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The Three Main Types of Learning Styles

written by: Tricia Wegman • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 1/26/2014

One of the beautiful processes that a child goes through in the early years is the development of his personality. The child starts to find freedom in choosing what he will wear that day or which activities to participate in. As the child grows and learns, he comes to have his own style.

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    Girl writing in a spiral notebook Just as a child develops his personality and style, so does he develop a learning style. A learning style refers to the means in which a child acquires information best. There are three main types of learning styles, that is, three types of learners:

    Visual Learners: Students that understand and learn best when information is presented to them visually. Seeing information helps these students visualize concepts taught.

    Auditory Learners: Students that understand and learn best when information is presented to them in an auditory manner. Hearing information helps these students internalize concepts taught.

    Kinesthetic Learners: Students that understand and learn best when information is presented to them kinesthetically. Using their hands or bodies helps these students experience the concepts taught.

    Children receive information through these three channels all day long and as children get older and develop, one channel will easily facilitate acquisition better than the others. While students can have a mixture of styles and learn in all of the ways mentioned above, each child will most likely have one style that is dominant for taking in new material in the classroom.

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    How Do the Learning Styles Develop?

    In early childhood development, most children acquire information about the world around them in very concrete manners. Toddlers need to experience the world around them and therefore the best way to learn is through touch.

    Most children under five years of age are kinesthetic learners. They discover their world through play. This is why small children touch everything and often test everything by putting it in their mouths. Even in preschool and kindergarten, children can’t wait to get their hands on tactile stimulating materials, such as water tables, boxes of rice with objects hidden in them, and play-dough. Since children at this stage of development are generally all very tactile, it is difficult to determine what their future learning style will be.

    As students move into first and second grade, more structured learning will require the student to start developing his or her learning style. While the child does not consciously develop the style, the brain already starts processing, analyzing, and reasoning through the learning styles. While some students may continue to prefer hands-on materials to learn, others will start to prefer drawings on the board, or require that the teacher give a verbal explanation of a concept.

    For example, if a class is learning about sentence structure, the kinesthetic learners will want to build the sentence with flashcards, while the visual learners will want an example on the board with different colors. Auditory learners, on the other hand, will listen to the teacher form the sentence verbally and retain the information in this way.

    By the end of second grade and into third grade, learning styles are much more refined and students may even begin to recognize how they learn best. They may begin to use colors as visual stimulants for studying. They may prefer to create a model to help them understand how science works. Some students may just listen and ask for the teacher to repeat an explanation, even though an example is on the board.

    No matter what the case, it is important to remember that just because students have one predominant area does not mean that they can’t learn in other ways. Oftentimes students will have a mix of learning styles. Understanding this mix of styles will help facilitate learning in the classroom and help parents have a better idea of how to help their child study.

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    How Can I Determine My Child’s Learning Style?

    There are some formal learning style tests on the market, but in all honesty, paying a fortune isn’t necessary to finding out your child’s learning style. You may already have an idea of what it is, but it is important to be sure in order to help your child acquire information best and also to help him develop the learning styles that may be lacking.

    It is also important to realize that teachers and parents often teach their children in the way that the adult learns best. For example, an auditory learner-parent may explain a concept until they are blue in the face while helping their child study, thinking that is the best way for the child to understand. Instead the child gets out objects and builds the concept with salt and pepper shakers and a pencil, quickly grasping the concept.

    For teachers, it is a bit more difficult because they will have a wide range of learning styles and mixes within their classroom. Being sure to include an activity that stimulates the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners will be essential to concept comprehension. Having learning stations that focus on each style can also be very helpful.

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    Online Resources

    Below I’ve listed several different online sites that offer free learning style tests. Many offer an excellent explanation of the learning style and the characteristics of students with that style.

    • What Is My Learning Style? – This is a website that offers three different learning style tests and gives excellent resources at the end.
    • – This is a quick quiz that gives clear results and recommendations for the classroom.
    • Edutopia – This is quick quiz that not only gives the learning style, but also gives some specific information using the multiple intelligences.

    Check out the other articles in this series that explain each learning style in more detail and give recommendations for each type of learner.


Working With Different Types of Learners

Is your child having trouble understanding a particular concept or mastering a new skill? Maybe the lesson needs to be adapted to fit his or her preferred learning style.
  1. The Three Main Types of Learning Styles
  2. Tips for Teaching Visual Learners
  3. A Guide to Auditory Learners
  4. Teaching Kinesthetic Learners