Tools for Visual & Linguistic Learners

Tools for Visual & Linguistic LearnersHelp Your Child’s Learning Style Come Alive

The world must be a uniquely beautiful view for one of my kids. He sees things many just walk right past, hears things in a different way, and finds the humorous, perplexing, and inspiring in what we might consider the mundane. His learning styles are unique to him, but I consider it my job to help find tools that will enhance his learning. If you’re the parent or teacher of a child who thrives on visual or linguistic learning strategies, you know that his or her view on the world is intriguing, and that it is not always easy to use typical teaching tools.

Linguistic learners have skills for reading, writing, speaking – those tasks that revolve around words and communicating ideas through them.

Visual learners thrive on seeing things in action, through demonstrations, charts, graphs, pictures, and any other way they can visually connect with an idea.

You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way. ~Marvin Minsky

I treasure that quote by Minsky. It reminds me that just because things have been taught in certain ways for so long, it doesn’t mean those are the only effective ways to learn. Visual and linguistic learners often have similar traits – they enjoy stories. The following learning tools incorporate both of these in unconventional, yet successful ways.

Language Arts Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Idioms

We use idioms often without thinking too much about them. They are a natural part of the English language. Some people, however, struggle to decipher idioms, usually taking them literally (which would be a very confusing way to spend the day). One of the markers of kids on the Autism spectrum is an inability to comprehend idioms. The phrase, “I’ve got a frog in my throat” takes on a whole other meaning for these kids.

Teach your kids about idioms using books like my son’s favorite, Horsing Around – Making Sense of Everyday Idioms, by Katherine Scraper. In the book there are 50 common idioms, each illustrated with funny interpretations and a story passage using the idiom in a dialogue situation (a few short paragraphs). This book appeals to both visual and linguistic learners. The pages also each give space for kids to write their own interpretations of the idioms.

Understanding idioms improves language by

  • Helping with oral language development, especially in the early preschool and elementary years
  • Building reading skills
  • Developing creative writing skills
  • Improving speech for ESL students (English as a Second Language)

Mathematics Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Math doesn’t have to be just rote calculations. Perhaps it is my love of the written word that draws me to these next two math tools, but I’ve also seen my kids relate to numbers and mathematical theories in a different way since adding these resources to our bookshelves.

Life of Fred

  • The Life of Fred books are a series of “story” books, ranging from elementary all the way through high school, that are designed to get students thinking about math. The unconventional approach uses humorous or just plain wacky stories to teach kids how to apply mathematical concepts.

Charlesbridge Math Adventures

  • This series of math adventures, perfect for early elementary students (even my older kids love to listen to these, too), is an engaging way to introduce and reinforce math concepts. Colorful and wonderfully illustrated tales have characters experiencing adventures that are all intertwined with mathematics. Some of our favorite titles include:
    • Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter (a tale that teaches kids how to calculate things such as the area of a circle)
    • Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (yep – a story about calculating with pi)
    • Alice in Pastaland (an adventure centered around problem solving skills)
    • Cut Down to Size at High Noon (ratios and proportions set in a western story)

Social Studies Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Do you remember memorizing the list of presidents when you were in elementary school, the names and locations of countries, or the capitals of states? If you were like me, it was simply based on rote memorization, grouped by perhaps 10 names at a time. And the memorization lasted long enough to pass the test – and it was usually not an entertaining experience. If you’re looking for a new way to help your kids memorize these basic (and sometimes boring) facts, try some of these books.

Yo, Millard Fillmore!

  • This fun and engaging book helped all of my kids not only learn the names of the US presidents, but their memory of these facts is long lasting, and they really enjoyed the illustrative approach. Each president has a picture and short description as to how the picture fits with that name. Then, each picture (president) is somehow linked to the following one, helping to reinforce the order of presidency.

Yo, Sacramento!

  • Just like Yo, Millard Fillmore!, this book engages readers through humorous illustrations that teach kids how to relate the capital names to the state names.

The Scrambled States of America

  • You might be familiar with this title of the book that teaches about the US states. I also use the board game (by the same name) to reinforce the illustrative concepts presented in the book.

Visualize World Geography

  • I admit that when I first saw this book I raised an eyebrow. The graphics are – unique – and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get past their uniqueness in order to actually learn from the materials. But then my kids and I started using it and we realized that these mental maps that the book creates really do work. There are short bits that go with each graphic to help tie the mental map together, appealing to both my visual and linguistic learners.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a homeschool parent is that learning styles not only influence academics, but they transcend our personalities. It is more than learning about reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is about learning what makes each one of us tick – what gets us excited to try new things, and helps us overcome failures. When we tune into our kids’ learning styles, we give them tools that go far beyond their report cards.

An Invitation – Free Writing & Reading Printables

Years ago – in the blink of an eye and with a gentle whisper to myself – I started homeschooling. I collected curriculum resources like some women collect shoes. I also started my own personal collection of files and PDFs, creating my own miniature lessons (especially for reading and writing). In an effort to purge my files and track my paper trail of personal resources, I developed A Powerful Pen. Consider it my tiny corner of the homeschool world where I share the resources I developed for my own kids. Some of them you may have already seen here at Happy Medium Homeschooling – scattered in the blog posts. A Powerful Pen takes them and devotes some space just for printables.

So – you’re invited. I’ve just started uploading the files, adding in notes about how to use the printables when necessary. Print what you need. Take what you will. Grab what might help your child learn to love words and language and everything amazing about communication. And if you want me to share your resources, send me a note with the link.

Children who learn how to absorb words, communicate their thoughts, and use language to its fullest are steps ahead in life. I believe in the power of the pen. 

powerful pen

Teaching Writing Skills to Kids

penmanship

There are some frightening statistics about the abilities of students when it comes to writing. Even though writing is one of my passions, I know that it is not for everyone. In fact, I’ve had to come to terms with the almost unbearable (insert note of chagrin) fact that some of my kids don’t love writing. However, it is also a needed skill in life – one that our kids can learn. As a mom, homeschool parent, and writer, I don’t make exceptions to whether or not my kids want to write. It is like cleaning the toilet, washing behind your ears, or sending the 23rd arm-aching Thank You note – it just needs to happen. So let’s not get bent out of shape. Let’s find ways to make sure that you can do it. And along the way you will hopefully find a way to embrace the importance of writing, even if you don’t embrace it as your passion.

  • 80% of high school seniors in the United States are not considered to be proficient writers.
  • 20% of high school seniors in the United States are not considered to be basic writers.
  • Girls tend to outscore boys on assessments of writing skills.
  • It is estimated that American firms spend more than $3 billion each year as a result of writing deficiencies among employees.

So – with all of the research pointing to the fact that too many children, especially boys, are not acquiring sufficient writing skills, what can we do about it?

How Can We Help Our Kids Write Well?

We have to start earlier. We can’t wait until they are seniors in high school and then realize that they are not prepared for college courses or the expectations of their employers. As the mother of 4 children, 3 of them boys, I have seen firsthand how it can be more challenging to teach writing skills to some children. Writing is not a naturally occurring milestone – it needs to be woven into the activities in which children participate and it needs to become less of a chore and more of an extension of communication. Our children need to learn that writing (and not just LOL, IDK, or BRB) allows them to express themselves, helps them reach their goals, and is a tool they will need in their future.

Part of the challenge of teaching writing to children is that writing, unlike reading, can seem infinite. There are as many ways to write a paragraph about a monkey as there are words in your child’s vocabulary. This can overwhelm children and shut them down to the writing process before they ever even get started. If you have kids with learning or other challenges like I do – writing is sometimes actually almost painful. Let’s take away the pain and get back to finding ways to make writing – communicating – fun and effective.

Printable Activities for Writing

Give tangible goals to your kids for writing. I use these tickets as a way to remind my children on what areas they need to focus. Each ticket has a short, limited amount of goals, appropriate to where they are with their writing skills.

Don’t ask for it all in one. If you’re a homeschool parent like me, you can do this more easily. If your student attends public or private school, consider talking with his or her teacher about the writing strategies used in class. Find out what methods are utilized, and gently suggest some of these ideas.

  • Limit writing to writing – especially for struggling writers. When you start to add grades for penmanship, spelling, and an accompanying picture to the mix it just gets to be too much.
  • Brainstorm with your child. Show him how to write down words that he associates with the topic. These words can then be “jumping off” points for sentences, and they help kids focus their ideas.
  • Meet your kids halfway. So for one of my kids the fine muscles needed for holding a pencil just don’t coordinate. But that doesn’t stop him from being able to knock out some pretty creative poetry and stories with the use of a word processor. Ask yourself what goal you are really trying to reach – and see if there is a way to meet your child part way to that goal.
  • Try to help your kids create visual maps of their writing. For boys especially the writing process is not concrete enough to let them feel secure. When my boys were younger I used imagery like these worksheets to help them Build Great Paragraphs.

How do you help your kids learn to write?

Printables to Encourage Reluctant Readers

Little girl with books wearing black glassesSetting Reading Goals and Reaching for the Stars

Are you a bookworm but you are raising a book-balker? A child who balks at most of the books you suggest from the shelves and who would rather shovel the snow and clean the toilets before willingly grabbing a book to devour? Many educators and parents are now using the term reluctant reader to describe these kids – the ones we so desperately want to expose to the joys of reading – but who we sometimes turn away from reading because we are trying too hard. Try these printable reading activities and goal trackers with your reluctant or struggling readers, or even with your emerging readers you are trying to keep motivated.

Beginner BookmarksThese printable bookmarks are divided into 10 minute chunks – when your child has finished reading 10 minutes, he can put a check in the box, place a small sticker in the box, or even use a hole punch to mark his progress. You can decide together what the reward will be when he has completed one bookmark (equivalent to 1 hour of reading). For some kids the completion of the bookmark is the reward, but others might need extra encouragement, such as a coupon to choose the movie for family night or a trip to the local park.

Reach for the StarsThis dot-to-dot printable can be used with the goal that works best for your child. The goal might be to read for 10 or 20 minutes each day, or even just to read 3 pages of a book. Decide that with your child, and then use this printable sheet to track her progress. Each time she reaches a goal she gets to connect a dot.

Recommended Reading – Empower your reader by giving him a voice in regards to the types of books he likes to read. Use this printable sheet for him to share with others the books that he would recommend. Just yesterday I watched as one of my sons handed the local librarian a new hardcover book that he received for Christmas, read once, and told her he would like to donate the book to the children’s collection because it was not one that he really enjoyed but wasn’t available yet on the shelves. The empowerment he felt because he was able to share his recommended reading with other kids was enormous – and he can always check it out again if he wants to re-read it.

Basic Book Report – If your reluctant reader (and maybe writer) hears the words book report, he might recoil in distaste. Sometimes just lightening the load and the expectations alleviates the pressure to not only read the book, but then write an amazing report about the book. Use this basic book report form to help reluctant readers focus on the basics of the book – recognizing authors and illustrators, main characters, settings, and the overall idea.

Reading can be one of the most enjoyable activities for some children, but for others it is a chore and a source of frustration. But we can keep plugging along and trying every trick in the book. As long as we keep trying to expose our kids to great stories and opportunities to listen to and read varieties of books, we keep the reading door open in their lives.

This week I had many glorious moments of a child who had a hard time listening to my instructions. Why is that glorious? Because for one of the first times in his life I can’t get his nose out of his books. In fact, I used to have to use every trick in the book just to get him to select one book from the library. This week, however, I am relishing his distraction because the reluctance to read is being replaced with a reluctance to put the book down on the table. These are wonderful problems to have!

[a portion of this was originally published at BetterParenting.com :)]