Listen Well, Learn Well: Working with Auditory Learners
Auditory learners are students who tend to learn best when instruction or information is delivered orally. Other characteristics include a preference for talking, listening, and other social interactions; an ease of remembering names and songs; and a need for verbal praise and support. Some researchers estimate that up to 25 percent of the population falls into the auditory learner category, while others dispute the idea that dominant learning styles exist at all.
However, anyone who has parented, taught, or worked with more than one child will likely agree that differences in learning styles are not so easy to brush off. Let’s take a deeper dive into auditory learning as an example of how tailored teaching strategies can broaden a teacher’s reach and help more students become successful, fluent readers. For those seeking more information about other learning styles and challenges, this website is an excellent place to start.
Listen up: Recognizing auditory learners
As mentioned above, auditory learners (as opposed to visual or kinesthetic learners) often crave direct contact with information through conversation, oral instruction, and listening. Aural learners tend to be quite social or extroverted, which can make them “some of the most engaged and responsive” students in a class, according to an overview of this learning style. These students may also shine as storytellers, singers, and collaborators. Verbal instructions are often quickly absorbed and recalled by aural learners, who may also do well on oral—versus written—assessments.
Some of the challenges associated with auditory learners connect to their strengths. Being social and verbally oriented can be a wonderful skill set, yet it can also cause students to become easily distracted. Classrooms that are too noisy or even quiet can be tough on a student who is very attuned to sound, as the impulse to respond to distracting sounds or interject whispers or questions into a silent room can overwhelm an auditory learner. Also, if oral instructions are not provided, these students may struggle to keep pace with their classmates.
Strategies for helping auditory learners
Typical reading instruction doesn't always include a great deal of speaking, listening, and talking, and common aspects of reading instruction—including silent reading or grouping students by ability—can be challenging for socially aware, orally inclined students. To adequately embrace and nurture students who may learn best through talking, listening, and actively engaging with adults and peers, consider the following strategies:
Effective listening: Learning how to listen effectively should be considered an essential pre-literacy skill, especially for auditory learners. Listening attentively, with an emphasis on comprehension, has been identified as an important school and reading-readiness skill, and should ideally be actively modeled and taught to students.
Choral reading: Reading aloud as a class can help aural learners practice fluency and grasp sight words, while also tapping into their preference for social interaction, music, and sound-inspired lessons.
Going beyond the book: Provide an opportunity for students to listen to audiobooks or even record and listen to their own stories. One advantage of audiobooks is that they cover a range of topics, from fairy tales to science. Additionally, they can be used to reinforce whole group lessons and give struggling readers another way to practice their emerging skills by reading along.
Bringing the noise: Experiment with playing music during quiet work time—at acceptable levels, of course—or with allowing auditory learners to listen to their own music through headphones when appropriate. Use podcasts, music and rhythm, and other auditory devices to help aural learners feel engaged and inspired.
There is a multitude of resources available for teachers who want to better reach different types of students, including those who learn best through speaking, socializing, and listening. It may not be possible to always tailor lessons to individual students and their various strengths, but having a few additional strategies up one’s sleeve could prove crucial to reach, teach, and boost the literacy skills of all students.
Featured White Paper:
Oral language has a profound impact on children’s preparedness for kindergarten and on their success throughout their academic career. Read the white paper by Dr. Liz Brooke, Lexia's Chief Education Officer, to learn about the critical role of oral language in reading instruction and assessment, including the implications for teachers with Title I and English Learner students.