Thursday, August 23, 2012

Born to think that way. Don't fight it. Work with it.

In what way does your child gather information?
A Concrete thinker usually relies heavily on his 5 senses to collect data.  They don't try to read between the lines, they don't try to theorize or imagine.  It's like Colombo, "just the facts ma'am, just the facts."  They live in the here and now, and value what is real and tangible and verifiable.  They will tend to actually reference the user manual to the new calculator, because it makes more sense than trying to 'figure it out.'  The above pantry would be a no brainer for a concrete, although they might question if the cuteness of the labels was really necessary-just plain would be ok. 

An Abstract thinker loves to visualize, entertain ideas, imagine possibilities, intuit hidden meanings.  They rely more heavily on intuition, intellect and imagination as opposed to the 5 senses.  They will look beyond the obvious to discover implications and possibilities. An abstract might look at the above pantry and immediately notice how cute the lime green is and wonder if the containers might come in other colors.  And, oh my gosh, the labels are so cute.  Do they only come in lime?  How cute would paisley be?  In eggplant?  I wonder if HomeGoods would have something I could use?  The vision of the pantry serves as inspiration for the Abstract thinker and launches them into imaginings.

How does your child 'order' or process the information they gather?


The next thing to consider once you determine the way they gather information, is to determine what their brain does with that information.  ORDERING is the way we use the information we perceive and each person will tend to order the info SEQUENTIALLY or RANDOMLY.

SEQUENTIAL:  This kind of brain will take the information 'input' and process it in a linear, logical,  step by step manner.  Sequential kids like to have a plan and like to follow it.  They will regularly want to know 'what comes next' or 'what are we doing after this?'  or will remind you 'you said we were going to do ....."   They might take one look at the above pantry and immediately wonder if  the containers were arranged in some obvious order, like alphabetical.  What is the method of arranging the containers?  According to content?  Color, type, expiration date?

RANDOM:  This kind of brain will take the information, see it as chunks and will store it in no particular sequence.  The brain will skip around, in no particular order, piecing these chunks together in a way that produces a desired result.  These types of kids my seem to be more go with the flow, spontaneous or even impulsive.  They just want to get 'it' done, they don't care about the steps to get there.  If a random thinker sees this pantry, he might immediately think how funny it might be to re-arrange all the expertly lined up containers and watch a sequential freak out at the sight.

According to the Gregorc Learning Style Model
there are 4 different possible combinations.

Concrete/Sequential this post
Abstract/Sequential click here
Abstract/Random click here

Figuring out how your kid's brain works will help you to choose curriculum and administer a program of education that has the best chance of success.  Additionally, it's quite a useful life skill.  Most people tend to talk to and relate to others in a manner that is most comfortable to themselves.  But, what if we are able to learn to speak to someone else in 'their language' and not just our own.  It will help others to feel more understood and more loved.  Yep.  It's worth the time and effort.

1/  Concrete Sequential (CS):  You'll recognize these folks, they like routine.  They prefer a neat and orderly environment like the pantry picture above.  (If they're kids, they may not have a clean room because they haven't developed the discipline of cleaning. But they will suffer more agitation from a disorderly environment, even if they don't know how to fix it)  Before attempting a task, they will want very clear directions and to understand expectations so they can avoid the disappointment resulting from ambiguity.  They may be very practical, choose the most efficient way of doing something and work well with time limits.  They prefer routines, having a schedule and they pay close attention to detail.  Because of these tendencies, they may find it frustrating to work in a group where they are challenged with differing personalities.  As a teacher, it's helpful to know that CS kids will not enjoy discussions with no right or wrong answer or no specific point, working with abstract ideas, or in a cluttered environment.  They will prefer book reports to creative writing assignments as they like tangible and verifiable facts as opposed to the 'frivolity' of creative imagination.  Certainly these are skills that need to be developed and not everything needs to be catered to their learning style.  However, when you are first introducing a skill (like writing) it is beneficial to cater the skill to their strengths until mastery comes, then stretch them outside their comfort zone.  For example, it can be overwhelming to a CS to have to do creative writing as a first writing assignment.  The learning of the writing, the handwriting AND having to use imagination and be creative can blow their brain, resulting in a contempt of writing all together.  Instead, start them on fact based writing assignments until they become proficient, then maybe ease them into creative writing by giving them a topic, or a starting sentence or paragraph  (google 'story starters' for examples or books to buy) 

As a matter of practice, try to have their assignments printed out for them at the beginning of the day.  If you want to add a teaspoon of love, make little check boxes they can mark upon completion, or stickers, they'll love that.  For middle elementary kids on up, you'll get a lot of mileage out of teaching them to use a calendar and keeping them up to date at a weekly family meeting of what will be coming the following week.  Truly, you can head off a lot of frustration before it even has a chance to hatch.  Get in the habit of asking your CS kid questions like 'are these directions clear' or 'do you feel you have all the information you need to complete this assignment' or 'do you understand what is expected of you?'  or 'what do you need from me to help you be successful in this assignment or task?'  They don't like surprises.

CSers can be a little frustrating as they will tend to  point out potential caveats.  It can be perceived, especially by their opposites (AR) as being negative, or a downer.  I'm a Abstract/Random married to a Concrete Sequential.  I come up with big ideas that I'm excited about.  He points out where my idea has flaws.  He's usually right.  But it still feels like I'm trying to fly and he is standing on my cape.  This has caused a fair amount of conflict and hurt feelings.  As we have grown in our ability to accept one another and value loving one another in our 'differentness', he's adopted phrases like "I can see you're really excited about this idea", and THEN pokes holes in my plan.  I have learned to hear him as a constructive critic and not as someone trying to be a discouragement.  In other words, we are learning to work with each other's personalities, not judge them as not as evolved as our own.

Here's a few more things that will help you understand CSers:
*They are no-nonsense communicators.  When they do this, they are not being rude.  In the same way they don't value cute pantry labels, they don't value flowery language.  They are efficient and direct.  It's not personal.  And they will roll their eyes and metaphorically bang their head on the wall if you use too many words with them.  Cut to the chase.  Get to the point.  If you don't, your CS kids will develop the habit of tuning you out. 
*When trying to motivate your CS, use logic not emotion.  Don't wail and beg and plead and whip out the tears and what not.  If this....then this....  Pretend you're Spock's mom.  Don't be illogical.  It doesn't compute.
*They love lists.  They really love lists they make.  So you can really get mileage out of giving them lists with check-boxes.  But if you work with them to make the list, you're really a rock star mom.  See, here's the kicker.  They hate to contradict themselves.  If you make the list and they don't do it, they can accuse you of making an illogical list.  If they help make the list and agree to it, they will die trying to complete the list rather than admit they were less than exemplary.  Come on now.  This is parenting at a whole 'notha level.
*They would rather duplicate than innovate.  They want a pattern to follow.  They want someone to go first and show them the way.  They may avoid a task or assignment that has unclear expectations.  Again, it's not a bad attitude.  It involves too much risk for them. 
*They are most brilliant when they fine tune someone else's idea. 

The Upsides:
*You should put them in charge of packing the family car for vacation.  As they get older, they will think of every contingency and prepare for it.  They'll make packing lists, have two routes mapped out 'just in case.'  They make great family calendar managers, meal planners, shopping list makers and pantry re-organizers.  Of course you'll need to train and coach them.  But these kinds of tasks are where your CS kids will excel and tasks they will enjoy.  They will get a great sense of accomplishment in serving their family in these areas.  Don't ask them to create homemade wrapping paper or hand them a blank piece of paper to make a homemade birthday card.  Guaranteed they'll take a black sharpie, write 'happy birthday' then run away and go play with their calculator.  They're not having a bad attitude-they are making the same practical card they'd want to receive. 

The Downsides:
*Sometimes, they come off as self righteous and obnoxious.  They are compelled to point out what seems to them as obvious oversight or error.  They view it as a service.
*They can come off as legalistic and intolerant of 'stupid human error'.  They'll leave you a note to let you know just what you did wrong.  Do not take it personally.  It has more to do with their need for order than your 'error. ' Let it roll off your back.  Put on red lipstick, kiss the note and leave a reply, "thanks for being patient with your imperfect Momma, dear CS child." 
*Others may perceive CSers as being to perfectionistic.  They may feel that things or processes are more important than people.  They may appear to be too narrowly focused, impatient or lack flexibility.

Love your CS by:
*keeping an organized environment (at least their's)
*having a routine
*being consistent and predictable
*saying EXACTLY what you mean, and mean what you say and be short and sweet and clear when you say it.
* using tangible rewards.  Words are good.  Money they can count is better, more practical.
*giving advanced notice and allowing them to mentally prepare.  Spontaneity can throw them off balance and make them feel out of control.  (Not that you can NEVER be spontaneous-just don't get hurt if they don't appreciate it as much as you'd like)

*over schedule-it results in perceive chaos for the CS
*be vague or give unclear direction
*fail to provide an example and check for understanding

Schooling your CS:
*As a rule, your CS may display more of a natural aptitude with maths and sciences.  Reading may be more challenging as the rules (especially for English) are broken with great frequency which can be very frustrating for a CS.  Patience and empathy are in order.  Don't react to their protests "this is stupid!"  Just calmly refocus them to the task, or take a break and attack again.
*Biographies as opposed to flowering books with excessive dialog will be preferred by a CS.  They may prefer reference material. 
*If you do narration exercises, you may find that your CS kid's assessment of a passage is much different.  Short, to the point, just the facts.  If you ask him about sensory stuff, like how the protagonist felt, you may get one word answers that go up in inflection at the end, as though their answer were a question.  "Sad?"  They're not holding out on you or not taking the assignment seriously, they just don't think about that stuff when you're reading.  They're more worried about the sequence of events, inconsistencies and accuracy of the information.  Don't compare him to the highly imaginative child who could spin off fabulous alternative endings to a story.  CS kids don't think like that.
*Curriculum that is routine and predictable may be a best fit for a CS student.  Saxon products.  Apologia for Science. 
*I'm not a big fan of fill in the blank type of worksheets as a rule, but a CS kid will be more comfortable with this approach than other learning styles.  School in a box or online school will be more easily tolerated by a CS.  (FYI: an AR would rather gouge their own eyes out-just saying)
*On the upside, a CS is quite comfortable getting their list of assignments and working alone.  It's important to help your child learn to work in a group co-cooperatively, but understand it takes alot more mental calories and they may become frustrated and unpleasant with extended periods of co-operative interaction.  Give them a break before they resent the whole co-operative process and reject it all together.
*As your student gets older, they may prefer their assignments weekly with the latitude to schedule themselves daily with end of the week accountability.

Future posts planned on the 3 other styles:
2/  Abstract Sequential (AS)
3/  Abstract Random  (AR)
4/  Concrete Random (CR)

I hope this helps you teach well and love well.