Thursday, 28 April 2011
I've been looking at learning styles - I'm not a teacher, never have been, never will be - but the concept of learning is fascinating to me and I've always enjoyed the opportunity to find out more about how people learn and how different people learn differently. When I was working in England, I was lucky enough to have an excellent training colleague (though from the very start, she was always a friend). And she was good. She is good. I know this because so many of the things we did together have really stayed in my head. And she is good because she recognises and delivers her training using a variety of methods that engage everyone in one way or another.
I am trying so hard to do the same with my students - whether it's the English learning Spanish or the Spanish learning English. I have a self-confessed 'kinesthetic' learner, with whom I go walking, shopping, to the market or to a bar for a drink as part of our Spanish lesson. It seems to be helping her.
And having always emerged on every occasion, as an 'activist' (Honey & Mumford - try this test); 'resource/investigator' or 'shaper' (Belbin Team Roles - more) - I have now discovered that I too am a Kinesthetic learner (Fleming's VAK/VARK test - here) - which isn't surprising.
On my trawl through the internet for information about different learning styles, I also found some fun material that I can use with some of my students. Things like light-hearted personality quizzes - things that will enable them to ask each other questions, formulate responses, practice speaking out loud and improve their vocabulary. And help to identify their learning styles.
As I've mentioned before in earlier posts, in the more personality-focused tests, I'm happy with my 'diagnosis' as an ENFP by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I know many people who are quite 'anti' these sorts of analyses and I raise the subject not to court controversy but to think at a personal level to understand a little better how my own personality and preferences influence my 'teaching' style. So, indulge me, it's my blog and this sort of navel-gazing - this extroverted peering at my own way of doing things - is helpful ... to me. Just writing this out is a learning process for me - I suspect I am so extroverted that at times I don't really know what I think until I open my mouth and hear the words! (Or write them down and read them. Do any other bloggers sometimes re-read an older post and think, gosh, did I write that!?)
Am I digressing....?
No. I realist that whilst I really want my students to learn, I want them to have fun whilst they're doing it - and this latter is equally important, I think, as the learning aspect. In my role at the language college, I have the luxury of focusing on fun. All the students have two classes of English a week, one focusing on grammar, writing and comprehension - which they take with Toni, who I suspect will take no-nonsense from any of them - and the other class is for conversation - which they take with me.
I will put up with quite a lot of nonsense - as long as it's in English!
With the younger ones, we sing a lot of songs - they love to sing, 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes'; 'One Finger, One Thumb, keep moving'; 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm' and so on - and I really enjoy singing with them. We also play 'Simon Says' and finding and touching different colours or textures. And we draw things and use colours - like 'a beautiful butterfly' or 'a big brown bear'. We make quite a lot of noise. Young children are mostly kinesthetic learners, I guess.
For the ages from about 9 up to 12 or so, we play word games like, 'I went to market' and 'Hangman' and sometimes we use a little juggling ball, passing from one to the other and thinking of connecting words. They really like my idea of getting them to draw things by giving verbal instructions - sometimes it's a monster with three heads, a hairy tummy button, spiky hair, claws, a long neck...etc. and they love creating a different monster each and comparing them - and this helps them to learn more vocabulary and demonstrate that they know what the words mean.
For the older ones, I do need to help prepare them for their exams, the format of which follows a set pattern - speaking about themselves, their families, their interests and talking about photographs for a full minute and also holding a joint conversation with another student. And this practice can get a bit repetative, hence my search for new and different methods to engage each student in their own particular learning style. I suspect that this is not something they will have covered at school - it's possibly a little bit out of the 'lesson-shaped' box that the Spanish curriculum follows. We'll see - at least I will have fun administering the quizzes!
I couldn't resist having a go at a few of the personality tests that I found (activist, kinesthetic ENFP that I am!) and quite liked doing the one that gave me a colour-coded output - called a PersonalDNA because of the stripey bar it creates. Lots of different ways to answer the questions, that's what caught my interest.
(So now I know I am a 'Benevolant Creator' as well as a Butterfly. Of course. That'll do for me - and it's so lovely and cheerful.)
If you fancy having a go - it takes about 20 minutes - this is the link to the website.
And whatever your style, keep on learning!!