Sunday, December 03, 2006

Learning Styles for German Study

In a continued effort to understand what makes my kids ‘tick’, I have been reading a lot lately about learning styles, and consequently thinking about how it can be applied to expanding a child’s knowledge of German.

I seem to be mainly an auditory-verbal learner which explains why I found German so easy in college – I just listened to the lecture, read the textbooks and learned the rules. I always wondered why everyone said German was so difficult. I loved learning all the rules and their exceptions! My learning style is well-geared toward traditional methods of school instruction.

Fast forward to my efforts to homeschool my older son, NJ, now 6, and my verbal style is frustrating us both immensely. He is more of a visual-spatial learner and is much more interested in the big picture rather than the small details. He’s extremely creative and is constantly constructing things with his hands. The kid even learned to knit last week! (Yes, I am very proud!) Pesky details, however, are not of much interest to him and he needs to keep moving to learn. No sitting still and listening for this boy! Now that I understood this, our lessons are becoming more effective and productive.

Some ideas geared toward these two learning styles that you can use with your German study:

Auditory/verbal learners
lots of books
Listening to music and audiobooks
For older children, a discussion of the grammar – they may enjoy learning the origins of words and expanding their vocabulary

Visual/spatial learners
– where is Germany on the map – what path did we take when we flew their last time? We love to keep maps handy (map placemats are great) and frequently refer to them when a place is mentioned.
Puzzles – most visual/spatial learners love puzzles. Cut their workbook pages into jigsaw puzzle pieces and they may retain the information easily.
Allow them to draw a picture or model with clay while listening to a story auf Deutsch. When my son’s hands are busy, he’s able to concentrate so much better. And later on you can refer to the picture and ask the child to narrate back the story you told.
Incorporate role-playing into your work. Act out a story using action figures. You can really emphasize the verbs this way. Kids will remember the vocabulary as they visualize what the characters did.
Ask them to visualize. Write vocabulary words in color, ask them to close their eyes and write the word in the air. Ask them to see the word in their mind. If they can visualize it, they will remember it.
Have them build models or dioramas and label the parts in German.
Show them how lessons apply to their everyday lives. Visual/spatial learners need to see the big picture. Encourage them to write to other German-speakers, plan a pretend trip to Germany (where will you go, what will you do, what language might you need to use to get around, etc.)

Coming soonideas for tactile/kinesthetic learners.

For more information on learning styles, see this great series at Montessori for Everyone.

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