Your learning styles are more important than you may realize. Your preferred styles guide the way you learn, internally represent experiences, the way you recall information, and even the words you choose.

Walter Burke Barbe and his colleagues identified three learning modalities: Visual, Aural/Auditory and Kinesthetic. Barbe and colleagues also reported that learning modality strengths could occur independently or in combination.

Through brain-imaging technologies, researchers have identified what key areas of the brain are responsible for each learning style. We now know that by involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn.

Teachers are aware of the fact that learners are entitled to be presented with the information using all three styles. Learners become involved, no matter what their preferred style may be. So when it was time to choose a programme to teach our children the foundations of reading and writing, the Jolly Phonics system was the natural option.

At Eden School, we use Jolly Phonics, a fun and child centred approach to teaching English literacy through synthetic phonics. The 42 letter sounds are taught first by using a multi-sensory method that is very motivating for children and teachers: Each letter sound has a corresponding action, a song and a visual cue. In this way kinesthetic, auditory, visual and speech methods to help them remember the letter(s) representing each sound. Using multi-sensory methods from very early on (modeling clay, paint, the interactive white board and even shaving cream!) children also learn how to form and write the letters. Children move on to using their pencils and notebooks as soon as they are ready to do so.

The letter sounds are not taught in alphabetical order because the sounds that form part of the greatest number of CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words are taught first. The children are encouraged to blend the sounds learned as soon as possible.

Segmenting the sounds that form a word is crucial to improve spelling. That is: identifying the individual sounds in a word.

Once the children are familiar with the majority of the letter sounds, they are gradually presented with what the Jolly Phonics method calls «Tricky Words». These are words that are irregularly spelled and cannot be read by «sounding out» the letters.

Parental support is important to all children as they benefit from plenty of praise and encouragement whilst learning. Not all children find it easy to learn and blend sounds. Once a child has begun to learn the letter sounds they will be able to pick them out in words. They should then move on to working out whole words through blending. As a result it is easier if reading begins with storybooks that use simple words. At Eden School, the books sent home in our “Book in a Bag” program provide the best way to do this, as they include these simple words as well as tricky words that often appear in the English language. Extra practice will lead to fluency in reading and help children manage at school.

Once there is fluency in reading English, the most important skills that should be fostered will be comprehension and the understanding of more words. Comprehension can be developed by asking a child questions about a story they have just read, referring to the illustrations, role playing and revisiting well-loved stories to check understanding. This is the reason why we often read to our students in class, encourage them to enjoy the activity and to achieve and demonstrate comprehension through different individual and group activities.

We can easily conclude that children benefit from a large and diverse amount of stimuli. Giving children the tools to decode the words they encounter, tackle the irregularly spelled words, listen to others read to them, make sense of what they read and, above all, enjoy the process, is key to improving this basic skill. A confident, well-prepared child will surely be successful in any area of learning.

Hopping as we play hopscotch for the sound "h"
Hopping as we play hopscotch for the sound “h”