Learning Styles at Ipswich High School

Ben Darke, Journalist

We all have to live through and try to navigate school at some point in our lives. Many students dread it. But why? It could be that they don’t have good friends, or they don’t participate in extracurricular activities like clubs or sports. For many students, however, the main reason they don’t like school is because of how they are taught in the classroom. School cannot be one size fits all anymore, because kids need to learn in different ways. Some may thrive with lectures but others think they are not effective. In the words of Mr. Sidmore, an English teacher at Ipswich High, “There is no one best or most effective way to teach. You have to assess the needs of your students and figure out how to best communicate the content and skills they need to learn depending on what you’re teaching.” To find out how teachers keep their students interested, I asked students and faculty to offer their opinion on what works best. 

There are four main basic learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. Visual learners feel what they see and learn by seeing, observing, and creating pictures, diagrams, and example assignments. They learn best when the teachers teach on the board and give written instructions. They enjoy writing and taking notes with different color pens. 

Auditory learners learn best by listening in class. It’s easier for them to listen to lectures rather than taking notes. They like to participate in discussions, speak their mind, and listen to the ideas of each student. They like to tell stories, read aloud,  and pay attention to changes in tone. 

Kinesthetic learners learn best by physical activities, such as simulations, presentations, exploration, experimentation, video creation assignments, and field trips. “Advancements in technology open up the possibility for content that can engage all the senses like never before. For example, you could use interactive flash animation, tablet-based activities, interactive presentations, virtual reality environments, and simulations to create immersive experiences for online students.

Reading and writing learners learn best by reading information from different sources and writing about it. “Of the four learning styles, this is probably the easiest to cater to since much of the traditional educational system tends to center on writing essays, doing research, and reading books” according to rasmussen.edu. Teachers should incorporate all the different learning styles into the classroom to encourage different learning styles.  

I conducted a poll asking Ipswich High students the following: Which way do you learn best? The four options: seeing (visual), hearing (auditory), doing (kinesthetic), and reading/writing. Out of the 94 responses, 50% said they learn best by hands-on activities (kinesthetic), 35% said by seeing (visual), 7.9% said reading/writing, and 7.1 said by hearing (auditory). 

Rex, a senior at Ipswich High, says that, “I like it when teachers don’t rely too much on notes and lectures. I always get distracted and start doodling on my paper.” When students like Rex take notes, they are more focused on writing the notes than actually absorbing the information. “Lectures are often long and monotonous, making it difficult for even the most dedicated students to engage” according to thoughtco.com.

Notes, however, aren’t always bad; in some cases, they can be helpful if they are used creatively. Rex said in Ms. Horst’s Geometry class they were given interactive notebooks for the class. “We would occasionally be given things to cut and paste into them.” This kind of note-taking can help keep kinesthetic students engaged with the material because they are doing work with their hands. It can also provide a break for the minds. 

Technology, such an important part of our daily lives outside the classroom, can play an important role in the classroom keeping kids motivated and engaged. As technology becomes more sophisticated, teachers can more easily implement it in the classroom, enhancing the way they teach. In many classes at Ipswich High, teachers are using technology to make learning fun. “I like when teachers use technology in class like Padlet type programs because I find it interesting to see real-time feedback from my classmates,” says Rex. These programs also allow students to connect with their teachers more easily if there are many kids in the class. Mr. Sidmore uses Google Classroom at the beginning of every lesson to go over the daily agenda. He also uses video and audio components in every lesson to engage students. “Technology is the backbone of what I do,” says Sidmore.

Many students who find learning in school hard have found learning at home even more challenging. Rex says it’s much harder to focus at home. There are so many distractions that aren’t in the classroom. Rex also has found the “unusual setup and flow of the classes” in remote learning challenging. For many students, learning in person is the better option. Rex said that “I find it easier to learn when someone is in front of me.” Mr. Sidmore says, “It’s almost impossible to build relationships with students” and that “Covid has turned teaching on its head.”

Taking breaks throughout the day can be a great way to keep students focused. According to studies on everfi.com, “Implementing these breaks throughout the school day will help you run a more efficient classroom as you reduce off-task behavior, increase engagement, and create a positive and productive learning environment.” Rex feels that breaks give him time to catch up with friends and when he comes back to class he feels more at ease.

Rex says that another way he likes to work is in groups. Working with peers can be a very effective learning method. It challenges students to work with other people they might not be comfortable with. “Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to: break complex tasks into parts and steps, plan and manage time, refine understanding through discussion and explanation, give and receive feedback on performance, challenge assumptions and develop stronger communication skills” accord to the National Survey of Student Engagement in 2006. 

Another factor that can help or hinder student engagement is the class length. In Ipswich, classes are approximately 90 minutes. There is also one class a day that is 50 minutes long. Most students at Ipswich are accustomed to long classes and don’t seem to mind. Rex observed I think that classes are a good length this year. However, I do like the shortened second period because it makes the class feel short which can be relaxing compared to other classes.” There are benefits to changing up the class length and class schedules according to the Tenney School in Houston, Texas: “Constantly shifting classes break up the day and prevent boredom. The learning time is maximized as teachers work quickly to incorporate the day’s necessary instruction. Instruction is fresh and changed regularly.” 

As you can see, today there are many more effective ways to learn than in the past. Teachers should be applauded for their efforts to make kids enjoy school by using different teaching methods to accommodate different learning styles. If students are more engaged in the work, they will get more out of it. As Sidmore concludes, “I think the best way that I’ve experienced keeping students engaged has been by personally connecting with the material myself. You try to show why it’s meaningful to you and then connect it to the real world and explain why a piece of literature you’re trying to get them to read is important. I will connect to something that’s real like a problem, life event or, political concern or issue. Modeling the behavior for students and modeling my thinking pattern is how to get students to learn how to do that for themselves.”