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Are you visual-spatial or auditory-sequential? It makes a difference!

Linda Kreger Silverman. Ph.D. - Visual-spatial learners are individuals who think in pictures rather than in words. They have a different brain organization than auditory-sequential learners. They learn better visually than auditorally. They learn all-at-once, and when the light bulb goes on, the learning is permanent. They do not learn from repetition and drill. They are whole-part learners who need to see the big picture first before they learn the details.

They are non-sequential, which means that they do not learn in the step-by-step manner in which most teachers teach. They arrive at correct solutions without taking steps, so “show your work” may be impossible for them. They may have difficulty with easy tasks, but show amazing ability with difficult, complex tasks. They are systems thinkers who can orchestrate large amounts of information from different domains, but they often miss the details. They tend to be organizationally impaired and unconscious about time. They are often gifted creatively, technologically, mathematically or emotionally.

You can tell you have one of these children by the endless amount of time they spend doing advanced puzzles, constructing with Legos, etc., completing mazes, counting everything, playing Tetris on the computer, playing chess, building with any materials at hand, designing scientific experiments, programming your computer, or taking everything in the house apart to see how it operates. They also are very creative, dramatic, artistic and musical. Here are the basic distinctions between the visual-spatial and auditory-sequential learner:


Thinks primarily in words - Thinks primarily in pictures

Has auditory strengths - Has visual strengths

Relates well to time - Relates well to space

Is a step-by-step learner - Is a whole-part learner

Learns by trial and error - Learns concepts all at once

Progresses sequentially from easy to difficult material - Learns complex concepts easily; struggles with easy skills

Is an analytical thinker - Is a good synthesizer

Attends well to details - Sees the big picture; may miss details

Follows oral directions well - Reads maps well

Does well at arithmetic - Is better at math reasoning than computation

Learns phonics easily - Learns whole words easily

Can sound out spelling words - Must visualize words to spell them

Can write quickly and neatly - Prefers keyboarding to writing

Is well-organized - Creates unique methods of organization

Can show steps of work easily - Arrives at correct solutions intuitively

Excels at rote memorization - Learns best by seeing relationships

Has good auditory short-term memory - Has good long-term visual memory

May need some repetition to reinforce learning - Learns concepts permanently; is turned off by drill and repetition

Learns well from instruction - Develops own methods of problem solving

Learns in spite of emotional reactions - Is very sensitive to teachers’ attitudes

Is comfortable with one right answer - Generates unusual solutions to problems

Develops fairly evenly - Develops quite asynchronously

Usually maintains high grades - May have very uneven grades

Enjoys algebra and chemistry - Enjoys geometry and physics

Learns languages in class - Masters other languages through immersion

Is academically talented - Is creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted

Is an early bloomer - Is a late bloomer

Please visit our sister website, for more information about visual-spatial learners.

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