What Are Learning Modalities?


Dana Stahl, a learning specialist and educational consultant, will address educational questions and concerns that parents may have regarding their children’s academic development and progress in school. Topics can center on how to handle homework dilemmas to what questions to ask at a CSE meeting. Questions can range from “How best do parents advocate for their children?” to “How do parents interpret formal tests that have been administered?” to “What schools and colleges are right for my child?”

Readers can write to Dana at dana@educationalalternativesllc.com. Dana will respond to one reader’s question a month. Dana hopes that her response will alleviate parents’ concerns and offer useful educational advice.

What are learning modalities and how do they help children to integrate and assimilate information when learning a new concept or task?

Sign Up for E-News

Learning modalities are the visual, auditory or kinesthetic ways in which we learn. Each of us has a preferred way of learning a concept or a task. We are, in essence, visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. Some people learn best by watching, some by listening and others by actively participating in specific tasks being presented. The concept of learning modalities remains the same whether a person is learning how to make a batch of brownies, ski down steep slopes or change a tire. We each have a preference to watch, listen or actively participate in what we are being taught.

Typically, people favor one modality over another. However, students who are both visual and auditory learners have an easier time in school, as classes tend to be lecture-based with visual components that augment specific lessons.  Educators are aware that children favor one modality over another and often incorporate a multi-modality approach to their lessons through differential instruction.

The VAKT approach to teaching (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile) allows educators to tap into their students’ preferred learning modality while simultaneously helping them to integrate and assimilate new concepts and tasks.  A VAKT approach to teaching, for example, includes students being presented with a vocabulary word (visual), while hearing their teacher say the vocabulary word (auditory). Students then “sky write” the word that has been written for them and feel the movement of their hands in conjunction with the touch of pen to paper (kinesthetic and tactile).

The rationale behind the VAKT method in the above example is that by including as many senses as possible students are being given additional sensory experiences or cues to help them learn the vocabulary word being presented. If students are weak in one or two modalities, the other modalities help to convey the necessary information.

In young children, tactile stimulation associated with visual stimuli can enhance reading readiness.  Some reading clinicians see reading as a visual-motor skill, and not only as a visual discrimination skill. For example, children respond faster to learning their letter sounds when they work with sandpaper letters, rather than smooth painted letters.

VAKT skills also assist in learning basic computational skills, as well as counting.  Educational theorists have discovered that providing objects to manipulate and demonstrate problem solutions improved children’s computational performance.  Finger counting, for instance, is part of many arithmetic programs.

Touching and moving objects without appropriate verbal accompaniment are not sufficient. Nor is verbally saying the numbers in order without understanding the corresponding verbal- motor performance. However, once a coordinated verbal-motor repertoire is learned, then it is appropriate for the verbal component alone to be extended meaningfully.  For example, after children have learned to count 10 objects, just a verbal response in counting to 20 will be sufficient.

If your children demonstrate a particular strength or weakness with regard to their learning modalities, it is appropriate to inform their teachers because it is easier to learn a new concept or task when presented from a modality of strength.  If you want to know more about your child’s learning modality, have the Swassing-Barbe Modality Index administered to identify the child’s modality preference. When you understand how your child learns best, your child can then be given this information to self-advocate to the point of saying to a teacher, “Please show me, tell, me, let me try it,” when presented with a new concept or task.

Dana’s educational consultant practice focuses on assessment, advocacy and school placement for students with learning disabilities and social-emotional challenges (educationalalternativesllc.com).

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


I Do Not Make Stuff Up!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in my column, “Watergate analogies apply to Obama, not Trump,” that President Obama’s Justice Department planted a spy in the Trump campaign. I said I used the term “spy” because this was a counter-intelligence operation, not a criminal investigation, where the term informant would have been proper.

That statement has been brought ...

Here's What You Missed Last Week

Last week, the Daily News ran a headline, “When is our father coming home?” This dealt with a person here illegally, married to an American woman with a family, who was arrested at an Army base while delivering pizza. You are supposed to think that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under Trump, is tearing families apart. As usual, it was a crock of cow pies. It was ...

Reagan on Trump

The party of “Honest Abe” has now become the party of Dishonest Don, and what follows are some disturbing displays of a Republican Party that has become devoid of conscience:

• More than 4,600 American citizens dead in Puerto Rico—a postscript to the government’s abysmal response to the widespread devastation of Hurricane Maria; 
• The underhanded ...

The Rich Get Richer, and We’re Paying For It

According to a Harvard University study published late last year, most Americans believe that the richest 20 percent of Americans own just half of the nation’s wealth. Wrong! The top 20 percent own 93 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the top 1 percent own 40 percent of that wealth. Additionally, the top 10 percent of earners in 2017 took home more than half the nation’s ...

What Kind of Sports Parent Are You?

Social media recently showered a lot of likes and love on a high school pitcher in Minnesota whose team was playing in a regional final that would send the winning team to the state championship game.

After the last batter of the game struck out, the pitcher did something unheard of. Rather than spontaneously join his teammates in an on-field celebration, as is customary, the pitcher ...

Competing—Against Yourself

This is the time of year when students are recognized at public ceremonies for notable achievements in their studies, their sports and in their extracurricular pursuits.

Where we live, there are awards in various sports that are named for our son, who also is memorialized by town ballfield Harrison Apar Field of Dreams and a charitable foundation of the same name.

Due to a rare dwarfism, ...

Packing Heat

“Are you leaving me?” asked my husband one night as he surveyed the contents of my closet on our bed.

“What? No!” I said. “Why would you think that?”

“Every single article of clothing you own is laid out on our bed,” he replied. “So I have to assume you are either leaving me or you have joined the armed services and if that’s the ...

I Come from the Land Down Under

I know this is a family column, so I’m going to put this in as delicate terms as possible.

This morning I woke up and I knew, as sure as the sun shines over Bora Bora, that something was very, very wrong in that place in my body where the Bora Bora sun doesn’t shine.

It’s that place I used to refer to my daughter as her hoo-hoo. But it certainly wasn’t a happy ...

Upcoming Events


Wed, June 27, 9:00 AM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

PCDOH Free HIV Testing Day

Health & Wellness