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Teaching Strategies and Resources That Meet the Needs of Visual Learners

by Sarah K Major February 04, 2016 1 Comment

Teaching Strategies and Resources That Meet the Needs of Visual Learners

A visual-spatial learner is a student who learns holistically (all at once) rather than in a step-by-step fashion. Pictures, whether printed or imagined, play an important role in the learning process. Because the child is processing primarily in pictures rather than words, ideas are interconnected, and the child must not be rushed and should be judged on how well he/she can put into words what he/she sees.

When you use SnapWords® for learning high-frequency words, the brain snaps a picture of the word and easily recalls it later when the child no longer sees the image.

Is my child a visual learner?

As a parent, you naturally want to provide the best learning experience for your child. You’ve doubtless heard a lot about the various learning styles and how they might impact how your child learns, but you also might wonder how much of it is relevant to your situation. If your child is sailing through learning reading and math, likely not much of the learning styles discussion would impact you and your family. However, if your child is struggling with reading and/or math, looking at learning styles is important. In particular, visual-spatial learners tend to face learning difficulties because traditional curricula are designed for a different type of learner.  

What are the strengths of the visual learner?

the mind of a visual learner
  • They have mental cameras that snap an unforgettable picture of the concept if it is designed favorably for them.
  • They are amazing detectives, searching for and finding similarities between elements, group those together naturally, and learn them by snapping a picture of the pattern.
  • They are global thinkers. This means they see the whole picture with all of its elements, and once they are shown the goal, they are excellent at creating efficient and effective steps for reaching that goal.
  • They are intuitive. They extract meaning, they read between the lines, they understand shades of meaning. They are very good at reading people and their emotions and caring for them.

What are some good teaching strategies for visual learners?

Many visual learners must see the whole picture before they can make sense out of a single detail. They have to see each detail fitting into the whole and see the relationship between all the parts. Any detail not located within the map – not related to other details – becomes a serious distraction. When presented with details they don’t know how to deal with, visual learners can come to an abrupt, stammering halt. They appear to be absolutely dim and incapable of grasping what seems amazingly simple to their sequential peers. Thinking in whole pictures is actually a wonderful ability – it is just not appreciated in traditional lessons. 

Are there many children who learn best through pictures?

The same applies to different types of learners. We have come to the point in our society where every child seems to need a label and one that details specifically how he learns or doesn’t learn. We have visual learner, tactile learner, dyslexic learner, autistic, and many many other labels. The implication is that each of those types of learners requires a specific set of directions for how to teach them successfully. In doing research, however, and as I have read the experts in each of the most common areas of disability, one element keeps on showing up: the fact that so many of these non-traditional learners learn best through pictures and hands-on lessons. 

Helping visual learners with reading comprehension.

One of the constants in classrooms across the country is the sight word list. Every teacher has a list and one of her important tasks is to get her children to learn all the words on the list. I remember paying a lot of attention to sight word acquisition when I was in the classroom; after all, we had testing every quarter and a big component of each test was sight word recognition. The children who had become very fluent in instantly being able to call the words as they flashed before their eyes scored highest on their testing. Those children who preferred to think a bit, to make sure they were saying the right word, or who needed to look for clues to help them remember, well, they scored lower. At any rate, it was something we all focused on quite a bit.

Why is a multisensory teaching approach best and what does one look like?

What does it really mean when we say multisensory? The accepted, traditional teaching techniques typically used in the classroom meet the needs of (left-brained) sequential learners. Concepts are introduced in a step by step sequence and are practiced and reviewed using drill and memorization; children must also show evidence of their learning in a particular time frame. This is all very good for children who are left-brained or sequential learners. The problem is, of course, that while the approach to teaching is great for those children who are sequential, every learner is taught this way and this traditional approach is ineffective at best for all the non-sequential learners.

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.