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September 14, 2017

Reaching Visual-Spatial Learners

Visual-spatial learners think in images and see big ideas as a whole rather than the sum of their parts. In comparison, auditory-sequential learners think in words and process new ideas one step at a time. Learn how you can reach visual-spatial learners with Pear Deck.

Pear Deck inherently reaches more visual-spatial students than traditional lecture and note-taking experiences. Students are interacting with and creating their own visuals, rather than racing to express their ideas in words. However, there are more ways to use Pear Deck to make visual-spatial learners feel the lesson was designed with their needs in mind.

Give students choice with drawing slides

Visual-spatial students struggle to express their mental images as words. A drawing slide allows students to choose whether they want to respond with text or with images.

Often, students could appropriately respond either way or improve their response with a combination of text and images. Think about whether your students need to articulate the concept in words, or if they can demonstrate their understanding with text or images.

Create visual metaphors

Students need to see the relationships between new ideas and what they already know; they want relevancy. One way to create these mental pathways is through visual metaphors.

For example, I have students compare the layers of the Earth to a food. This helps them to visually apply new information about Earth’s layers in a context they already understand. Students can also process the similarities and differences between the two in a meaningful way.

Use website slides to allow students to add their own images

Teachers often ask how they can have students respond to prompts with images. While students can’t submit images as a response to a slide, you can create a website slide that links to a Google Doc, Slide deck, or Form (that is shared appropriately). Students can submit their own images as a Google Drawing or insert images from a web search.

You can also create a table like the one below in a Google Doc so students can respond as they choose. You could also add sections for synonyms, antonyms, real-world examples, visual metaphors, and using the word in a sentence. This gets each student involved in a way that works for them, and gets them collaborating.

Table on Diaspora with columns "Describe this idea in words, Share a visual representation of this idea, What question do you have about this idea?"

Use student-paced mode to give learners more time

Visual-spatial students often need more time to convert their mental images into a response to a question or prompt. Pear Deck has a student-paced feature that can put students in control of the slides for brief intervals or the whole deck. Use the student-paced feature so students can work at a comfortable pace for 3–5 slides and then turn it off and bring the class back together.

Additionally, you could create two versions of a question (ex. one drawing and one text) and use student-paced so students can choose how they would like to respond.

Create mnemonics and memory devices together

Visual-spatial learners see the big picture and do not benefit from incessant practice and rote memorization. Their brains are activated by humor and engaging ideas so fun memory devices will help them remember important concepts.

Instead of quizzing students, use Pear Deck to ask them to work together to create mnemonics and memory devices. Show a video example of a memory device to get them thinking and then ask them to respond with tools they have devised. Students will benefit from creating the device themselves and from seeing the ideas other students have brainstormed as well.

While these strategies are designed for visual-spatial learners, they can benefit all students by empowering them with choice and engaging both sides of the brain.


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Alyssa Davidson
Earth Science teacher

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