Trying Auditory Learning When Nothing Else Works--Finding the Learning Method That Works Best for Your StudentBy Alexandra Berube, bostontutoringservices.com
I recently met with a preschool teacher who was struggling with a student who was not learning his letters. He wasn't retaining them visually, no matter how many times she had him trace the letters with sandpaper, shaving cream, etc. These Montessori-style instruction methods involve tactile response, which is a great method of literacy instruction. However, in this case it wasn't taking hold.
She mentioned to me that when she does storytelling, she has him repeat back what happened in the story to the best of his ability, and that he had gotten better and better at recalling facts from stories that had been told to him out loud. I suggested he might be an auditory learner based on this information. I suggested that she play a tossing game. She would toss an object to him and say out loud the name of the object. When he caught the object, she would prompt him to name the object as well, focusing on the initial sound. For as many turns as necessary, she could say the word along with him, emphasizing the initial sound until he was able to isolate the initial sound on his own. With each object, he would gain more familiarity with the purpose of reading, which is: everything in the world has a name, and that name can be written with words, and a word is made up of letters, and there is always a first letter in a word.
Sometimes that's the hardest part of getting started in literacy--students have to understand the purpose of what they are doing. They have to understand that they are learning the letter shapes for a purpose, because the shapes represent a letter, which represents the beginning of a word. Children are not going to learn the larger steps of decoding and blending until they understand the purpose of the written word, and its auditory counterpart.
When working with beginning readers, it's important to assess every clue of how they absorb, retain, and output information, because those clues will tell you how they learn and what's the best route to take. Using as many different forms of instruction as possible (auditory, visual, tactile, kinetic) is valuable up until a point, but you may be confusing the child if they don't understand the purpose of what they are doing, and literacy becomes too intangible for them to grasp. Isolating the method of instruction that works best for them and then focusing as much as possible on that method, while emphasizing the purpose of literacy and its meaning in the real world, can yield the best results.
About Alexandra Berube
Alexandra is the Managing Director of Boston Tutoring Services, a tutoring company that offers one-to-one in-home tutoring in Massachusetts. She is also a former Kindergarten teacher who also tutors students in grades K-8, in all subject areas, including test preparation.