• Nene Bilingüe Mami

Children's Learning Styles & Bilingualism

No two children are identical (not even twins - who may look alike but similarities may stop there). Any parent who has more than one child knows that even siblings sharing the same environment, nurturing, and home are as unique as they come. Their personalities may be complete opposites, and so may be their learning styles.

In 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner proposed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. He established 8 intelligence modalities or types. Instead of measuring intelligence as one dominant value, he proposed that humans learn and show their knowledge in these 8 forms:


People who easily understand sound, rhythm, tones, and music. Singing, playing instruments, composing music are all part of the musical-rhythmic intelligence of a person.


This modality allows people to understand visual space. Planing or setting up a space may come easy to these individuals.


Individuals who enjoy reading, writing, and telling stories. They tend to have a large vocabulary and learning languages may come easy to them.


This intelligence focuses on logical thinking, problem solving, abstract reasoning, and number sense.


People who learn with movement and body movement. This intelligence is strong in athletes, dancers, actors, and people who make or build things.


This type of learning ability allows people to be sensitive to other's moods, feelings, temperaments, motivations, and their ability to work with them well. They aren't always leaders, the key to this intelligence is to be able to collaborate with others to reach a goal.


"Intra" means inside or within. Individuals with high intrapersonal intelligence can self-reflect about their own abilities and thoughts. In addition, this ability helps people predict their emotions and reactions to specific situations.

Naturalistic (added in 1995)

This intelligence has great focus in nature and how to use our natural surroundings.

Gardner established these intelligences not to label or limit people as such, but to provide more variety and empower learners (and educators) to different modalities.

What does this all have to do with bilingualism?

For starters, it's good to be in-tune with your child's natural interests when it comes to engaging them (and keeping them engaged) with content in the target language. So, if you notice that certain types of activities keeps your child's attention better and longer than others you tend to use it as a strategy. When there are more than one child in a home, parents can use a mixture of strategies and activities that may help their multiple learning intelligences.

Below are some activities that may help your unique child better engage with the target language:


-Music class

-Listening to music

-Playing an instrument

-Playing regional music (cultural connection to language)

-Books with rhyme and rhythm

-Books based on well known songs


-Field trips (museums, aquariums, zoo etc)

-Build with blocks

-Use basic shapes to create art

-Use gestures

-Point out and talk about things in new surroundings

-Learning about countries that speak the target languages using a glob or atlas


-Write stories

-Read books

-Tell stories (retold or made-up)

-Listen to stories (told, on a device, podcasts)


-Word games (scrabble, word search, mad-

lib etc)


-Search and Find activities

-Research project of their choice

-Asking open ended questions (for example "why" or "how")

-Building puzzles

-Scinece experiments


-Dance class (ie folklorico)



-Scavenger hunts

-Acting (playing charades)

-Pretend and dramatic play (costumes, pretend food, kitchen etc)


-Playdates with friends who also use the target language

-Bilingual or Storytime

-Talking about careers in and out of your community


-Diary/Journal in the target language (for self, or between them and a friend or parent)

-Photo albums or scrapbooking

-Taking pictures and using pictures to make something


-Nature walks

-Creating collections of items (in and out of the home)


-Outdoor play

-Attend cultural festivals and performances

The above are just a few examples. All the suggestions should be done in the target language or minority language to help foster the use and necessity of using the language.

The Simplified Version

Children may be auditory, visual, kinesthetic, or tactile learners. Below are simple suggestions for their preferred learning style (or styles). The following excerpt was adapted from the book, The Bilingual Edge by Kendall King Ph.D. and Alison Mackey Ph.D.

Auditory learners enjoy hearing language input, so listening to songs and stories may be of high interest to them. Visual learners like to see language, so looking at words and pictures are how they may internalize language. For older kids writing stories in the target language may be a possible activity to try. Movement helps kinesthetic learners. Sports, field trips, acting, and movement classes are all helpful. Tactile learners respond to touch, so activities such as painting, arts and crafts, and cooking may help them engage with language.

If the above excerpt is helpful, be on the look-out for my full review and notes on the book.

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