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.

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