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Using Stories and Visual Cues with Visual Learners

by Sarah K Major February 04, 2016

Using Stories and Visual Cues with Visual Learners

Being a visual learner myself, I know how hard it can be for visual learners to remember what is conveyed orally. I can remember what I hear if I take the time to focus intently on what is being said, and then if I connect the fact to a visual reminder of some kind. For instance, when I ask what time we have to be at an appointment, I won’t remember unless I take the time to imagine an image of a clock with hands pointing to the time. If I ask for directions when I am lost, I hear the words, but unless I “draw” a map in my mind as the person tells me the steps to follow, I won't retain the information. Being this visual myself helps me understand clearly what visual learners need to help them remember what you teach them.

As parents and teachers, we recognize that children who are visual learners won’t do as well if the primary form of teaching is oral, but this is still the way we communicate most frequently. We’ve talked about using visual cues with visual learners; stories can take these cues one step further and make learning and remembering even easier for your visual learner.

A Story for Remembering the Hour and Minute Hands on a Clock

Stories that help with telling time

I grew up reading stories that explain really important facts like how the bear got a short tail, or why wolves howl at the moon. And I still remember these facts this many years later! Stories act like glue that tie facts together in a way that is unforgettable. 

We use this approach in Alphabet Tales, and my experience has been that little tykes absorb the story and never forget the letter and sound that goes with it. Stories don’t have to be high flown literature either. 

For instance, telling a child that the long hand on a clock goes fast and the short hand goes slow is totally forgettable. If, however, you link the hands of the clock to the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it will be easy for the child to remember that while the Tortoise crawls slowly from one number to the next, the Hare bounds rapidly from number to number during the same amount of time. While this image is a visual cue, the story reinforces the concept you are teaching.

A Story for Remembering the Difference Between "Foot" and "Inch"

In another blog post, I suggested a visual cue to help children remember concepts for measurement such as “foot” and “inch.”

Story and visual to help teach measurement terms successfully

In the post I told a really silly story about inchworm farmers in Farmerville who believed everyone should have the same size farm. The problem was, they didn’t know anything about measuring. At a town meeting, they agreed that they would just use their feet to walk the perimeter of their farm and each farmer would have 200 “feet” on each side of their farm. 

Problem was, each farmer had a different size foot and those with the biggest feet had the biggest farms! Next, they hit on the idea of using foot long hot dogs to measure. Feeling very brilliant, farmers ran out and each bought a foot long hotdog to use to measure. 

Problem was, the hot dogs became stinky and rotten and had to be thrown out! At the next town meeting, a little boy cut into their arguments with the suggestion that they make a wooden foot for each farmer, and thus ended the argument about the size foot to use. So that is what they did.

A Story for What Fractions Means

A little while back I wrote another blog post about how to teach fractions in a way visual learners will remember. Here is the visual I used:

A story to show what fractions mean

This image shows the fraction 3/7. 

The story for this image is that you are going to bake a cake and need to put tool that you will use on the table top. The storage under the orange table shows how many tools you have in all.

A Story for Plural and Possessive Tense

Visuals with mini stories help children remember how to tell the difference between a plural and a possessive tense. Just telling a child that Moms means more than one, while Mom’s means something belongs to Mom will not be enough for a visual learner. Instead, use a visual cue and mini story to cement learning.

This visual shows plurals: more than one boy and more than one Mom.

A visual that shows plural tense

When talking about this image with your child, you could say, “The boys went to ask their Moms if they could go swimming."

This second visual shows possession: the boy’s dog and the Mom’s baby.

A visual that shows possessive tense

The people’s arms show the location of the apostrophe. 

When talking about this image, you might say, “The boy’s dog is brown.” and “The Mom’s baby is smiling.”

Using Stories and Visual Cues is Great for a Laugh

One kindergartner went home and shared with her mother the story of the inchworm farmers who tried using foot long hot dogs to measure and how the hot dogs rotted. Her mom picked up the phone and asked me, “What in the world did you teach my child today!?” 

Apparently her daughter was not able to relate in total brilliance the whole story of the inchworm farmers, but she truly remembered the terms “inch” and “foot” and remembered also their relative sizes! In addition to helping Alex remember the terms, a byproduct of this lesson was that it gave her mother and I a chance to enjoy a good laugh!

Sarah K Major
Sarah K Major


Sarah's absolute belief in every child’s ability to learn, and her passion to empower the child by supporting his/her own unique giftedness have fueled her life’s work and provided a new pathway for children to succeed academically.