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Learning Styles-Visual Learners-"Show Me"

By Pamela Maxey


I'm a Missouri girl born and raised. Mark Twain I'm not, but then again who is? Mark Twain is a favorite Missouri son of course but unless you're from these parts you may not know that our state motto is "The Show Me State". It rubs me a bit wrong as it implies that the state is comprised only of visual learners when I know in fact that at least one auditory learner makes this her home! A visual learner constantly wants to see what is going on and needs to see how things work in order to learn. I think the Missourians got the slogan because they were a stubborn lot who had to have things proven to them. Don't make that mistake with your visual learner. You might think he or she is being stubborn when they can't follow your directions, but in actuality, they need to be shown how to follow the directions.


Visual learners are those who often need oral directions repeated, remembers things best if they are written down, likes to have a visual presentation (charts, graphs, etc), can understand and use maps easily, can picture things in his head, likes jigsaw puzzles, and will often get words to a song incorrect. A visual learner will most likely be strong in spelling and math skills while reading and language skills may not be as strong. We all tend to learn something quicker when we are shown how to do it. For example, few people learn a game as quickly when they must read the directions and play. They would rather have someone show them how to play. We all have some parts of auditory and visual learning. The key is to maximize the benefits of all areas.



Visual input is easy to include in lessons with your child. Showing examples of work is the easiest way to increase visual skills. Model your learning activities for your child whenever possible. When teaching handwriting skills, model the correct formation of the letter while you are also using auditory modes by telling your child exactly what you are doing. Work through math problems while you are talking through the points. If your child has very strong visual learning skills and is having difficulty learning, you may need to increase your visual associations for learning. Many alphabet flashcards use this technique by having pictures on the back of a letter card to reinforce the letter sound. Some children I have taught needed even more visual reinforcement such as having a letter within a picture beginning with the letter sound. The same reinforcement can be done with math facts. The fact can be written into and incorporated within a picture to help with the memorization of that fact. In math, it is important to use manipulatives to teach math concepts. You do not need to purchase expensive manipulatives kits, but use things in your house. I have used pennies, game chips, buttons, and craft sticks for manipulatives. For the visual learner, use charts, maps, graphs, and pictures whenever possible. Use a highlighter in texts to mark important information. Read texts with your child and help him to visualize the material. Visual learners will often learn well with a computer and videos. This child will most likely need more than phonics to learn to read. Be sure to teach sight words and use context to read. Guided reading is a good approach to teach reading for those who are visual learners and not strong in auditory skills. When teaching writing skills, use graphic organizers to help your child get a visual picture in his mind. In other subjects, use outlines, charts, maps, and other visual representations to increase your child's learning. This child will also most likely need a quieter place to learn than the auditory learner.


Children who have visual difficulties can have a difficult time with writing on paper, letter formation, spelling, reading left to right, transposing letters, and math skills. Some ideas to help with paper and pencil activities can be as easy as color-coding your child's paper before writing. I always color-code with green for 'go' and red for 'stop' If your child has difficulty writing from left to right, put a green line down the left side of the paper and a red line down the right side. Your child will see to start on the green side and go to the red side and stop. Many children with visual difficulties have a hard time writing on lined paper. First, don't write on lined paper until your child has letters formed correctly and can write the letters close to the appropriate size. Then you may want to color code the lines of the paper with green on the top line, then leave the slashed line plain, and color the bottom line red. This will help to reinforce starting letters at the top and writing the letters with downward movements. This will also give you a better point of reference as you model and explain how to make specific letters. You can use color-codes in reading also. You can draw in the margins of the book or use sticky notes to mark the left and right side of the text. This will help with your child's tracking of the text. Another method to help with tracking is to use an index card as a bookmarker. You can make a small rectangular cutout in the top right hand corner of the index card. Your child can slide the card across the line of text and the index card hides the previous words on that line and the lines of text below the line your child is reading. This helps your child track the line he is reading and keeps extra visual stimuli from distracting him while he is reading and decoding words.


A child with strong visual skills and weak auditory skills can be stressful to teach, especially if you don't match those skills. Evaluate what you teach and why. Gear your curriculum and lessons to a more visual model than auditory model if that is your child's learning preference. You will most likely not have difficulty with math and spelling work. The areas with the most concern for you are generally reading and language skills. Even children with very weak auditory skills can be successful readers and writers, but it takes time and attention. Use your time to your child's advantage!


Pamela Maxey is the founder of Classic Apple. She graduated from William Jewell College with a degree in Elementary Education. She has taught children with learning disabilities or homeschooled her own children for the past 20 plus years. She resides in Lee's Summit, Missouri with her husband and two sons and, as of the year 2000, counts herself among the growing sorority of breast cancer survivors. Here life is a testimony to the saving Love of her Heavenly Father.  You can contact her at 816-537-5801 or


Copyright 2003.
Originally appeared in Winter 2003. Used with permission.
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.



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