are many different interpretations of the classifications of learning styles. You will have probably heard of learning being visual or auditory, but there are also styles, such as intrapersonal or sensory, which were suggested later.
Some models agree there are three or four styles, while others propose up to seven. Many propose that we are blends of different learning styles and not only one. Learning styles aren’t concrete, and new theories are proposed all the time. Which model of learning styles you believe is more accurate is up to you, but what is clearly agreed upon is that people learn in different ways and have different strengths and weaknesses.
In your TEFL classroom, you will have an assortment of learners who all prefer to learn in different ways. Often, they won’t even realise that they have a learning style. Some might be able to tell you that they prefer to learn more kineasthetically, but many, especially younger ones, won’t be able to assess their needs this way. As you get to know your class, you will pick up on how different students learn in different ways. It’s essential that you, as the teacher, incorporate different strategies for these different learning styles.
If you’re unsure when starting, pay attention to how they absorb information and how motivated they come across when they complete different activities. You can also ask them what type of activities they enjoy, but bear in mind that they are unlikely to be able to analyse their own learning styles on a deeper level. It’s important not to “pin” just one learning style on a learner or give them any impression that these are fixed and that they cannot learn in other ways. Our learning preferences change frequently and can be much more complex than just one way of learning.
Why use different strategies for this?
As mentioned, all students learn differently. Some prefer visual activities and some are more auditory. If you only do the same type of activity all the time, you’re not giving the other students in the class a chance to progress academically and maximise their learning experience. It’s as if you were only paying attention to some select students and not all of the class! If a student struggles learning with more visual methods, and this is all you use in your classroom, then they will become demotivated very quickly.
In any lesson, it’s not the best idea to repeat the same type of activity every lesson as students will become bored. Changing the style of activity you do not only caters for other learners but also gives them some variety in their learning and can help make the lesson more engaging. Adding a range of activities will help the lesson be more dynamic and it will help the students feel as if they are learning without actually learning!
A lot of students won’t simply be just one type of learner – this is very simplistic. Most students have a combination of different learning styles and can develop strengths in different ways of learning. Providing a variety of activities and strategies can help students learn using various methods without them even realising it. Allow them to explore their learning preferences and develop skills in different areas by providing them with varied tasks.
Ideas for different learning styles :
These students learn best with access to images and videos. To help these learners, you can think about:
-Present your board work neatly and colourfully. Using different colours for different functions is helpful. Ensure you don’t write too small or only in one corner of the board. Utilise the space and make it presentable. Presenting your notes in this way will help all of your learners understand them better.
-Using visuals such as pictures or flashcards when students learn new words. This way, they build associations and can retain the vocabulary more easily. You can also play different games using flashcards which will keep your learners engaged.
-Use storytelling and creative techniques to help students envision what they’re learning more clearly and therefore, remember it better later on. Creating a comic story is a nice activity for these types of learners and it is a good activity to do in groups too.
These students learn best through hearing and listening. Some ideas for this type of learner are:
-Using songs in the classroom. Listening, in general, can be difficult for students, so why not make it fun? You can plan gap-fill activities to popular songs or practise a specific grammar point or vocabulary set.
-Encourage your students to listen to language learning podcasts or watch YouTube videos with grammar explanations. They will absorb information this way and also improve their English listening ear. It’s a great example of a task to set for homework and gets them learning outside of the classroom too! There are many podcasts you can choose from. You could even do a follow-up activity in the next class to assess their understanding.
-Try to provide audio options for reading texts or recordings of your explanations to listen to later as consolidation. As a homework task, you could even ask your students to record an audio summary of the lesson for their notes. Many students will absorb this information better in auditory form.
These learners learn more by moving around and doing things for themselves. You can also refer to these learners as tactile learners. These strategies can help:
-Incorporate more active games such as board races. They get students moving and help shake up the lesson when they have been sitting down for a long time. This is especially useful for young learners who can’t sit for long periods of time.
– Utilise the students as the “teacher”. Have them explain points to other learners or ask them to run an activity or game. This also helps increase learner autonomy.
-Use as much realia as possible. This gives them the opportunity to touch objects and learn new associations. You can use them as speaking objects or play games.
-Encourage them to create roleplays and act them out. Let them be creative. Give them a corner of the classroom to practise as a group and be able to move around more freely.
This type of learner likes to work in groups and apply their knowledge to a more active task.
To help this type of learner, you should incorporate group work and more practical tasks which involve discussion and students working together.
Peer teaching is also suitable for this type of learner which will also help increase your learners’ independence. You should also include discussions and debates occasionally to help these learners express themselves and feel more active in their learning. These activities also help with communication and improve fluency, so they are helpful for all students to carry out.
This type of learner prefers to work on their own and can often seem like they don’t want to participate in group activities. Of course, it’s good to set independent tasks from time to time, but as we focus on teaching learners to communicate in English, it is important that they still participate in group work. To help these learners work well with others, it’s good to assign roles when completing a group task. A different person can be responsible for a different part of the task. This helps to ensure that one person doesn’t take over, especially your solitary learners who would prefer to do it themselves!
These learners like following “logical” explanations and a pattern or reasoning. They tend to understand grammar quite clearly. When it comes to grammar, they might prefer to see clear rules spelt out for them and presented in a way that they can understand and apply these rules to their learning. Using charts and diagrams might help these learners organise their ideas and see certain rules clearly.
As a teacher, it’s important to consider how your lesson plans will help the students learn and enjoy their classes. Being innovative and thinking of new ways to deliver your classes will help you be a successful teacher. Sometimes catering for different learning styles will improve a simple modification of an activity i.e changing something from seeing to hearing. It can be something as simple as having students check their answers with each other after completing a task independently – this allows them to collaborate in a very easy way.
When you plan a lesson, take a look at your activities and think about who they work well for. If the answer is always the same type of learning style, then you might need to change things up and adapt your plan accordingly. You don’t necessarily need to cater to every learning style in the same lesson, but you should have 2-3 different styles in mind when you write a lesson plan.
Many students will have a combination of different learning styles rather than one straightforward label. Learning styles might also change over time as learners develop different skills and preferences. Remember that variety is one of the keys to a successful class that caters to different learning styles. It’s essential to include a wide range of activities that will help all learners and keep your classes exciting and engaging.