Let’s encourage every child to reach their full potential

November 21, 2016

Bambi Gardiner is the founder of Oaka Books, which creates printed and digital revision guides for dyslexic students and visual learners. We spoke to her about helping students learn in a way that works for them…

Oaka Books example

Everyone is different; their likes, dislikes, mannerisms, personality traits, and physical appearances, and how we interact with one another is dependent on how we are as people.

The same concept applies to a classroom filled with children, all of whom have varying capabilities, skills and knowledge. However, nine times out of ten, they’re all taught in the same way despite these differences. While many of these techniques have effective outcomes, they aren’t going to appeal to every child’s way of learning. And the consequence of this “one-size-fits-all” approach is that those children who struggle to engage with that specific way of learning will most likely switch off or become discouraged to learn.

This is especially pertinent when it comes to visual learners or children with dyslexia. Often, without the right resources, encouragement and support, these children will find that this “one-size-fits-all” approach becomes a barrier to learning, resulting in them being unable to unlock their full potential.

As a parent of a child with dyslexia, I am all too familiar with the challenges a parent and their child face as they go through the education system. For example, in the early stages, there was very limited progress with my daughter’s reading; she struggled with things like tying her shoe laces and used her own ‘signs’ for some words – all of which should have been big red flags.

However, as she progressed through school, she was given the same text books as her fluent reading peers. It got to a point where she refused to even open them and, as a result, fell further behind. Her defence mechanism was simply not to try; if you don’t put yourself out there, you cannot fail, can you?

Although this is true, it begs the question: how can we ensure that every child is supported fully and given the opportunity to make sure they have the confidence and ability to reach their full potential?

For me, it was a case of understanding how best to work with my daughter’s learning differences and come up with alternative ways for her to access and retain the information. She needed something that would come alive on the page instead of text-heavy passages, so I set about creating our own resources to help make learning visual and kinaesthetic; it worked wonders for her!

The key to enabling all students to learn in a way that works for them is to have options and, of course, the resources to support those options. Having these aids in the classroom, at home or, in fact, in any learning environment will help teachers and educators alike to support each and every learning style.

Let’s take a look at some alternative techniques that – when combined with more traditional methods – create effective and engaging ways for students to learn.

Exploration 

Just as some children will love to read or listen to music, some students learn best when they’re encouraged to move about and explore. A more kinaesthetic, hands-on learning environment will offer students the opportunity to really grasp concepts, explore topics and understand subjects. Subsequently, this gives them the independence to take control of their learning and discover their potential.

Let’s get visual

Visual aids are another really effective route to engage with students who have dyslexia or those who struggle to process large amounts of text. Presenting information through images, colours, video clips, animated drawings, as well as graphs and mind-maps or flow charts, will be a lot more appealing and easier to absorb.

There are numerous study guides and resources available for students to use, both in the classroom and at home with support from parents and teachers. Investing in those that specifically follow the curriculum will be hugely beneficial, allowing students to learn effectively through pictorial or cartoon-based imagery with simple sentences.

Real-life learning

It’s no secret that when children are interested and enthusiastic about learning, they learn more and they learn well; therefore helping them to understand the purpose of what they’re being taught will help them retain the information.

It’s no good just teaching something without demonstrating how it relates to the wider world. For example, get students to organise an imaginary event; they will need to budget expenses and work out how much things cost – utilising key maths skills. Linking learning to real-life examples allows students to understand the purpose of an activity, and how it can be applied in practice.

Effective teaching tools engage students and, more importantly, encompass their individual learning styles. Every class will have a mix of visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinaesthetic learners. Therefore, it’s vital to combine teaching methods to ensure that we are catering for everyone; allowing them to soar, rather than plummet.

For more information, or to access the Oaka Books’ digital resources for a free trial, visit: digital.oakabooks.co.uk

We know that your child is an individual, that’s why courses at Explore Learning are different for every child. There’s no ‘one size fits all’, no magic approach, we just work hard to ensure that we get to know your child and support their growth from the second they step through the door. Find out more about our maths and English tuition.

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