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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
How to Home
How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

The Basics of Adjusting Your Teaching Style to Students’ Learning Styles
Sharon Longert

Everyday we make instructional decisions before, during, and after we meet our students. These decisions lead us to tailor instruction to individuals or groups in our classrooms. Often the populations we work with have been labeled and our decisions are made in terms of these labels.

But within a label we will likely find academically diverse learners and this is why we need to move beyond the labels and make curriculum choices that complement our students’ interests, strengths and needs. Helping students to link what they are learning to daily living experiences keeps them engaged and motivated in the learning process.

The effective teacher is constantly making decisions about how to present information to achieve this, as well as monitoring and adjusting presentations to accommodate individual differences and enhance the learning of all students.

When presenting content, effective teachers gain their students’ attention, interact positively with the students, review previously covered material, and provide an organization for the material, (e.g., graphic organizers, outlines, anticipation guides). Clear directions, adequate examples, and practice need to be provided in a relevant context for students.
In addition, it is always important to keep in mind that some students learn facts more easily, while others are more adept at grasping concepts, some prefer concrete examples, others prefer abstract examples. Now to some specific basics.

We take listening for granted, and like anything taken for granted, it’s important to occasionally revisit it for a fresh perspective. With that in mind, consider the following:

  • Listening is the cornerstone of learning.
  • Listening requires directing one’s attention to what is being said and then making sense of it.
  • Listening is a skill and requires practice.
  • Students spend over half of their time in school listening.
  • Most students can think at a much faster rate than people can speak, in order to gain and maintain students’ attention, they need to be listening first.
  • Some special needs students may need more time to process information while listening.

To ensure that all students are listening to the lesson, stop periodically and ask them to summarize in their own words; record any questions they have; respond or react to anything they have heard; or record, draw or write any other things that capture their thoughts. These form the basis for a Speak, Listen, Respond Log.

Activating Prior Knowledge
The prior knowledge a student brings to the lesson is key to linking to other learning. Effective teachers do not make assumptions about students’ prior knowledge, rather they plan for them.

  • Review the content or skills from the previous lesson. This is the place for scaffolding information, as well as checking that skills from the previous lessons are accurately acquired. If the lessons haven’t been understood, now is the time to reteach them.
  • Provide an anticipatory set to students at the start of the lesson to pique their interest and to help them connect to the content.
  • Reveal the key components of the lesson to students so they can be motivated to respond and practice what they learn.

Reviewing the previous lesson provides distributed practice (a little bit each time repeatedly), and over time the information becomes automatic and can be called up from memory with little effort. These reviews are brief, fast and engaging and serve as a launching pad for the new lesson. Students can become the “teacher” for this portion of the lesson. A brief pre-planning meeting with student reviewers will ensure that they understand the format, content and the time period for delivery of the review.

Monitoring involves making decisions about how to provide feedback and how to keep students actively engaged while delivering instruction. Feedback should be immediate, frequent and provide explicit information that supports correct responses and models for improving incorrect responses. One way to monitor students’ progress is by walking around the classroom while the students are responding in their Logs. This is the perfect opportunity to provide clarification or to have students work with a study buddy. (Adapted from Merrill Harmin’s Strategies to Inspire Active Learning, Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 1995).

I hope you’ve found these basics helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.


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