4 Ideas for Accommodating Visual Learners in the Classroom

As a teacher, you know that what is clear as day to one student can be hopelessly foggy for another. Students learn at different paces, and everyone achieves lightbulb moments through different means. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your teaching methods accommodate a healthy variety of learning styles!

According to the VARK theory, there are four primary modalities to describe how people learn:

  • Visual
  • Aural
  • Read/Write
  • Kinesthetic

So, while your verbal lecture may be all an aural learner needs to master the material, a visual learner may be silently struggling to make meaningful connections. Likewise, a book report may be a breeze for a read/write learner, but a serious struggle for one of the less word-inclined types.

Let’s take a closer look at visual learners and learn how we can use their needs and strengths to make our lessons more well-rounded overall. Here are four ideas to keep in mind when you’re planning future lessons:

Treat Pictures like Words

When you are teaching your students about the themes of a book your class is reading, you don’t just ask students to read it; the only way to learn deeply is to ask questions, share interpretations and build context. By treating images in a similar fashion, you can elevate them from mere visual aids to rich examples in how to think, communicate and analyze. Lindsay Young, a Los Angeles-based teacher, suggests using art as a vehicle to teach students skills in “summarizing, clarifying, questioning and predicting.”

Young points out a great entry point for teachers: the weekly “What’s Going On in This Picture?” column from The New York Times. Featuring intriguing photographs without their captions, these enigmatic visual objects ask students to think critically about the context and what could possibly be happening in the photo.

Depending on the age and subject level, you can curate a lineup of appropriate and educational images. You can even get fully hands-on and have students write their answers on the board or on poster paper! By treating images with the same respect that we give words in the classroom, you will be helping visual learners engage and excel.

Don’t Just Say It…Show It

Make group discussions more impactful for everyone involved by backing up the verbal component with an interactive visual. For instance, say you want to see what your class thought of a certain lesson you just finished. You could call on students one by one, or you could use a word cloud brainstorming tool to display everyone’s answers together in a dynamic, real-time group. Every student, regardless of learning style, will have a chance to compare different perspectives, but visual learners will likely appreciate this approach a little extra.

Prepare Lecture Aids

It may sound like a no brainer, but uninterrupted verbal lectures aren’t going to cut it when it comes to visual learners. By punctuating your teaching sessions with visual aids, you can engage students and reinforce your main points. Study.com recommends:

  • Pictures, charts, diagrams and maps
  • Allowing students to draw pictures or build models
  • Showing videos when applicable

Use Memorization Tricks

Last but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to have fun. While some memorization is unavoidable, you can maximize its staying power with a clever approach. Here’s one example from Education.com: Say your students are in the process of memorizing state capitals. You could describe a larger-than-life salt shaker over Salt Lake City, UT to help them remember (and giggle). The key is to give your students time, space and a little prompting to construct their own mental imagery that’s built to last.

Are you ready to actively accommodate the visual learners in your classroom? These four ideas can help diversify your lesson plans and make them more engaging for all.

Image courtesy of surasakiStock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About the Author

Henrietta Newman is a tech loving, video game playing, backyard chicken raising, dirt road living, pr friendly mom/gramma blogger who talks about life with a teen daughter, an adult son, a toddler granddaughter, a construction worker soulmate and all that it entails. Subscribe to A Hen's Nest for giveaways, delicious family recipes, reviews and more!

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