Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Psyched! Learning Style/ Perception Modality

Psyched! is a mini-series in which I will discuss some sociological/psychological theories, and how these affect you and your characters. If you missed the first instalment of Psyched! you can read it here.

Today on Psyched! we look at learning style, as it relates to perception modality.

There are 4 types of learning style:


As you may be able to tell from the names these learning styles are related to the sensual perception styles we looked at last time. You will probably need to use all 4 styles in a classroom, but you probably have a preference for one or the other.

Visual learners prefer to recieve their information pictorally- pictures, graphs, diagrams, videos, etc. Visual learners love colour and often dislike working in groups. When they think about a scenario, they often visualise it.

This person learns by reading and writing. This was the kid in school that read the text book and understood even before class started. Like the visual learner, textual learners don't like working in groups. Textual learners tend to do well in traditional school enviroments.

An auditory learner learns through the spoken word. This person prefers small lecture classes, discussion groups and talking out ideas. They learn by saying things out loud, making jingles, putting sounds to rhythm, etc.

These people learn through doing. They need to be actively involve in something, and prefer to employ several senses at once. For example, they may walk around, ipod on, and read their notes. These people do well in lab-based classes, art, and drama.

While this could have some applications for your characters, I believe that the most important applications are for you, the writer. Perception modality, in my opinion, mainly affects two stages of the pre-writing process: research and outline.

Some writers inhale everything they can their hands on when they research. When writing a book about Greece, they read all the books they can find on Greek history, they look up words in a Greek dictionary, find every picture of Greece on Flicker- heck, they even watch THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS.

Other writers dread research. They've never liked poring over tons of books and websites. They choose to write what they know or write fantasy. That way they can avoid research. (This is me- mainly because I'm convinced that if I write what I don't know, people will see through me.)

There is no reason that some of us should be researchers while others are not. You just haven't found a way that suits you yet.


Let's say you're writing a novel about a girl who is doing a cooking internship in Italy. Here's how different learning styles could go about researching.

Watch movies/tv programs on Italy, Italian foods, cooking and internships
Search online for images of Italy, Italians and Italian foods
Look at a map of Italy
Look up charts for the Italian demographic, climate, etc,

Read books and articles about Italy, Italian food, cooking and internships
Write lists (or flash cards or post its) of pertinent information while researching
Look up common words (like bongiorno: good morning) in an Italian dictionary
Compile a list of cooking terms

Watch films/tv programs or listen to radio programs about Italy, Italian food, cooking and internships
Go to lectures about these topics
If you have to read, read out lead
Listen to music about Italy/ from Italy
Listen to broadcasts in Italian
Find an Italian restaurant and talk to the chef or owner
Record what you find and play it back

Go to Italy (Don't I wish!)
Go to an Italian culture or language class
Go to an Italian restaurant
Interview an Italian
Take a cooking class/ try to make Italian food
Make a model of important spaces/places- like the kitchen the MC works in, or the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Writers often argue whether their they are outliners or pantsers (seat-of-the-pants writers). For a long time, I believed myself to be a pantser. Now I believe that every writer outlines. An outline which has not been written down is no less an outline.

Colour code your outline
Find pictures of people who look like you imagine your characters
Map your story progress with concept bubbles
Use a tree diagram or concept bubbles to show character relationships
Use Venn Diagrams to show similarities and differences between characters, locations, scenes, etc.

Write lists of characters, their characteristics, scenes, plot points, settings, etc in sequential order
Make columns with main ideas and add supporting details underneath
Create concept trees or bubbles

Bounce ideas of friends round robin style
Turn on the recorder and talk about your characters, setting scene, the plot, etc
Think cause and effect- X happened so then Y happened, so then Z happened, and then we were back at A
Talk to characters- either out loud or in your head, give them different voices, tone, accents, etc (you might want to do this one out of the way of prying eyes and ears and save yourself a trip to the asylum)
Explain why and how things happen in the plot

Write main ideas on Post-its or flash cards that you can move around later
Act out scenes in your mind
Do something physical (preferably repetitive, like walking) and think about your characters
Write a first draft- for tactile learners, it's difficult to detail things without doing them, so a first draft is really a final outline.

So you see, we're all outliners, whether we have every single plot point on paper in words or pictures, whether we've only talked it out or it's only in our mind, whether or not a 60,000 word first draft is our only real outline.

If you're not immediately sure which type of learner you are, you can try this quiz. Textile seems to only recently have come into it's own as a category, so most tests and information lump it in with visual.

Once you know your learning type, you can use it to your advantage. Or you can just try out several of these techniques and see which one works for you. Personally, I lean towards Tactile, but I've also got some Auditory in me. I'm so bad at visual and textual that I fell asleep in every written exam I took until my final year of university! Only last Sunday, I discovered that tests are so much easier if I draw around the words and mouth them as I read. ( I fully expect mouthing what I'm reading will get me kicked of a test some day...)

I hope you find this information useful.


Anonymous said...
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Alleged Author said...

What a great post, girlie! I love visual, but am partial to tactile and textual as well. I've never been good at auditory because I can't sit still and listen for more than twenty minutes. :P

Marsha Sigman said...

In a learning atmosphere, if I am not the one talking...then I am the one sleeping. I have issues with auditory learning.

Definitely textual all the way! FYI: Received the books from winning your contest and they are awesome!!! Thank you again.

Claire Dawn said...

Thanks guys.

Marsha, glad to hear you received the books.