Guest Blogger: Stacy Hughes @caralatte
Working with visual spatial learners is sometimes a challenge, especially when trying to present new information in ways that works with how they see the world. I’ve found that even though a VS learner does not always get things right away, they are continually working to fit the new information into the picture in their heads. Once new information fits into this picture, learning is complete, no skill and practice needed.
The amazing thing about their abilities is that it enables them to see things in patterns, so that when they learn something new in Math, they are able to jump to even higher levels almost instantly. There are a lot of “Oh’s!” and “If….then’s” and it is fun to see.
I can give an example of how this has worked for me. In 2005, I was just learning about visual spatial learners, and I was keen to try out some techniques. I was teaching at an international school in Taiwan, and a fourth grade teacher came to me to ask for help teaching long division. It seems she had four students who still had not mastered it, and she needed to move on. I knew the four students, and based on my information, I sensed they were probably visual spatial learners.
I called them into my room and gave them the following problem: 21/7=3, but set up in a long division format. I asked them how I got the answer. They came up with a theory, so I asked them to try their theory out as a group. I gave them 217/7 =? They worked together a little bit them came up with 31. Not surprisingly, they worked their answer in correct long division format. (They had seen it many times in class) Finally, I split them up and had them work on the following problem individually: 255/15=? They individually worked the problem, and all of them were able to give me the correct answer. This took approximately 20 minutes.
I’ve used this strategy of discovery learning with visual spatial quite a bit since that day. I’ve found that allowing these students to problem solve is a way to tap into their abilities, without draining them by giving them all of the steps. They are energized instead of demoralized, and it taps into their amazing problem solving abilities.
I’ve found that many visual spatial learners believe they are bad in Math, since they tend to be bad at memorizing Math facts. However, once they learn of their problem solving abilities, the world of math opens up to them, and it becomes their favourite subject! By just tweaking our instruction method, we can make a big difference.