Do you know what your personal learning style is?
Did you know that most teachers tend to teach in the style that they personally learn through best?
If you have always learned Spanish best through visual aids and making mental images, you are more likely to teach Spanish using visually stimulating materials.
For visual students, your class will be a dream—but your kinesthetic and auditory learners might be feeling a little left out.
What teacher doesn’t want a fully engaged class?
Making room for all the learning styles in your classroom and taking a multisensory approach in your planning can take an average lesson and make it spectacular.
What Are the Learning Styles?
Humans learn in many ways and respond to a variety of teaching methods. No one has just one way of learning, but each person has a different combination of preferences in regards to the way they receive and process information best. While there are many theories on the learning styles and various beliefs on how many styles there are, the general consensus is that there are three primary learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile.
- Visual: These students learn best by seeing the written word and pictures. They take in new information through their eyes and process best when instructions or explanations are given in written form or through pictures and/or a video. They often learn through reading and making mental images about the information they have received. In terms of language, they require seeing new vocabulary, concepts and structure.
- Auditory: These students learn best by hearing and listening. They take in new information through their ears and process best when instructions or explanations are given verbally. They often learn through speaking and repeating what was heard. In terms of language, they require hearing about new vocabulary, concepts and structure.
- Kinesthetic/tactile: These students learn best through movement and touch. They take in new information through their hands or through body movements and process best when instructions and explanations are experienced. They often learn through doing and using manipulatives to internalize new information. In terms of language, they require experiencing new vocabulary, concepts and structure.
The Importance of the Learning Styles in Spanish Education
As Spanish teachers, we are all looking for ways to boost student retention of vocabulary, concepts and structure. One of the most frustrating things as a teacher is feeling like you planned a great lesson, only to have the class end with only a portion of the students truly understanding your topic. Now you will have to reteach the topic (which is inevitable/necessary at times), but you may feel like the students who initially understood are bored, while others have already deemed the topic confusing and don’t want to put forth much effort.
One way to avoid this from the get-go is to always plan your lessons with elements that reach every learning style. Having a plan always helps a teacher feel more confident, but having a plan that practically reaches each learner will leave a teacher feeling assured that they did everything they could to engage every student.
Many studies have shown that students who learn according to their learning styles are more likely to show an increase in comprehension and motivation, as well as a boost in confidence in relation to subject matter.
What does this mean?
Spanish will suddenly turn into a subject that each student feels is attainable and—dare I say it—fun.
The visual learners’ neurons will be firing from all the word-picture associations, the auditory learners’ ears will be tickled and record what they have learned and the kinesthetic learners’ brains will retain physically internalized information.
Implementing the Learning Styles in the Classroom
While it may take a little extra thought at first, once you implement the learning styles on a daily basis, it will become a common practice that requires little planning effort. I would advise teachers to take the following steps for transitioning to a learning-style-oriented classroom:
- Have students take this learning style test so that both you and they can know their personal preferences. When a specific student is struggling, it will help to know how that student best processes information.
- On your lesson plan template, include a spot that simply lists what part of the lesson will engage each type of learner. Having the styles written on your template will remind you to include something for all learners.
- Evaluate yourself! After a few weeks of teaching to the learning styles, ask yourself if you have noticed improvement in your planning, lessons and students. It should be easy to assess whether students have shown more interest in class and if they are retaining more information.
21 Multisensory Classroom Ideas for Spanish Teachers
Ideas for Reaching Visual Learners
1. Have students create visually stimulating flashcards.
Flashcards are extremely helpful for visual students because they encourage word association. Rather than just putting the words on the cards, however, have students draw pictures to illustrate terms and create a concrete association. Another option would be to use an online flashcard tool. Most of these sites are free and students can create their own set of flashcards, play games with their vocabulary and share with fellow students.
2. Have students create their own videos.
There are many great resources for online Spanish videos that students can use to learn and brainstorm ideas.
You can find videos on virtually any topic with FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons that appeal to all styles of learners.
After watching videos on their topic, break students up into small groups and have them create their own videos. Students can create clips explaining a difficult concept, come up with a skit to practice a short dialogue or create “how-to” videos about completing a task in Spanish. Not only will the visual learners see their video, but the auditory learners will hear it, and the kinesthetic learners will get moving to create it!
3. Use art to teach language!
Get students drawing, painting and creating to make concepts more concrete. Find comics, cartoons, photos and posters to illustrate difficult concepts and help with student retention. These materials help visual learners to create a mental picture. Implementing art into a language learning setting is fun and extremely effective.
4. Color code concepts.
Simple, but so effective. When teaching sentence structure, always use the same color for each noun, a different color for the verb, and so on. This will stick with your visual students and you will probably notice them mimicking your method.
5. Use graphic organizers.
We all pretty much love these babies. They organize information into a concise picture that makes language learning a bit clearer.
6. Cut up old Spanish magazines.
Have students work on sentence structure by cutting out separate words and then gluing them on a separate sheet of paper to build a sentence or phrase. This is especially helpful when working on parts of speech as the students will be actively searching for verbs, nouns, prepositions, etc. Another idea would be to cut out pictures and then have students write sentences to comment on what is happening in each picture.
7. Have students take notes and use highlighters, colored pens, stickers, etc. to detail their notes.
Writing down what they learn and rereading it is essential for visual learners.
Ideas for Reaching Auditory Learners
8. Incorporate songs.
It’s no secret that songs are extremely helpful in language learning. Use songs to jog those auditory learners’ memories. Incorporate some fun preschool songs or find some more advanced ways to incorporate song in the classroom.
9. Have students create their own songs.
For example, have your students make up a rap, cheer or chant using Spanish vocabulary or lyrics to a song explaining a new concept.
10. Incorporate reading out loud.
Have students read stories aloud or spell new words out loud for improved recall.
11. Get students talking!
Pair off students and allow them to speak to each other in Spanish about a topic. Encourage them to not worry about mistakes, but to learn from them. Give them lists of words they can try to incorporate into conversations.
12. Allow and encourage students to use tape recorders in class.
Students can record you speaking when you are giving an explanation so that they can go back and listen to the directions later. They may also want to record you giving the correct pronunciation of new vocabulary in order to practice pronunciation at home. Some auditory students also benefit from hearing themselves speak. When they listen to themselves, they may identify any errors and auto-correct themselves in the process.
13. Allow students to teach small portions of the class.
This can get auditory learners speaking and also get kinesthetic learners out of their seats and into the action.
14. Use tech that makes noise.
Ideas for Reaching Kinesthetic Learners
15. Re-build sentences.
To work on sentence structure, cut up sentences into separate words and have students piece them back together (you could use magazines, as in the visual learning activity above). Actively touching the words and moving them around will help students experience building a sentence.
16. Act out words or sentences.
Charades is always fun and always gets students laughing. Splitting the class into teams and having them act out new vocabulary lets them blow off a little steam and makes abstract words more concrete.
17. Get active with games!
Turning learning into a game is a sure way to ensure student retention. For example, turn the game Twister into vocabulary practice for parts of the body, colors and following directions. Or allow students to play Bananagrams or Scrabble in Spanish to foster word generation. Another idea to get students up and moving around is to create a scavenger hunt by giving them a list of objects in Spanish that they must identify around the classroom. Anything that gets students out of their seats and moving is going to aid in kinesthetic learning.
19. Spell out new vocabulary with magnetic letters in sand or in gel.
While this is usually used for younger students, I have seen older students really benefit from it as well (especially students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia).
20. Create learning stations in your classroom.
Most elementary teachers know the benefits of stations, but stations can be a great learning tool with older grades as well. All you need to do is split your class into several stations to explore a certain topic. Split your class time into periods and give the students a set amount of time at each station.
For example, let’s say your lesson topic is ser vs. estar:
- One station could have students reading a short dialogue and highlighting each instance either word was used and discussing why it was used.
- Your second station could have students creating a graphic organizer about the differences between ser and estar.
- Your third station could have students watching a short video of native speakers using ser and estar.
- Your fourth station could ask students to create a dialogue with a partner using ser and estar.
Now students have experienced your lesson in four different ways and are more likely to take their learning with them!
21. Have students describe and act out everyday activities.
For example, letting students act out tying their shoe or putting on their clothes while describing what they are doing gets them moving and speaking.
Now go try it!
Not only will student retention improve, but class will be more interesting and engaging.
You will be surprised at how quickly class will fly by both for yourself and for your students as your audience is kept captive by stimulating their various learning preferences.
When everyone is learning, everyone wins.
Tricia Wegman Contreras has spent the last seven years in Costa Rica working as a bilingual Learning Specialist with students of all ages. She enjoys using her background as an Intervention Specialist to help all types of language learners succeed.
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