Two of the learning theories that I most identified with during my teacher certification training were brain-based learning and, to a lesser extent, multiple intelligences. What stands out the most from my study of the brain-based theory is that everyone’s brain has the innate ability to learn through pattern-making. So, when we teach, we try to connect the unfamiliar material of the curriculum with that which the student already knows.
The theory of multiple intelligences teaches us that we all learn in different ways, through different senses. This was important for me to internalize, as I am an intensely verbal person. My understanding of any topic begins with reading about it, even if it’s about pictures or numbers. So it was with some surprise that I learned not everyone learns best this way; some people learn by doing, some by visuals, by hearing, etc. The only time I had every student receive 100% on a vocabulary test was when I had them find a visual from Google images for each word.
One-hundred percent of the students earned 100%! That made a believer out of me.
Using media of any type can enhance learning. Teachers use slideshows quite commonly in the classroom now, though the tendency for many of us, myself included, is still to depend on words to tell the story, words to provide the basis of note-taking. All too often, slideshows take the place of writing on the board. But that’s not necessarily the best way to encourage learning. Besides, it’s a waste of great media opportunities.
When I prepare slide presentations, I generally begin with the words; after all, I teach English. I can tell from students’ responses what they’re getting, and what needs elucidation. The next step is to insert visuals. Yes, in my slideshow from yesterday’s post, I’ll agree that it’s corny to tie the poetic term kenning with a dog kennel. But it works; students remember the term and its definition far easier than depending on a verbal definition alone.
Besides, corny is the point. We all remember corny.