What type of learner is your child? Here’s how to help them study more effectively

What type of learner is your child? Here’s how to help them study m...

By Mieke Vlok on May 17, 2016


“If your child normally wants to study and do homework with friends, and talks to you about what he has to learn, he is probably an active learner,” says Sunette Bishop, and educational psychologist from Cape Town.

Many parents struggle with exams and homework right alongside their child. Deadlines loom and the homework is piling up – if only you could study on their behalf!

The right study methods and approach can smooth the way for you and your child. We asked some experts how kids could study smarter.

Different strokes

“If your child normally wants to study and do homework with friends, and talks to you about what he has to learn, he is probably an active learner,” says Sunette Bishop, an educational psychologist from Cape Town. This type of learner prefers figuring out a problem – such as an experiment or a math problem – first hand.

Alison Bennett, a psychometrist from Johannesburg, says this learning style is called kinaesthesia. She says parents need to encourage these children to explain the work out loud, act it out, or to use practical examples or even incorporate objects to explain it.

Children who prefer studying by themselves and figuring out things before asking questions, are reflective learners. A child who uses familiar, tested methods of memorising facts is a sensory learner.

“Sensory learners tend to be practical in their approach, can easily memorise facts, and don’t like complicating things unnecessarily,” says Bishop.

Read more: A few simple study tips for your final matric exams

Intuitive learners are innovative and detest repetition. They work quickly and are able to digest information easily.

Visual learners study with the help of diagrams, pictures, graphics, timelines and any other visual methods. Give this child coloured koki pens and flash cards to encourage their visual learning methods, says Bennett.

“Verbal learners will remember better if it is explained to them out loud,” she says. “Ask them about their work, discuss it with them, and let them repeat it out loud. You can also let them make voice recordings of their work, which they can listen to again.”

There are also sequential learners, who work logically, and global learners, who understand the bigger picture without necessarily needing to understand the links between each step.

Observe how your child completes tasks at home in order to see where they fall on this spectrum.

“When giving your child a task, take note whether they write it down, ask you to write it down, practise it once, or just listen to what you are saying,” explains Annette du Plessis, an educational psychologist from Cape Town.

This can tell you a lot about your child’s preferred learning methods.

Bishop says the way your child interprets directions can also be insightful. “For example, when a visual learner needs to follow directions to a place they haven’t been, they will choose to look at a map, while a verbal learner would prefer that you tell them where to go or write down directions for them.”

Du Plessis says a mixture of the different styles of learning works best. “Research has shown that children study optimally when all the senses are engaged.

“Although some children might show clear preferences for certain methods, it is important to include the other senses in the learning process.”

Turn studying into child’s play

My child has trouble focusing

Ask your child’s teacher to let them sit in the front of the classroom where there are fewer distractions, and give them an elastic band or paper clip to hold so that they don’t fiddle, says Bennett.

Du Plessis recommends visiting an educational psychologist if your child really struggles to concentrate, and Bishop says parents must help create a study area free from distractions.

Read more: Exercise after school good for children’s attention span

“Find a quiet spot in the house without a TV, radio or people walking by, and remove all cellphones and computers.”

She also suggests parents ensure the child has everything they need when they sit down, so that they don’t have to get up for water, a pen or a snack.

My child procrastinates and leaves everything until the last minute

“Draw up a study schedule with your child and put it up where it is very visible,” says Bishop. Let your child tick off the work completed on a daily or weekly basis to ensure that you stay on schedule.

Bennett adds that children should have a homework diary where they write down the work that needs to be done every day.

My child is overworked and puts himself under too much pressure

Encourage regular study breaks for fresh air and light exercise, says Bennett. Bishop adds that difficult, complicated work should be dealt with first in order to relieve stress, and that children should be encouraged to ask a teacher or friends if they don’t understand something.

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