Understanding Different Learning Styles (Volunteer Training Nugget #2)

Wayne Stocks —  February 16, 2011

Volunteer Training Nuggets 300If you work in children’s ministry, your ultimate goal is to teach kids about Christ and help to point them to him.  In order to do this, it is important to understand the different ways that kids learn.  In general, kids can be classified as one of three types of learners:

  1. Auditory
  2. Visual
  3. Kinesthetic

In order to reach the kids you are leading, it is important that you plan your lesson to reach kids in all three groups.  So, let’s take just a minute to define each type then we will look at some tips for reaching kids which each type of learning style.

Definition of Learning Styles

  • Auditory Learners are kids who learn best by listening to the spoken word.  This type of learner makes up about 30% of the general population.
  • Visual Learners are those kids who learn best by what they see.  This represents about 60% of the general population.
  • Kinesthetic Learners learn by doing.  They are, what you would call, hands on learners.  They represent only 10% of the general population.

While kids will tend towards one of these three styles, that does not mean that they can not learn from the other styles.  A child’s primary learning style simply represents the way that they learn best.

Teaching Tips for Each Learning Style

Auditory Learners

The kids want to listen to the lesson.  Many educational models are built explicitly for this type of learner.  If you stand in front of this group and just recite you lesson, they are likely to retain it.  Hearing for these learners is not limited to the teacher.  They also learn from listening to other students.  Encourage conversation in small groups.  Let kids answer each others questions with assistance from a leader where needed.  These children will process information verbally as well.  Leave plenty of time in your lesson for them to ask questions and give feedback.  This will help to solidify the lesson in their minds.  Have these kids repeat things back to you.  Listening to you, then listening to themselves repeat it back to you, will help to solidify what you have been teaching.  These types of learners enjoy music, and they can often learn something by setting it to music.  Take advantage of this in your lesson.  Set memory verses or significant biblical principals to music to help kids remember them.  Find a books of the bible song to help them memorize those.  Engage these children in conversation and give them plenty of opportunities to share their own thoughts and stories.

Visual Learners

These learners will learn best from things that they see.  That doesn’t always mean videos and skits though.  They also learn well from the written word.  Have kids pull out their Bibles and find a verse that you are teaching that weekend.  Seeing the verse in written form will help them to learn it better.  These students think in terms of pictures.  When you are telling a story from the Bible, paint a visual picture for this type of learner.  These learners will also be interested in things like facial expressions, so make sure you don’t neglect that aspect of your teaching.  In addition to videos and skits, which this group will find helpful, incorporate pictures into your lessons.  Things like maps and visual timelines will also appeal to this group.  Also, try to phrase questions which engage this type of learner.  For example, “When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua and told him to march around Jericho for a week, what do you think his facial expression would have been?”  Find ways to help visual learners process your lesson in terms of pictures and they will retain it much better.

Kinesthetic Learners

This group learns by doing.  Isn’t that all kids, you ask?  Well, they do have a certain amount of energy Smile, but this group really learns best by active hands on approaches.  They like to touch things and experiment.

The Biblical Basis for Teaching to All Three Groups

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is a very popular verse in children’s ministry circles.  Interestingly, we can see God addressing all three types of learners in these verses.  Have a look:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” [Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV]

God’s plan for passing truth from generation to generation involves something for all three types of learners:

  • Auditory – “talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
  • Visual – “write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
  • Kinesthetic – “bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

Reaching all three types of learners is a biblical concept, and we should strive to do the same.

Wayne Stocks

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Wayne is married to a wonderful woman and has four kids whom God uses to teach him on an almost daily basis. He is blessed to volunteer in a wonderful children's ministry at New Life Church Gahanna. He established Kidmin1124 for those who give their time to kids and feel passionately about children's ministry. When he isn't working on Kidmin1124, he maintains another blog at WayneStocks.com and contributes articles on a regular basis to Ministry-to-Children.com.

6 responses to Understanding Different Learning Styles (Volunteer Training Nugget #2)

  1. I am always fascinated by the different learning styles. It is challenging and fun at the same time to come up with various ways in which to structure lesson plans. An excellent resource for further study on learning styles is the 4MAT book. See some of my past blog posts regarding this book. Here is one of the posts: http://www.brennaphillips.com/2010/01/03/learning-styles-on-the-clock/
    And there are others on the blog.

  2. Thank you so much for these volunteer training tips. I’m in the process of creating training modules for teachers and your series is just in time! Thanks again.

    • That’s great Nick. That is exactly what we were hoping people would use them for. If there is anything in particular you would like us to cover, please do let us know. Thanks!

  3. Wayne, you are so smart! A biblical exposition of learning styles. Who would have thunk it?

  4. Aww, shucks. Thanks Jared!