Incorporating Different Learning Styles in EFL

Do you learn by doing, hearing, seeing or smelling? Okay, I’m kidding on the last one, though it might make an interesting lesson.

It makes sense that taking into account different learning styles can help students learn more. The “main” three (in my opinion, perhaps meaning the easiest to conceptualize, describe, and incorporate in class) are visual, audio, and kinaesthetic, depending on which system you go by, others range from “nature-based” to “musical” and “linguistic”.

  • Visual
  • Most traditional learning methods suit visual learners well – these learners remember more easily and learn “better” when they see words (or whatever the target “knowledge” is). Lots of learners really want to see a word written before they say it – though because English is not phonetic and the spelling is often misleading as to how you pronounce a word, it makes sense to try to get them to pronounce it first if this situation comes up. Aside from continuing to use visual aids – which could range from your own stick figure illustrations to photos – in class, something as simple as using a variety of colors on the whiteboard or using activities which require students to identify or match words they see can help as well.

  • Audio
  • This learning style might be a bit harder to adapt to, but make sure there is a “hearable” portion to learning new words, not just a visual one, and don’t skip listening activities! Music and pronunciation exercises may suit these learners well also. Instead of matching words they see, audio learners would presumably remember more if they match words they hear.

  • Kinaesthetic
  • In contrast to the above styles, kinaesthetic learners tend to learn from movement, or perhaps more generally – learn by “doing.” This is probably my personal favorite learning style to focus on – maybe I am a kinaesthetic learner. Physical activities or competitions can be good for kinaesthetic learners, but even something as simple as giving students words on slips of paper and asking them to match or divide them into categories may bring a kinaesthetic element to the lesson. This – matching words or sentence halves instead of working from the book – can simply be more practical at times as well.

For more on learning styles, and to take a quiz to determine your own, check out learning styles