Fun, enjoyable ESL lessons that leave lasting impressions for students require teachers to understand the 5 different ways students learn. One way to create engaging lesson plans is to develop lessons with an awareness of your students´ favourite styles of learning.

The 5 styles of learning

Some students respond to visual learning, which includes using pictures, images, and videos. Other students prefer to learn aurally, using music, sound, rhythm, and poetry. Verbal learning using words, speech, and writing will always be important, but using logic and reasoning in lessons can also be helpful. Teachers often neglect to include physical activities in their lessons for students, yet young students benefit greatly from learning using their bodies, hands, and sense of touch.

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Lessons should incorporate the 5 different styles of learning to accommodate their students’ preferences. Students may have a dominant learning style, which teachers can use to create engaging lessons. If the students have weaker learning styles, teachers can emphasise the other styles of learning.

1. Visual

One of my favourite lessons for learning prepositions involves using a big, funny, and busy cartoon-style picture, like Where’s Wally, that has lots of people doing crazy things and asking students to describe what they can see in the picture. This exercise is quite easy and students feel comfortable trying to explain the funny things they can see.

For older students, I use a different humorous cartoon to practice prepositions that shows lots of unfortunate things happening on a street on Friday 13th, which can also be used in a speaking exercise to discuss superstitions and engage their verbal learning style. Using humour in a lesson is essential, because it helps students relax, which is important because learning requires a safe environment where students feel comfortable practising their English.

2. Aural

Teaching my students about how rhyme and rhythm are used to create poetry benefitted my students who have an aural learning style. In this lesson, students created simple rhyming couplets in pairs before working together to create a poem. We then read aloud a poem that had a strong rhythm and clapped our hands together to keep time.

Next, we read aloud “The Congo” a poem that uses many onomatopoeic words like “boom” and “bang”, and since this poem could be performed using simple props such as a broom and an umbrella, I was able to also engage the students who preferred a dramatic, physical style of learning.

3. Verbal

All English lessons involve verbal learning since this is the subject matter of the lessons. Activities such as word searches, crosswords, and writing exercises that require students to practice their vocabulary and grammar engage a verbal learning style. However, I find students reading and speaking aloud in an immersion environment is the best way for them to practice new vocabulary, grammar, and sentence patterns.

Creating games where students win points keeps them interested and involved in a lively environment. These games can be combined with physical actions, such as running to the front or standing up first to engage their physical learning style.

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4. Logic

When teaching my students about what things people can buy in different shops and markets, I split the students into teams, which each had an imaginary budget to buy items from the different places. After all the teams had “bought” all the goods they wanted to buy from the “shops”, I then gave the students a list of items that they needed to win the game, this then created a scenario where the teams that had purchased a relevant item could auction their goods to the highest bidder. This lesson engaged the mathematically, and business-minded students and also encouraged them to practice their English as if they were haggling at a marketplace.

In another lesson for older students, I created a Cludeo, murder mystery style game, where students had to use logic and the process of elimination to work out who committed the crime, where they did it, and the murder weapon used to commit the crime.

5. Physical

Younger students really appreciate lessons that have a physical dimension and this can involve requiring specific physical actions when playing word-based games. One vocabulary based game involves students having the opportunity to throw a paper aeroplane at a target to win points for their team if they answer the question correctly.

Another favourite game for students who enjoy a physical style of learning requires students to put their hand into a closed box, explain what they can feel so that their team can help them to guess what is inside the box. This is obviously a game for the classroom, but a similar game can be used online, where the students guess what is inside a closed box by listening to the sounds (if any) are made as the box is moved and listening to the teacher’s description of the object.

Conclusion

Once you understand the 5 different learning styles and your student’s preferred style of learning, you can adapt your lessons to include more activities that your student is likely to engage with and enjoy. Some online English teaching platforms like VIPKID have excellent resources to help create lessons for all styles of learning, which I often use to create lessons.

Alex graduated from the University of Cambridge, studied TESL at Beijing University, and taught English in a middle school in Shenzhen in the first year. He was promoted in the second year to teach at a government-designated "key" primary school in the centre of Shenzhen. He is passionate about teaching and enjoying the teaching job.

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