While I have addressed the aspect of my teaching philosophy regarding my opinions and beliefs (Every Student Can Learn), I have yet to mention the practical, tangible aspect: how, exactly, do we get every student to learn? Implementing and developing differentiated instruction is possibly the most important and effective thing we can do as educators in order to reach more of our students. By presenting material in a variety of different ways, we can appeal to students who understand and learn in different ways. One way that we can differentiate instruction is by appealing to different modalities (essentially, appealing to different senses). The four major modalities that educators focus on are: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile.
The visual modality refers to sight. Many students are visual learners. Some characteristics of visual learners include:
- Increased attention to detail.
- Good spelling; neat handwriting.
- Need for visual demonstrations.
- Recognize words by sight.
- Are easily distracted by action or movement.
- Remember faces, but forget names.
Some ways that we can differentiate instruction in order to appeal to visual learners include:
- Using graphic organizers (charts, lists, illustrations, webs, etc.).
- Providing visual representations (illustrations or charts) with text.
- Delivering direct instruction and demonstrations on a whiteboard, smartboard, etc.
- Using films and other visual media.
- Giving written directions for tasks and assignments.
The auditory modality refers to hearing. Characteristics of auditory learners include:
- They benefit from verbal directions.
- Enjoy being read to.
- Able to verbally explain ideas.
- Like music.
- Enjoy discussions.
- Remember names but forget faces.
- Are easily distracted by noise.
- Do well in speeches and plays.
Some ways that we can differentiate instruction in order to appeal to auditory learners include:
- Providing verbal instructions for tasks and assignments.
- Verbally presenting material (lecturing).
- Giving erbal requests for information.
- Assigning oral presentations.
- Regulating vocal tone and inflection.
- Providing audio books.
- Encouraging students to talk out solutions and verbally express their reasoning.
- Providing a quiet learning environment.
- Presenting content through music.
The kinesthetic modality refers to doing, moving, and acting. Some characteristics of kinesthetic learners include:
- Energetic and enjoy moving.
- Prefer hands-on activities.
- Think and learn best when they are active.
- Have difficulty retaining material presented through lectures.
- Have difficulty sitting and reading for long periods of time.
- Most students are kinesthetic learners at a young age, but are required to become verbal or auditory learners later on due to the nature and structure of traditional school settings.
Some ways that we can differentiate instruction in order to appeal to kinesthetic learners include:
- Providing opportunities for students to do rather than just watch or listen (hands-on activities, field trips, experiments, etc.).
- Incorporating activities into lessons that require movement (games, sports, dancing, etc.).
- Assigning “class jobs” to students (this also teaches responsibility and increases students’ sense of having purpose in a community).
- Teaching content in terms of real-life situations (e.g. money!).
- Encouraging the use of manipulatives (counters, blocks, chips, etc.).
The tactile modality refers to the sense of touch. Some characteristics of tactile learners include:
- Prefer the use of manipulatives (counters, blocks, chips, etc.).
- Retain information better when writing, drawing, or tracing.
- Enjoy doodling, and are often artistic in nature.
- Benefit from tangible representations of new material.
Some ways that we can differentiate instruction in order to appeal to tactile learners include:
- Providing manipulatives and tangible representations of material.
- Encouraging students to take notes during lectures.
- Providing opportunities to create artistic representations of learning (drawing, painting, etc.).
- A spelling technique that helps students who are tactile learners involves having students trace letters and words with their fingers.