How to Teach
English For Different Learning Styles
come into class to teach a lesson on the simple present tense, or maybe
it's a vocabulary lesson or conversation practice. You follow your
textbook and give great examples to illustrate your points and have
plenty of practice worksheets – but no matter what you do there are
always two or three students who just don't get it. What is going
wrong? Why aren't you getting through?
The answer may well lie in your students' learning styles.
styles have been studied for decades and there are several models that
have been proposed by various researchers. While the finer distinctions
are still debated, most authorities in the field generally agree upon
four basic learning styles: auditory learners, visual learners,
kinesthetic learners, and tactile learners. There is a great deal of
overlap between the kinesthetic and tactile learning styles, and they
will be treated together here.
a teacher, what do learning styles mean for you? First of all, you need
to find your main teaching style. Whether you lecture or do role-plays
or worksheets, you need to figure out your own style so that you can
supplement it to fit your students' learning styles.
Of course, in order to supplement you need materials and activities.
You need flexibility and ideally you want to add some fun. That is
where English games come in.
The variety of games, as well as their integration of different ways of
learning makes them the perfect supplements for you your usual teaching
who get a lot out of lectures, verbal explanations, tapes and oral
instruction are generally classed as auditory learners. Language games
for this type of learner are mainly listening based. They include games
that involve repetition, dictation, and listening for clues.
– These games are any games that involve students repeating language
they have had demonstrated or written down for them. Chinese Whispers,
Jazz Chants, and Karaoke Night are good examples of these kinds of
games. Karaoke Night is an especially good game in Japan, where most
students will be used to the idea of singing for workmates. It's not
unusual to have a student ask you for help with preparing a song in
English for a business party.
you are you teach adults who are more conservative, use a variation of
Jazz Chants with a short rhythmic dialog and a metronome, or hand
clapping, and emphasize the fluency practice. You might also teach a
lesson on the history of jazz in the United States. That kind of lesson
works very well in classes where students are studying English as a
hobby, or for travel.
– EFL Students studying English in their own country often express
concern that they can understand their teacher but not other native
speakers. In the language classroom you can practice listening by using
tapes or videos with short dialogs for listening games like Vocabulary
Scavenger Hunt, which involves trying to locate the necessary
vocabulary words on multiple tapes at different listening
are also Cloze Passages where the students listen to a prepared tape
while reading a transcription and filling in any blanks with words they
have just heard, and Jigsaw Listening. Jigsaw listening is also an
excellent team building game, as the teams send representatives to
different listening stations, and then try to reconstruct the story
when all the listeners have returned to the team. These kinds of games
also help students learn how to make use of TV and radio broadcasts in
English to practice on their own.
Quiz and story building
games – Quiz games like Jeopardy, grammar knockout type
games and listening memory games are great for auditory learners of any
level, since you can go from basic questions like spelling and
definitions, to more challenging ones like asking for a word to be used
in a sentence, explanation of grammar rules, or cultural
set of games to teach auditory learners are story and sentence building
games like Madlibs, either the store bought variety, or homemade, where
the students fill in words to make funny and nonsensical stories. These
types of games require excellent listening skills as the student keeps
track of what will be required in the next turn, plus they usually end
with a verbal recap of the finished story or sentence allowing students
to check their understanding.
these games are included in the English
Language Games Digital Book for adults, a gold mine of games
activities for teens and adults!
learners prefer to read silently and make good use of any illustrations
that go with the text. They will generally prefer you to teach with
written instructions and will benefit from you acting out situations,
watching a demonstration or presenting scenarios in videos. If you have
a student who seems to retain what they read better than what they hear
then that student is a perfect example of someone who prefers visual
learning. There are many readily available language games that work
with this kind of student, as well as helping non-visual learners make
the most of visual cues that can help them with learning and using
– There are plenty of commercial board games that can be used in the
classroom, but you can also make your own. "Folder games" involve
making a game board, often based on commercial boards, and using them
to practice grammar, vocabulary, phonics, and spelling. The boards can
be laminated onto a manila folder and then the pieces and cards needed
for the game stuck in a baggie stapled to the inside. Grammatical
Chutes and Ladders, Parts of Speech Path Finding (based on the Candy
Land Board), and A Day in the Life (based on the game Life) where
students participate in mini-role-plays generated by the roll of the
die and scenario cards are all fun to play. The boards should not be
decorated in a childish way, since that will turn off your adult
students, but they can still be colorful.
– These games include anything played with pictures as their main
starting point. Playing games with picture flashcards, or adapting
Jeopardy to use picture prompts is one example. Another one that is a
lot of fun with advanced students is picture captioning or comic strip
re-writes. If you use comics from different countries, you can get into
some very sophisticated discussions about what constitutes humor in
different countries. Many students get to a certain level of advanced
English, and then plateau. One reason for this is that they have a
difficult time taking their English outside of academic or basic
survival situations. Studying humor through these visual games can help
to bridge that gap.
– Reading is an essential skill for all students and will work
especially well with visual learners. Language games like Reading
Treasure Hunts with color-coded pencils, where the students look for
particular parts of speech or vocabulary, teaches skimming as well as
reviewing grammar and/or vocabulary. Ten Important Sentences with
Watermelon, where teams send a representative to put sentences in
order, helps with summarizing, working under pressure, and team
building. This game has the added bonus of fitting tactile learners as
these games are included in the English
Language Games Digital Book for adults with 175 games and
activities with printable appendix of ready-made accessories!
Tactile and Kinesthetic Learners
and Kinesthetic learners are often the students who just don't get what
you're trying to teach in a traditional lecture or worksheet based
lesson. Kinesthetic learners take in information best when they use
their whole bodies to complete practice exercises. Tactile learners are
also physical learners, but they are more likely to learn things form
model building and hands on instruction.
there was a study done in the late 1980s (Reid, 1987) that found the
self-reported preference among English Language Learners for language
lessons was Tactile/Kinesthetic by a wide margin. This just goes to
show how important it is to try and integrate more physical and
experiential elements into our English lessons.
makes a game kinesthetic or tactile? Look for games that involve whole
body responses, or have the students touching and moving things around
as part of the game activity. Games with these elements are associating
physical activity and touch with specific meanings. They can be divided
into three broad groups: Touch Games, Spatial Games, and Craft Games.
– The most common games involving touch are those based around having
real items inside a bag, so that students have to touch the items and
then perform certain tasks. These tasks are what differentiate the
level of difficulty. The easiest version simply has students identify
the objects that they touch in the bag. This is often a vocabulary
game. To make it more difficult, the students have to describe what
they are feeling, while the rest of the class tries to guess what it is.
– These games involve rearranging items or people and can be both
kinesthetic and tactile. They include traditional games like charades
and less traditional games, like Population Punctuation, where all but
one person in class has a card with words or punctuation on it and the
one person who is 'it' tries to arrange the people at the front of the
class so that the cards make a correctly punctuated sentence using as
many people as possible.
– Any game where the students have to actually assemble something, like
Lego Negotiations where students have to negotiate with other teams for
certain pieces to create their Lego creature according to the
directions they've been given. This can be done with home made tangrams
if you don't have access to Legos. Map drawing is another good example,
and it can also combine elements of auditory learning since the teacher
will tell the students what to draw on their map.
Language games are the single easiest way to address different learning
styles in the classroom. By putting students at ease, and stimulating
their senses, you create a wealth of learning opportunities. These
opportunities aren't just for learning language, but also for
broadening the students' learning styles to include those that aren't
the first choice.
paying attention to learning styles solve all your classroom problems?
No, of course not. But using games to diversify your teaching style
will allow you to reach more of your students more effectively than
ever before. It will cut down on boredom as it increases student
interest, and it will give students essential practice in integrating
different learning styles into their own style. Students will be doing
more than just expanding their English when they play games. They will
be expanding their minds.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shelley Vernon promotes learning through English language games and
activities. Go to: 175
Games and Activities for Teens and Adults