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Learning and the Senses

Our brains constantly receive and interpret messages that come through our senses. The brain recalls a sound as a siren or the word hello. It can recognize the face of a friend or appreciate beautiful scenery. It regis­ters the feel of a blanket as soft and cuddly. The taste of chocolate is different from that of a lemon. The smell of perfume cannot be confused with the smell of a skunk. The brain recognizes and stores all these sensa­tions for future use. This is how new information gets into the memory. That all this takes place with little effort on our part is a practical example of how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Because of our unique, God-given talents, individu­als learn in somewhat different ways. Some children are primarily auditory learners. They learn best by hearing and talking about things. A visual learner likes to see what is learned. For the visual learner, a picture is worth a thousand words. The auditory learner prefers the thousand words. What about those children who always want to touch and feel everything? Some children need to be physically involved in learning. They need to touch and feel to learn. Some individuals are better at hands-on learning than book learning.

Each learner probably favors one learning mode over another. But all children, even adults for that matter, learn best when they can involve more than one of their senses. Our senses often complement each other. Can you imagine a chef relying solely on sight and not using the sense of smell or taste? That’s why oral reading instead of silent reading is better for some children. Oral reading uses two senses, sight and hearing, while silent reading uses only one. Some chil­dren need to physically experience the new learning. They may need to manipulate the letter F, move buttons around to understand borrowing, or feel the vibrations that make sounds.

To assist your child in learning and understanding new material, try to present that material through as many senses as possible. The more senses the brain uses to process information, the more places the brain can store and access that information.

To make learning more fun and increase memory and understanding, wake up the brain by using a vari­ety of methods that involve all the different senses.


12N2026_patientparentingFrom Patient Parenting, by John Juern.
© 2006 Northwestern Publishing House.
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