Whats your kids learning style: auditory, visual, hands-on

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

If your child struggles with school and brings home mediocre grades, it may have nothing to do with his IQ or ambition.

It could be he's not absorbing the information he needs because he and his teachers aren't aware of his learning style.

Bobbie DePorter, president of the Learning Forum Foundation in San Diego, says a student's predominant style of learning — whether visual, auditory or kinesthetic (through movement and touch) — is at the root of most school problems and successes.

"Most students truly want to live up to their potential," said DePorter, who has been teaching people how to learn for 14 years. "When they discover they have a learning style and what it is, there is a big, `Aha!'"

When your child assembles a new toy, does he like to read the directions or look at the illustrations beforehand? He is probably a visual learner.

Does he prefer to listen while someone else talks him through the directions? He is probably an auditory learner.

Or, does he simply start putting the toy together without benefit of instructions? He is most likely a kinesthetic learner.

DePorter said most people are capable of learning by all three means but one style usually stands well above the rest in ease and comfort.

Once you know which style is predominant, it's easy to notify a child's teachers and to impart all further information in the appropriate manner.

But aren't most teachers already aware of this?

Not necessarily, DePorter said.

"Too often, learning style is overlooked, and the teacher ends up presenting most information in his or her own learning style," she said.

"I think there needs to be more awareness."

Identifying a learning style is not only important for school, DePorter said, it's also "the key to improved performance on the job and in interpersonal situations." So, it's good for a parent to know his or her own style, too.

In her book "Quantum Learning: Unleashing the Genius in You" (Dell Publishing), DePorter offers tips on discovering your child's style and your own:

Visual learners:

*Are good spellers and can actually see the words in their minds.

*Are strong, fast readers.

*Would rather read then be read to.

*Like to doodle while listening to their teachers.

*Would rather do a demonstration than give a speech before a group.

*Like art more than music.

Auditory learners:

*May talk to themselves.

*Are easily distracted by noise.

*Find writing difficult and are better at telling.

*Can spell better out loud than in writing.

*Like jokes better than comic books.

*Like music more than art.

Kinesthetic learners:

*Speak slowly

*Touch people to get their attention

*Stand close when talking to someone.

*Use a finger when reading.

*Gesture a lot.

*Have trouble remembering geography unless they've actually been there.

*Like to act things out.

*Learn by manipulating and doing.

How does one apply this information in everyday learning?

DePorter said the visual learner will learn a math concept best by seeing it written out on the blackboard or in a book. The auditory learner will do best if the teacher explains the concept verbally. The kinesthetic learner needs to actually use the concept to understand it fully.

DePorter said there are more visual learners than there are auditory or kinesthetic learners in the world, and teaching methods tend toward the visual all the way through 12th grade.

That changes once a student goes to college.

"Maybe you know someone who did well in high school but in college started fumbling or even failing classes," DePorter said. "This happens to many people, and most of them have no idea what happened to make them start feeling so incompetent. It's because in college, instruction switches from being highly visual to mostly auditory."