Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Learning Styles: A Guide for Success

 

Tatia Sanchez failed the same math course seven times, believing that she was hopelessly dumb in that subject. Until a teacher taught math in her style of learning and it all clicked into place. Unfortunately, like Tatia’s experience, this is an all too-common occurrence in our classrooms.  Students believe that they are simply too stupid in certain areas and just can’t learn. This belief can be remedied. Imagine if students beginning at Kindergarten were grouped into break-out sessions and taught in their strongest preference of visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning. Students achieve stronger academic success when they are taught in their preferred learning style because they are able to focus more on the subject, they gain adaptability skills that will last a lifetime, and their self-esteem is improved. 

A student who is taught in their preferred learning style is able to focus on the subject instead of trying to wade through the method of how a subject is being taught. It takes that one extra distraction out of the equation that gets between the student and the subject. Take for example trying to learn a subject in a foreign language. A student would first have to decipher the words being said and all the foreign nuances of language rather than the subject. It works the same way when a student is taught in their dominant learning style. The student no longer has to decipher the “how” of what is being taught and can focus on the “what” that is being taught.  Diane Lamarche-Bisson, an educator and author, has worked with special needs children where she successfully implemented learning preference tools in her classrooms. She explains that a learning style is the way in which people best process information presented to them. “A learning style affects how we learn, how we solve problems, how we work, how we participate in different activities, how we react in a group, and how we relate to others around us" (Lamarche-Bisson 268). There are three primary learning styles. There are visual learners, those who prefer print and pictures; auditory learners, those who like to listen to as well as talk a subject out; and kinesthetic learners, which incorporates getting the entire body involved (Lamarche-Bisson 268). The kinesthetic learner will be the child who is moving about the room, likes noise, and needs to touch and handle everything.  Even the way a classroom is arranged will complement each style for better student focus. Some students need a space with limited noise and lighting, a quiet corner, while others need the opportunity to move around to become fully engaged (Lamarche-Bisson 268). When students are given the freedom, atmosphere, and encouragement to study in the way that works best for them, they are able to focus on the subject being taught without the distraction of deciphering how it is taught getting in the way. 

Learning how to adapt to each style gives students tools to be successful in any subject, even subjects they believe are difficult. This adaptability will last throughout a lifetime. The majority of people have a stronger preference for one learning style over the others. However, this does not mean that they cannot utilize other styles of learning. Depending on the subject, a more appropriate style might be called for. "The student should from time to time be encouraged to attempt to channel his abilities and strengths to the two remaining styles." (Lamarche-Bisson 268). "There is a practical importance to developing confidence in learning styles other than the preferred," Psychologists Chalisa Gadt-Johnson and Gary E. Price assert. Strengthening weaker preferences of learning should be encouraged (Gadt-Johnson & Price 581). Allowing students to "try-out" other learning styles will give children the confidence and adaptability to experiment with styles for different subjects. It has been found that this goes beyond Kindergarten through grade 12. The key is in arranging classrooms to provide resources for all preferences of styles available to students for greater experimenting and adaptability.  

Self-esteem improves when students realize that they can understand a subject. Lamarche-Bisson attests "levels of self-esteem and confidence will be raised. As the child matures, he will discern how he learns best and will be equipped to build a solid foundation on his strengths and develop strategies to improve his weaker areas” (268). When subjects are taught in a different manner from a child's strongest learning style, the student may not understand, feel discouragement and decide to give up. Through a study in 1997, Chalisa Gadt-Johnson and Gary E. Price note that "the particular learning style preferences of students have been found to have a strong impact on achievement" which breeds greater self-confidence (581). A dramatic example of this took place at The Forbury School in Dunedin, New Zealand, contrasting lack of self-esteem and behavior issues with significant changes after incorporating learning preferences. The environment was stressful, the students acted out with bullying. One teacher reported that the majority of her time she handled disruptions caused by anger and low self- confidence of the students.  Any work displayed was torn off the walls, the children "did not know how to handle praise" (Prashnig 1). After the school implemented the use of learning preferences, playing soft music, dimming the lights in certain spaces, and having areas dedicated to tactile learning, self-confidence improved the classroom behavior. The children have "greater respect for the school property, and the property and work efforts of others" (Prashnig 1). With greater self-esteem in the subjects they are being taught, students will be engaged and take responsibility in their education. 

The main issue with incorporating learning styles in the classroom is that some educators believe that there is little evidence to support that learning preferences work. Teachers already put in extra hours to plan their curriculum and adding another level of incorporating different learning preferences is too much to ask anyone to do.  However, teachers are not average. They are extraordinary human beings who will go the extra mile when they find something that works for their students. "Today's teachers are overworked and bombarded with guidelines from department heads and principals, school boards, state education departments, and educational organizations and associations"(Lamarche-Bisson 268). Is it fair to ask teachers to make extra lesson plans to cover each of the learning styles especially when there aren't many studies that prove it really has any effect? "In 2008, professor Hal Pashler and his associates ... noted that many of the existing studies didn’t really test for evidence of learning styles in the ideal way" Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham explains (28). “If you want to test the verbalizer/visualizer distinction, it’s not enough to show that visualizers remember pictures better than verbalizers do. Maybe those people you categorize as visual learners simply have better memories overall" (Willingham 28). Both the types of learners and content would have to be examined to try and come up with an accurate study (Willingham 28). Yet teachers like Lamarche-Bisson and many others from the Creative Learning Centre have found that teaching children in their preferred styles have made a huge impact. An MIT instructor reported to the Creative Learning Centre that students "could learn and work on their own, in pairs or in a larger group. The learning was often self-guided, mostly student-centred and took place in their own time during the day; this was a chance for students who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks" (Prashnig 1). The techniques implemented showed drastic changes in the development of their students throughout many years of putting learning styles into practice.  

 Creating an atmosphere where learning styles are taught give students a greater chance to sharpen their focus on the subject without the distractions of trying to understand methods that aren't working for them. The ability to adapt any subject to another learning style that might work better will enhance learning in any environment throughout a person's lifetime. As seen at the Forbury School when self-confidence improves so will classroom behavior, which in turn, will promote greater academic success.  Stronger academic success can be achieved when students are taught in their strongest learning styles because students are better equipped to focus on the subject, instead of working through a foreign way their mind works; students will gain skills they can adapt to any subject or circumstance throughout their lives, and their self-esteem will grow.  


 

Works Cited

Lamarche-Bisson, Diane. “Learning Styles - What Are They? How Can They Help?” World and I, Sept. 2002 p. 268.  www.link.galegroup.com/doc/A98736431/OVIC?u=nhc_ main&sid=OVIC&xid=459958d0.

Gadt-Johnson, Chalisa., and Gary E. Price. “Comparing Students with High and Low Preferences for Tactile Learning.” Education, vol. 120, no. 3, 2000, p. 581. www.link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A61691570/OVIC? u=nhc_main &sid =OVIC&xid=5c150547f.

Prashnig, Barbara. “Testimonials/Case Studies” Prashnig Style Solutions, 2018. www.creativelearningcentre.com/testimonials.html#quotes

Willingham, Daniel T. “Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Does Tailoring Instruction to ‘Learning Styles’ Help Students Learn?” American Educator, Summer 2018. p. 28. www.link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A543900498/OVIC? u=nhu_main&sid=) VIC&xid=fdf856e4.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Poetry: Eating Alone

 

Eating Alone

 - 1957-

I've pulled the last of the year's young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my
eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes.
By the cellar door, I wash the onions,
then drink from the icy metal spigot.

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can't recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way-left hand braced
on knee, creaky-to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas
fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame
oil and garlic. And my own loneliness.
What more could I, a young man, want.

 

I feel that Lee, as a converted Presbyterian minister, was attempting to connect with the possibility that the people in our lives who have died are really just out of sight in another existence or plain of spirits. I relate to this poem because I have had moments where I felt the presence of family members who have passed so strongly that I have turned my head and felt like I just missed the sight of them. This theme is presented though symbols and personification.

Lee uses the symbols of flame and the cardinal in this line, “What is left of the day flames in the maples at the corner of my eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes” (970). Cardinals, in many religions represent loved ones who have died. In Christianity, red cardinals are a symbol of the fire of the living spirit. Lee used the word “flames” just before the almost sighting of the cardinal to great symbolic effect. Even though the word “red” isn’t present, it is inferred by the flames and the fact that male cardinals (male, like his father) are inherently red. Pair that with the “flickering, deep green shade” (Lee 971) near the end of the poem after he thought he saw his father, but realized it was a shovel instead. Green is the symbol of renewal in nature, and of resurrection and rebirth in Christianity. The symbolism is enhanced by the inferred red in flames, while the shaded green flickers like those loved ones in the spirit realm or the hint of Lee’s father leaning against the tree might flicker just out of sight.   

Personification is used sparsely in one instant when Lee thought he saw his father, to realize moments later that it was “the shovel, leaning where I had left it” (971). Using the element of  personification only once made it stand out that much more in the way that a thing, the shovel, for the briefest of seconds in the flickering light looked like his deceased father, leaning, almost in the way he had mentioned his father earlier while alive with “left hand braced on knee, creaky” (Lee 970). The similarities of the poses makes the personification of the shovel realistic that it could have been mistaken for his father. Even though the shovel wasn’t his father, it echoes the theme that it could have been because he is there, renewed, flickering out of our view, but in the realm of spirits that is so very close. 

The use of personification felt very real to me as I’ve had the same things happen to me, glimpsing what I wanted, but in reality was something else but looked so familiar simply by the way the item was positioned or “leaning”. Seeing the shovel momentarily as his father, made the poem more meaningful to me on a personal level. The symbols employed also enhanced the meaning of the poem, realizing that the cardinal barely glimpsed is symbolic of loved ones gone, but who are really only just out of our mortal sight is also deeply effective, even as daily life goes on as we prepare meals, drink the icy jolting water, and eat our meal in lonely quiet. Because even though our dead are near, they still aren’t with us, and are missed deeply.

 

Work Cited

Lee, Li-Young. “Eating Alone.” Literature: The Human Experience, edited by Richard Abcarian, et al., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, pp. 970-1

poem borrowed from The Poestry Foundation 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Analysis: Henry David Thoreau’s “The Shipwreck”

 


Has there ever been a person, when they first came to any ocean, who did not take a moment to just stand and see? Whether on a calm day as the wide expanse curves on the horizon with waves rolling in long hypnotic sweeps, or whether it’s a day of storms and mighty crests crashing against rocks, one can’t but stop and gape at the power of something beyond ourselves. When Henry David Thoreau set out to go to Cape Cod to look at the sea and ponder and write about its majesty, he found that the day before he arrived, a ship full of emigrants from Ireland had been beaten violently on the harsh rocky shores and more than a hundred people had lost their lives. Irish mourners flocked to the scene, traveling the same path with Thoreau, yet it was the local villagers and how they went about the business of recovering the corpses that seemed to fascinate Thoreau. In “The Shipwreck”, Thoreau explains how people who live near the waters of Cape Cod have become pragmatic in the aftermath of the sea’s brutality, and how Thoreau’s view of the sea has this same detachment of the harshness in common with “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.



As Thoreau walked down to the beach, he saw the local farmers and tradesmen bringing wagons down, loaded with rough-hewn boxes to be used as coffins. There had only been twenty-eight bodies founds of the one hundred and forty-five perished. The locals were busily engaged in finding the rest beneath the largest part of the wreckage which lay onshore. Yet Thoreau “witnessed no signs of grief, but there was a sober dispatch of business which was affecting” (1) as the men went about nailing down lids or trying to identify certain bodies sought by the Irish who had come to find them. Others were collecting sea-weed for fertilizer, taking it higher up on shore so it would not be lost in the tide “though they were often obliged to separate fragments of clothing from it, and they might at any moment have found a human body under it (Thoreau 1). Even though there was a tragic event just beyond their homes, the people living by the sea understood the importance of gathering what one could from the ocean. The locals had acquired a great deal of resilience to cope with the horrors that living by the ocean and near one of the deadliest shores demanded of them. They became people who were able to detach themselves from what the harsh sea spat out in order to do what had to be done for those who couldn’t do it for themselves. Yet, Thoreau conjectures, for all their pragmatism and seemingly being unaffected, once the funeral procession had passed on and the mass graves covered, it was the local villagers who “would watch there many days and nights for the sea to give up its dead, and their imaginations and sympathies would supply the place of mourners far away, who as yet knew not of the wreck” (1). Thoreau muses that the inhabitants should have a crest on their family shields of a wave and the datura plant, “which is said to produce mental alienation of long duration” (1) which is the only way they could deal with what the sea brings them. With the dreadfulness of the multitude of corpses around him on the beaches, Thoreau seems to cope by wondering about man’s relationship to the sea, as well as how that may fit into the afterlife, much like the wonderings of the Mariner about the sea in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

Thoreau, too, appears to take on the detachment shown by the locals at seeing so many dead at one time. He notes that when “corpses might be multiplied, as on the field of battle, till they no longer affected us in any degree, as exceptions to the common lot of humanity” (Thoreau 1). He goes on to think about how while these poor bodies are ravaged in the ocean, that perhaps they really have sailed into a safe port in Heaven (Thoreau 1) and it doesn’t matter that their corpses are “dashed on the rocks by the enraged Atlantic Ocean” (Thoreau 1). Thoreau ends “The Shipwreck” by writing of another trip to the same beach much later on a calm day. The breezes from the water brought an enjoyable coolness and the water was crystal clear. He looked down and “could see the sea-perch swimming about” (Thoreau 1). The harshness of the sea had been replaced by a calm and beautiful ocean. This same scenario occurred in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. The sea turned on the sailors just as it had turned on the emigrants coming from Ireland. Instead of tossing them and cracking the ship against the rocks, Coleridge’s mariners were caught in a lull in the middle of the ocean, just as dangerous when food and water run out and there is no breeze to sail by. Just as Thoreau did, Coleridge, through his mariner, ponders the afterlife and whether the dead sailors’ souls flew “to bliss or woe!” (Coleridge 1), and whether the pilot who comes to greet him will give him a blessing to wash away his sin of shooting the albatross. Another similarity in the two works is found with how as terrible as the sea can be, both Thoreau and Coleridge saw the beauty the sea can also give in the same way as the mariner looks down into the calm water and glimpses the water-snakes “move in tracks of shining white” (Coleridge 1). The sea can be both terrible and beneficial and those sailing upon it or making a living close to the coast have learned to live in harmony with the nature of the ocean in good or horrible times.

Thoreau was able to witness just one moment of tragedy in one particular day in the lives of the people of Cohasset. He glimpsed their resiliency and how they have learned to live and work near the sea, as well as the pragmatism that has evolved in their character. Thoreau writes about this unyielding practicality of the local inhabitants and how they went to work after a terrible shipwreck, and how all of mankind has the ability to cope with the brutality of the sea, by also seeing the ocean’s beauty as found in Thoreau’s “The Shipwreck” and Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. When next one stands on a seashore, take a deep breath and see.


 

Works Cited

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Bartleby.com www.bartleby.com/41/415.html 

Thoreau, Henry D. “The Shipwreck.” Cape Cod, 2010. The Project Gutenberg www.gutenberg.org/files/34392/34392-h/34392-h.htm

Image: 

"Ardgour Shipwreck - Scotland" by Dave Holder is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0