Saturday, April 30, 2011

Learning Styles 3

This is the final post in this series.  After Builder, I have 2 more kids to go, but since they are a three year old and a 4 month old, it's hard to determine their learning style!  Actually, I'm finding it difficult to determine Builder's style.  I'm mostly sure he's a 'hands on" kinda guy, but really, aren't most boys in 1st grade "hands on"?  I know as a classroom teacher, at this age and into second grade, I taught most things using some form of hands on work in the beginning.  Children at this age need something concrete in order to grasp concepts, especially in subjects like math. 
That being said, Builder really is sort of an "extreme kinesthetic learner".  He's always working on something with his hands, building with Legos or just taking "stuff" he finds around the house and coming up with new inventions for it.  He's very creative and when I stop what I am doing to listen while he describes his newest invention or idea for an invention, I'm quite amazed at what he comes up with.  He's a bit of a dreamer so logic isn't always involved in these inventions, but none the less his creativity never ceases to amaze me.  I'm not sure he will always be so kinesthetic, but for now, he certainly fits in that category.

Disposition: Thinks / Creates, Invents (!)
Modality: Global
Style: Kinesthetic
Other: Very creative, sensitive to other's feelings, needs lots of activity

I see some of Builder in the descriptions of both the Thinks/Creates disposition and the Invents disposition.
Taking the two descriptions from Discover Your Child's Learning Style, this is what I come up with for Builder:
Creates mental images, idea oriented, preoccupied, imaginative, daydreams, questions, wonders, doodles, articulate with hands, invention oriented, concrete thinker, experiments, "hands on", technical, discovers, focused.

Regarding curriculum for a child like Builder, the first thing one might think of is a need for manipulatives.  At least that was my first thought.  But can you see where manipulatives might be a problem for Builder?  True, there are math concepts that are more easily understood when the child can "feel" it in solid form so they are necessary at times.  But Builder does not do well when manipulatives are available all the time.  The problem is that instead of using the manipulatives to help him learn the math concept, he becomes so distracted with what he can build with them that he loses focus on what he is supposed to be learning!  I've found that some work better than others.  For example, when teaching Builder to add early on I had a choice between using an abacus or linking cubes.  The abacus worked well.  There were beads that he could slide over to add, or slide the other way to subtract.  The linking cubes were not a good choice.  Every time I looked away he would start building a gun, a cityscape, a house ... whatever popped into his mind.  Add or subtract?  What was that?  So the abacus was and still is the math manipulative of choice.

So, with that in mind, here's what I'm using for Builder in First Grade-

Religion  -
Lap books work well!  We are currently working on the Confession Faith Folder from  Lapbooks for Catholics.  Builder still has to focus on the lesson, but I actually let him do some of the cutting and folding while I read or talk to him about the day's concept.  He is better able to attend when he is doing something with his hands.  This was hard for me to get used to at first because I thought his fidgeting was a sign that he was not paying attention.  I was wrong and in fact, it is more distracting for Builder to be still then to build something while he's listening to a book being read or instruction being given.
Builder also enjoys drawing so he will sometimes draw while I read to him from the Baltimore Catechism or stories of the saints.   He really enjoys learning about the saints and will readily narrate back to me what he has learned.  The Once Upon a Time Saints books are our favorite for first grade.  Builder's memorization skills aren't too great so he struggles with the Baltimore Catechism memorization.  I'd love to hear suggestions that might help with that.  It's important though, so we keep plugging away at it. 
I have yet to get out our Mass Kit to use with Builder but I think it is about time I did.  We have the one from Our Father's House and it is quite beautiful.  At first, Builder didn't seem mature enough and I didn't want him to use the materials improperly.  I think now he is ready though, and I'm sure they will appeal to his hands on style of learning.  This Mass kit will help him to understand the Mass, which will be especially important next year as he receives the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation.

Math -
Builder does well with Abeka Arithmetic for the same reasons Jetter does.  The lessons are short and to the point, the pages are colorful and inviting and the workbook style allows him to write directly into the book.  I do have to pull out manipulatives on occasion, as I described above, but they are not the core of the program. 

Language Arts -
Learning to read has been a struggle for Builder, but that has been the case for all the boys in this family, so far.  By 4th grade it has all clicked though and they do fine.  I'm hoping that Builder catches on a little sooner, but I'm not too worried about it.    Here again, manipulatives, when used a certain way, can be helpful.  I use All About Spelling for both spelling and phonics instruction.  All about Spelling has these wonderful letter tiles that I have attached magnets to the back of.  They are arranged in alphabetical order along the top of a dry erase board.  Builder can slide the tiles back and forth to "build" words.  It sometimes works well.  But, once again, here we have all these wonderful tiles that he can slide around!  I've found it  works better to transfer some of the tiles to a cookie sheet (I actually use this, but a plain cookie sheet would work too!) so he is limited in his choices.
Another thing that is working well for Builder is the Simply Charlotte Mason method of teaching reading.
In this method, sight words and phonics are combined.  I tweek it a bit and use the All About Spelling program for the phonics portion.  But the sight word part, described at this link, works really well for Builder.  He likes the idea of putting the words he has learned on cards and then building sentences with them.

Writing -
Handwriting Without Tears was the first program I used for Builder.  He loved the early stages when the children use wooden manipulatives to build the letters.  (Surprise, surprise!)  I was already using this program for Jetter and continued it for Builder.  Now that Builder is in first grade and knows the formation of the letters, I'm not sure he really needs it anymore.  I am now using a more traditional ball and stick font for him.   Neatness is always an issue since he wants to rush through and just get it done, but he physically, he is able to write well.  I simple use the Startwrite Software I have to create copy work sheets for Builder to use to practice his handwriting.

Science -
Science is all about experiments this year.  I'm using the kits from the Magic School Bus, along with the DVD's and Builder really enjoys it.  We also still incorporate a lot of nature study and that is very hands on!

History -
Since Builder is only in first grade I am not using a formal history program for him.  I'm allowing Builder's interests to dictate what we learn about.  Right now, he is very interested in ancient history.  We have many books on our shelves about ancient history so there are plenty of resources.  We go on line as well.  Here is a neat site I recently found with lots of hands on activities for the various historical time periods.  This has become one of Builder's favorite sites.

That wraps it up for Builder.  Now it's time to start planning for next year!  Actually, I've already started that process. :)  The posts in this series have helped me as I continue to plan.  I'm reminded of my children's strengths and the areas they need to work on.  I think that finishing a year with a recap of what they have been doing has been very beneficial in helping me to plan for the coming year.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Learning Styles 2

My intention, while writing the first post about learning styles was to quickly jump into this second post about Jetter and Builder, but because their learning styles are different from the first two, and they are very different from each other, I've gotten bogged down in details.  I will try to simplify a bit more here, while still being thorough.

Going with the same format at that first post but trying to simplify significantly, we move on to Jetter.

Disposition: Thinks / Creates  (A bit of an "Inventor")
Modality: Visual Spatial Learner
Style: Global
Other: Introverted, excellent visual memory, ADHD tendencies, needs routine

A description of the Thinks / Creates disposition, according to Discover Your Child's Learning Style, is "Creates mental images, thinks in abstractions, enjoys being alone, open to new ideas, idea oriented, preoccupied, imaginative, daydreams, questions, wonders, doodles."  Yep, that's Jetter!  I could also put him in the "Inventor" disposition for some things.

Jetter is a  strong VSL - Visual Spatial Learner.  I find that he is a delight to teach, but I admit VSL learners do create challenges for teachers in schools.  Some articles that will help you to understand a VSL are listed below.  For Jetter, I will just try to summarize by saying academically, he does well with diagrams, maps, word mapping activities, sketch narrations and organizing by color.  He is great at math concepts.  Learning to read was a terrible struggle, but now that he is reading comfortably, he really enjoys it.  He does not do well with curricula that are random.  He needs things to be very organized for him because he doesn't do so great with organizing them himself.  It would take pages for me to describe in detail the strengths and struggles that Jetter has in regards to learning.  Instead I will refer you to these very informative links:
Visual Spatial Learners - Gifted Development
Helping the VSL - Harmony Art Mom Blog
I Think in Pictures, You Teach in Words
Soaring in School

Curriculum and learning strategies that work well for Jetter are as follows:

Religion - Bible History, Saint Studies and Catechism.
  • Bible History - I read this text to Jetter and while I read, or after I've read, Jetter draws what I call a picture narration.  We compile these into a notebook.  They are delightful to look at because Jetter is such a detailed drawer.  This is one of our favorite things to do together.
  • Holy Traders Activity Kit - I purchased this for Jetter thinking the short concise biographies of the saints that are found on the cards and in the book would be appealing.  I also thought he would enjoy collecting the cards.  I was right about collecting the cards!  The book that comes with the cards has the information from the cards as well as some fill in the blank questions below.  Unfortunately, Jetter just likes to fill in the blanks without really reading the whole page of information so he is not gaining as much as I thought.  Next year we will probably go back to reading biographies of the saints in book format.
  • St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism 1 While memorizing the Catechism questions has been a real struggle for Jetter, we have enjoyed the simplicity of the first two St. Joseph Catechism books.  The pictures are excellent.  If I had to do it over, I would have Jetter copy the picture for each lesson, as best as he could, into a notebook and have him narrate the concepts for that lesson.  The pictures are wonderful at helping him to remember the concepts.  I find that there is great depth in them, even in the first and most beloved book that we started with in first grade.
Math - Abeka Arithmetic 4 Normally in 4th grade we switch to Saxon Math.  However, Jetter does so well with Abeka I had him continue for another year.  Abeka uses a spiral approach like Saxon.  The benefits for Jetter are that he can continue to write in the workbook as apposed to transferring his answers to paper, Abeka is challenging which keeps him from getting bored, and the lesson explanations are very short.  I noticed, at least up until the 4th level, that the explanations use fewer words than Saxon, and are more visual.  This appeals to Jetter and he is able to grasp the concepts quickly.

Language Arts
  • English/Grammar -Currently we are working through Abeka's Lanuage A.  Like the math program from Abeka, the lessons are short and explained very briefly.  The books have a variety of activities and incorporate some color. 
  •  Spelling - All About Spelling is a good program for VSLs. The tiles make it possible for the child to concentrate on the spelling concept not on the formation of the letters. The review cards are simple and colorful, also appealing to a VSL. It is rather mom-intensive so I am thinking of ways for Jetter to use it more independently.
  • Latin/ English Roots - We are using English From the Roots Up as an introduction to Latin as well as English vocabulary.  This program works well because I am also incorporating the Greek and Latin Notebooking Pages from 4RPress
History - We've done several things for history this year.  We started with the text, Pioneers and Patriots and added in some additional reading according to the MODG syllabus.  I decided Jetter needed a visual, so when we were studying the Revolutionary War we watched the Liberty Kids DVD's, which all my children enjoyed.  This worked out okay, but I don't feel the Jetter really learned as much about that time period as the other kids had.  Now we're into the Civil War period and, once again looking for a visual resource, I ordered History Pockets Civil War.  What a hit!  I highly recommend this resource for visual and kinesthetic learners.  It sort of has the flavor of a lap book but  the student doesn't make all the small booklets.  While Builder really enjoys lapbooks, all the cutting and pasting is really too much for Jetter.  He gets lost in the process and the content gets overlooked.  History Pockets is kind of the best of both worlds, in my opinion.

Science - Science didn't go as well has I had hoped this year.  Jetter is still very interested in astronomy but the Apologia text we are using is moving too slowly for him.  It's a very informative text but I'm afraid it's almost too much.  Jetter is getting bogged down in details.  We'll be looking for something different for next year.   In years past, I really incorporated a lot of our science studies into our nature hikes.  It was sort of an immersion approach since the kids were in the midst of what they were studying.  I'm not sure of another way to describe it, but it works!  It's hard to really immerse a kid into astronomy!

Handwriting - Jetter has been using Handwriting Without Tears since his kindergarten year.  What a blessing this resource has been for us.  We went from "wailing and gnashing of teeth" to an "oh, I CAN do this" attitude.  Jetter's struggles with handwriting are hard to explain.  One day, his penmanship is beautiful, whether it is cursive or print.  The next day, or maybe even the next hour, it is barely legible.  I honestly don't believe this is a discipline issue.  He truly wants his handwriting to look nice and works hard at it. 
Handwriting Without Tears has helped him to make huge strides. 
That being said, I think it is time to move away from the HWOT books.  Lately, instead of having Jetter do the workbook pages, I have been making my own copywork pages for him using Startwrite.  Startwrite is a program that allows me to make my own handwriting or copywork sheets using any font I want, including the HWOT font.

Geography - This is one of Jetter's favorite subjects.  He's memorizing the states and capitals, and the location of each of the states.  His favorite part though is drawing the states and creating a geography notebook.  For each state, he uses an outline map, either from Uncle Josh's Outline Map book or from the Dover United States coloring book to draw the map and add the important details.  He really enjoys using the Dover coloring book because it includes drawings of the state bird, state flower, and several other details.  He enjoys drawing these things onto his maps.  Jetter has a great visual memory and from this exercise he can usually tell you the name of a state simply by looking at it's outline.  I find that states like Florida and Michigan are quite easy to distinguish but South Dakota and some of the other, boxier states are confusing for me!

Well there you have it for Jetter.  Once again a much longer post than I had hoped!  The final post in this series will be about my totally hands on learner, Builder.