Not Paying Attention in Class?! 5 Types of Auditory Learners and How to Support Them

Not Paying Attention in Class?! 5 Types of Auditory Learners and How to Support Them

Are you finding yourself frustrated that you see signs of your child not paying attention to the teacher, to you, or the class activity? Relax, Mama! This article might shed a brighter light into what may not be a problem at all.

You may have heard that there are three primary styles of learning: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. Do you know how to recognize it when it’s happening in your child or student? Some signs are easier to identify than others. But in this blog, I’ll list some clues that will help you recognize if you have an auditory learner, especially when it comes to music and theatre arts, and give you my experience on how to support this type of learner.

The Wanderer

This is just what is sounds like. Your child wanders around the room while the activity is being played out by the group. It may appear that she is aimlessly toddling this way and that, now looking at you, now out the window, now at the teacher, now at the floor. It is highly likely that this little one is listening intently, ears “on”, while visiting what you may perceive as La-La Land. Only to join in with you again, back and forth, throughout the lesson.

Or perhaps your tweener has placed his head down into his arms or onto the desk just when you are directly addressing him for instruction or feedback after practice or rehearsal (and you think, “how rude!”). Notwithstanding temperament or when he ate last… this could also be a sign that it is easier to hear what you are saying than to see you say it. Of course, at this tweener stage of development, there are other lessons involved – manners for one – but it can be a sign that he may be focusing on the sounds of what you are saying. He is actually listening. He needs to HEAR you.

The Inspector

The Inspector is cousin to The Wanderer yet seasoned with a bit more intention. But don’t be fooled. She is listening. However, to occupy herself, (e.g. Inspecting cracks in the walls, searching through your purse, or even lying flat on the ground staring at the ceiling), she is able to focus in on the information of the lesson by listening. Sort of like how you may occupy yourself while listening to a podcast. These inspectors may even try to cajole you into their pet project during the lesson. “Hey Mom, did you need your shoes?” And then moments later vocalize or repeat a phrase in a lyric or chant. Or if older, answer the question you thought they didn’t hear.

The Exit Stage Left

This example pertains more to the toddler who has just run out of the room, down the hallway, or even into the backyard etc. You are enjoying class via Zoom call and he just… leaves the room! There he goes toddling down the hallway and disappears. But – he always comes back. Just at the point when he’s ready to express vocally or physically what he is hearing. This one can be hard because you may think for the moment you are left alone with the teacher that the egg shaker lesson in differentiation of beats was for you the whole time. (Well, this is debatable depending on your rhythmic skill.) However, I assure you that the lesson is, indeed, still happening for your tot. You will recognize this when you hear her sing “Ahhhhh” from the bedroom on pitch of the current song.

The Recluse

This is often seen with three and four “nagers” or thereabouts. This oftentimes happens when the lesson is either new or asking of them a deeper level of processing. This can look like utter disregard for the class. It might look like hiding in a corner, facing away from class, or even flopping face down on the floor, only to pop up again when a new activity has begun.  This is usually when parents assess, sometimes incorrectly, that “he’s just not into it” or “doesn’t like it” or “needs soccer instead.” Well, that is possible. But from an educator’s POV its often a sure signal that a new and deeper processing is happening now, and everything else (movement, vision) must be shut out for the learning to occur. In these cases, now that your child is verbal, you can discuss class a few days later. Or start humming a tune from class in the kitchen to see if it starts a conversation.

Another (blatant) example of the auditory learner in a musical setting is the child who cannot process while the primary caregiver is singing. The good news here? No, Jane does not hate the way you sing, Mom! But she is learning to differentiate her tones and ability to replicate tone and rhythm – as separate from yours. It’s the beginning of “ear training”. And, as she has up until this point, pretty much associated her voice and body as your voice and body from infancy, this is a big adjustment to make. The maturing auditory learner may need you to take a back seat vocally. It’s all part of the maturing ear. It doesn’t last forever and soon you’ll be singing together again – in harmony! So, when you see these signs resist the urge to stop the trajectory of this stage of development.

The Circler

This one can be confused with “the mover” (a more kinesthetic approach) and does sometimes comes as a combo pack. But this learner occupies the space in a repetitive movement usually around the outskirts of the class. You may experience this as your child being on a circular racetrack and can really put parents on alert when there are two or more traveling in opposite directions. You try to focus on modelling, but your child is in danger of prat-falling or a train collision with another tot. This, too, is a sign of the auditory learner. This child, all too often, will stop on a dime to express vocally or physically the current activity. Then be on his way again.

So, there you have it. Hopefully this will help, should you find yourself with an auditory learner in your midst. Your job?

  • Allow the processing to happen
  • Keep modelling as best you can if in a family class
  • Have patience with your child’s natural temperament

And also consider whether hunger, naptimes, or changes at home, may be part of the equation when assessing learning styles or particular responses your child may exhibit in class.

Do you remember what kind of learner you were as a child? Do you see the same in your child? Comment below on your experience with this! And check back for more blogs on other learning styles.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ann Phillips

    Great information for parents who may be frustrated thinking their child isn’t paying attention or even interested in learning when they are simply processing the information in their own way! Don’t give up on new experiences too soon, thinking your child isn’t ‘into it’ – he or she may well be listening or feeling the energy in their own creative way.

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