"I had six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. Their names were Where and What and When and Why and How and Who."
- Rudyard Kipling
Now that the first two or three months of the school year have come and gone, you've discovered no doubt that along with the range of unique personalities your students present, their multiple learning styles have also emerged. How do we as educators juggle the enormous task of offering learning experiences to our students in ways that meet the myriad of needs in our classrooms? How can we have the assurance that we've put forth our best efforts to tailor learning opportunities, so our students can approach them with their own learning styles?
You start by knowing your students! Keep a file or portfolio for each student with work samples, anecdotal records, notes on learning styles, etc. You may immediately think there are not enough hours in the already packed day, but how many hours do you already spend checking and grading papers? Note the student's strengths, weaknesses, and specific learning styles. Gather and stockpile your resources--whether you are constructing centers, thematic units based on curriculum objectives, enrichment activities, etc., collect and compile a wide variety of materials, literature, visuals, paper and pencil, auditory, manipulative, technology, and organize them into a filing and/or storage system. Develop a resource list of speakers, agencies, field trips, businesses, web sites, parents, that could serve as reinforcement or enrichment for a specific unit.
Then organize resources into activities or tasks under such headings as practice, reinforcement, enrichment, challenging, etc. geared towards specific student's levels of functioning. Offer activities using different kinds of presentation so you are tapping into a variety of learning styles. Incorporate strategies which will offer experiences that are visual, kinesthetic, verbal, logical and interpersonal.
Develop a network with fellow educators. One of the MOST valuable resources is the collective experience of teachers. Schedule regular grade level, subject or specialty area meetings with other professionals to discuss and share strategies. Research and try out different strategies. Come together with other professionals on a regular basis to evaluate whether or not your strategies are working.
Above all, realize that you are only one person and while most educators put forth their best effort to meet their students' unique needs, it is not an overnight process. Be patient, consistent and set realistic expectations for both your students and yourself. Teaching and learning are neither a "one size fits all" endeavor. Making the effort to meet your student's diverse learning needs will truly yield worthwhile results.