More than words

The last time I delved seriously into learning styles was during my PGCE course a few years back, but something popped up in a great course book exercise (see April post) recently that led me to donning my theoretical hat again and looking into the topic anew.

A little research revealed that Kinesthetic is the most prevalent style among adolescents and adults, with Auditory coming in second leaving Visual close behind. I have to admit to having been a little surprised by the closeness between the stats for each style and the fact that the gap between Visual and Auditory doesn’t present as larger, for adults especially. Surely adults learn through listening and doing much more than seeing or watching (as I myself do). Only marginally, it seems.

These rates in learning styles have given me cause for thought about how much visual input I include in lessons, or rather how far visual learning is accounted for in my planning. There are the glossy images from the course book pages, and the flash cards, or course, and then there’s the doodling on the board. What I have realized is that imagery is generally utilized either for the purpose of eliciting, or teaching specific vocabulary, or for stimulating speech.

I once drew a picture of a stag on the board after a discussion about marriage traditions (and the attendant pre-nuptial celebrations), and the instant recognition it enjoyed, (something that couldn’t be said for most of the drawings that find their way to my whiteboard) encouraged me to make use of the drawing in other circumstances, for example, a lesson segment on animal related idioms which led to animal body parts.

I have since read an interview with teacher trainer and author of Visual Grammar, Jim Scrivener, which has caused me to consider more possibilities for my stag, but more generally for visuals in the classroom. Scrivener explains that imagery can be more effective than text when trying to recall items of language, including grammar, that students may have previously studied. This would seem entirely sensible when we consider the way in which visual stimulation is harnessed to ‘draw out’ that which is already known or assumed in other contexts, like advertising. The classic timeline employed to give visual context to verb tenses would be a rudimentary example of Scrivener’s proposition, but the limits of imagery in a grammar – learning context is an area that seems ripe form exploration.

What do you make of all this? How much do you make of visual material in your teaching? How do you use it, and to what end?

Tristan Francis
Director of Studies

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