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Last week, we discussed three diverse learning styles and the reality that adults as well as children absorb and store information in very different ways. We noted that some people learn best by reading, while others retain information most effectively by listening to people (a rebbi, teacher, or even a chavrusah) as they speak to them.
The third group mentioned was the visual learners. They respond most favorably when they see things. Charts, diagrams, graphs, or pictures stimulate their minds and allow them to grasp matters clearly in a manner that reading or listening does not afford them.
In our previous column, I noted that if we as rebbeim present information in only one or two of these three methods, some of our talmidim will almost certainly be inadvertently deprived of a significant opportunity for success in our classrooms (and may be among the ones who get quickly frustrated and start misbehaving).
Questions - and Some Answers
We closed last week's column by asking which of these three distinct learning styles is most likely to be met in our classrooms, and which is the least likely to be addressed. Judging by the feedback that I received over the past few days, there seems to be a strong consensus that the first two learning styles, reading and listening, are nearly always addressed. After all, our talmidim read from their seforim, and listen as we present our shiur. It would therefore seem to be quite obvious that our greatest challenge is to creatively offer our visual learners the opportunity to see the learning in a manner that will engage their minds and touch their neshamos.
At this point, I think it would be fair for my readers to ask several logical questions: What are the statistics for the various learning patterns? What are the percentages for each group? And, is it really worth altering my teaching style to accommodate this third group of children if it is, in fact, only a tiny percentage of the talmidim in my classroom?
I do not claim to be an expert on the subject of diverse learning patterns, but in response to these questions, I cite recent studies which indicate that as much as seventy percent of adults absorb and retain information best by the visual method. That does not mean that all or most of these visual learners cannot absorb information through reading and listening. It only means that visual learning is the method that works best for them.
Last week, I alluded to the fact that if visual learners are not given the opportunity to be taught according to the method that is congruent with their learning pattern, they will, in all likelihood, be the first to habitually disrupt your shiur.
With that in mind, allow me to share an observation with you. I have found that although the 'visual learning profile' follows a continuum - meaning that people have this profile in various degrees - the most extreme examples of visual learners often tend to be the creative-impulsive-restless types. These are the children who will become entrepreneurs later in life. They are out-of-the-box thinkers who respond beautifully when stimulated - but get bored easily. They simply do not have the patience to listen to an entire shiur that is delivered without visual aides or the persistence to read the entire chumash or gemorah enough times to master it properly. They are the ones who desperately need your efforts to present your shiur in a manner in which they can properly absorb it.
A Visual Image
Teaching in a variety of ways in not limited to any particular age group or specific limud.
Several days ago, I observed the fourth-grade rebbi in our yeshiva, Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Lowi shlit"a begin his chumash shiur in the creative manner that he introduces nearly all his shiurim. The talmidim were all in their seats with their chumashim opened. Without saying a word, Rabbi Lowi walked up one of the aisles and took the hands of three children. Gently holding their three left hands in his right hand, he walked them to the front of the classroom. They remained standing there, enjoying their moment in the spotlight. Rebbi then took three chocolate coins from his desk and motioned for three other boys to join him at the front of the classroom. Each of the boys was given a chocolate coin when they arrived near Rebbi's desk.
Rebbi then instructed the talmidim to read the Rashi on the pasuk, "Ves amoi lokach emoi (Shmos, 14:6)," which describes how Paroh "took (lokach)" his people to follow the B'nei Yisroel to the Yam Suf. Rashi's unasked question is how can people, especially such a large group of people, be "taken." Rashi answers kocheim bedevarim - he 'took them' with words - encouraged them by offering them the spoils of the Jews. When Rebbi read the pasuk a few moments later, nearly all the talmidim independently anticipated the kushya of Rashi - and his answer. Watching this excellent visual introduction (sometimes referred to as an anticipatory set) it was obvious that although this type of visual aid is the lifeline for the learning of some of the talmidim, all of the talmidim utilized the demonstration to prepare for what they were about to learn.
This entire visual image event took no more than three minutes of class time - and greatly enhanced the learning of all the talmidim. In fact, when I privately asked several of the children after the shiur to relate the day's chumash to me, each of the boys I spoke to made reference to the living mashul that Rebbi enacted for their benefit.
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