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Eye to Eye: Connecting with Gifted Visual Spatial Learners. Rebecca L. Mann rlmann@purdue.edu web.ics.purdue.edu/~rlmann. Strengths of individuals with spatial reasoning gifts. Visual Spatial Learners are adept at: Puzzles and Mazes Block Counting - 3D arrays with hidden blocks

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eye to eye connecting with gifted visual spatial learners

Eye to Eye: Connecting with Gifted Visual Spatial Learners

Rebecca L. Mann



Visual Spatial Learners are adept at:

Puzzles and Mazes

Block Counting - 3D arrays with hidden blocks

Visual Transformations

Envisioning a folded & cut piece of paper when open

Spelling words as well backwards as forwards

Getting around in unfamiliar territory

Reading charts, maps, diagrams

Picturing objects from different angles

Recalling series of numbers/letters they have seen

Numerical relations and mathematical reasoning

g n i z a m a

strengths of visual spatial learners
Strengths of Visual Spatial Learners

Visual Spatial Learners

are adept at:




Visual Spatial Learners enjoy:

Blocks and Boxes

Construx and Legos



Gears and Tinker Toys


None of my toys work because I took them

all apart to see what makes them work.

Sequential Spatial

Profoundly influenced by time Preoccupied with space

Western thought boy Eastern thought

Rapid processor Slow processor

Step by step Whole to part

Learn by trial and error Learns concept all at once

Phonics Sight words

Left Brain Right Brain

Sequential Spatial

Good organization Organizationally impaired

Progresses from easy Gets difficult concepts,

to difficult struggles with easy

Needs repetition Learning sticks

Orderly progression Intuitive grasp

Early Bloomer Late Bloomer

Does well with Algebra Does well with Geometry

Academic talent Technology/Creative talent

learning traits of visual spatial learners
Learning Traits of Visual Spatial Learners

Visual Spatial Learners are:

Holistic Learners who:

Perceive relationships

between the parts

and the whole

Don’t understand if

learning is doled

out in small chunks

Can’t grasp isolated facts until the big picture is in view

Have difficulty attending to details

as learners spatial learners are
As Learners, Spatial Learners are:

“Aha” Processors who:

Understand all or nothing

Often cannot explain the steps of their thinking

Detest routine, repetitive tasks and do not learn by rote memorization

Once the “Aha” occurs, learning is relatively permanent

spatial learners are creative they
Spatial Learners are CREATIVE, they:

Arrive at surprising conclusions

Have amazing imaginations and

often have imaginary playmates

Make up rich stories but can’t

always write them down

May do great drawings and be elaborate doodlers but have awful handwriting

as thinkers spatial learners are
As Thinkers, Spatial Learners are:


They need extra thinking

time therefore, they can

appear to be lazy or to

be daydreaming.

visual spatial learners are perceived as
Visual Spatial Learners are perceived as:

Unwilling to fit into time schedules or routines

Careless - Regularly forgetting homework and when they do it their handwriting may be illegible

Reluctant to take risks

Visual Spatial Learners are:

Highly sensitive & hypersensitive to their environment such as:

Clothing - “the sweatpants kids”

Noise -They have poor listening skills but keen hearing, may get more information than they can sift out

Emotions - They are good at reading people and can sense a teacher’s anxieties and ambivalence

here s the problem
Here’s the Problem
  • Emphasis on verbal skills in schools
  • Traditional assessment measures (SAT, GRE) do not assess spatial ability (Gohm, Humphreys, and Yao)
  • Undergraduates in 2000 – 5.6% majoring in engineering and 0.8% in mathematics
  • Doctorates earned in 2001 in the U.S. by non-citizens
    • mathematics = 43%
    • engineering = 51% (NFS)
  • Individuals gifted in spatial ability undereducated and underemployed (Gohm, 1998)
  • Increasingly technological world needs ability to comprehend complex relationships and problem solvers with unique strategies (Shea, Lubinski, Benbow, 2001)
  • Selecting top 3% based on verbal or mathematical ability results in loss of more than half of students representing top 1% of spatial ability (Shea, Lubinski, & Benbow)

da Vinci



The Whole Picture

Explain major concepts so child understands instructional goal

Allow opportunities for inductive learning

Provide real life scenarios - service oriented projects are good

Discovery Learning-tell child the goal of the instruction and let him figure out a way to get there

Use a multidisciplinary emphasis

Hands On - Minds On

Provide manipulatives and create hands on activities

Encourage the student to make models


Show everything - use overhead or white board, color is better than chalkboard

Encourage the child to visualize lists, patterns, situations

Ask the child if he can make a picture of what the topic represents

Ask yourself, “How would I teach this concept to a deaf child?”


NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Visualize words

- spell them both forwards and backwards

Visualize concept

- how the system works


Encourage the use of computers for learning and allow the child to keyboard; teach keyboarding early

Venn Diagrams

Multiples of 5 Multiples of 3

40 9

10 15 12

25 30 18

increase the difficulty
Increase the Difficulty

Do not force the

student to succeed

at easier material

before trying the

difficult work.


mastery of

higher level


instead of

perfection of

simpler concepts.

How many times do I have to tell you…

you’re not supposed to read ahead.

c o l o r

Have the child use highlighters to

highlight directions or key concepts.

Color coordinate everything that has to do with one subject

i.e. purple math book cover, purple notebook, purple portfolio, etc.

Use overheads or white board with a variety of color; categorize by color.

Have the visual spatial child create his own flashcards in color.

Copy worksheets and study guides on colored paper, it is easier to keep organized and easier on the eyes.

strategies for lectures
Strategies for Lectures

Pause to allow words

to register

Allow student to tape

record lectures

Encourage child to take notes in pictorial format

Encourage student to take notes in the 1/3 - 2/3’s format

Emphasize concepts not details i.e. dates

Distribute handouts - don’t expect these students to take dictation

strategies foreign language
Strategies – Foreign Language

Classroom instruction may be difficult

Total immersion in a language is much more effective







Draw configurations for words

on graph paper

Write each word on a card in color, trace over in multiple colors


strategies writing
Strategies - Writing

Visual the entire sentence before writing it

Take them on an Imaginary Journey

Grade ideas (content) and mechanics separately

Use webbing and other graphic organizers to formulate ideas


Allow them to dictate or tape record written work

Editing can be difficult

Many have difficulty with handwriting

Some are continually improving their work therefore, it is never done

- it can always be better

- can’t recopy anything without changing it

Visual Spatial Learners are:

Readers who:

Have better reading comprehension than decoding skills

May never be good oral readers

Tend to skip over words but still get the thrust of the story

Prefer reading heavily illustrated material

strategies reading
Strategies - Reading

Oral Reading - A visual spatial child may never be a good oral reader

Get to the child before she makes a mistake so the word won’t imprint incorrectly

The student may tire easily and lose concentration

Decoding - Sight words, not phonics - can’t hear vowel sounds

Encourage use of Context Clues


Good speed readers since they don’t read every word

Get content first then scan for details

Study captions and graphics in texts

Read first and last sentence of each paragraph

Skim material 4 times vs. reading slowly once

Junior Great Books is terrific program

for these kids


*Give chance to devise own method of problem solving

*Avoid drill and repetition - No timed tests

*Do five hardest problems on the page and go on if successful

*Multiplication table - Look for patterns in multiplication charts

5678 56=7x8 4x9=6x6

*Teach within the context of entire number system

*Division - give divisor, dividend & quotient then let child figure out the system

*Look for patterns within math

*Make it meaningful

*Flashcards with answers

*Geometry and Physics are spatial

strategies organizational skills
Strategies – Organizational Skills

Color code calendars, assignments, books and supplies

Use an hourglass to visualize the passage of time

Make sure they have watches that are reliable

Teach them to “take a picture” of assignments as they are given

Help them learn to look up to their recall side to remember what it is they need to do

Teach them how to create priority lists and schedules - they may not like it but it is an essential survival skill!

A quote from a highly Visual Spatial college student, “Be involved in so many activities that your life is scheduled for you!”

teacher student interaction
Teacher-Student Interaction

Teach the child to become a spy and notice what is going on in the classroom

- take clues from classmates

Don’t spy on just any student, some are better choices than others!

Institute a moment of silence at the end of class so students can visualize what they will need for homework

- this works well for all children in the class

- have them take a few deep breaths and relax then picture what happened during the day and what they will

need to take home


Reduce unpredictable noise - music works well as it is predictable

Walkman ground rules

must be working continually

must be appropriate music

must be quiet enough so no one else can hear it

must not start singing

  • Use wait time
  • Allow time for the child to translate the spoken word
  • to images
  • It may take a visual spatial child longer to begin to
  • answer the question than it took you to ask it.
Let the child completely finish answering the question even if she appears off target as she may eventually get there.

A visual spatial child may start answering a question and sound completely off target even though he knows the answer because words can get in the way of his thinking.

Discipline the visual spatial child in private and be nonjudgmental as any negative messages will cause the child to shut down


Often these children appear aloof or arrogant when, in fact, they are really highly sensitive

and remember
And remember…

Encourage the child’s strengths, don’t dwell on his weaknesses. This can be difficult as their strengths are outside of the traditional educational system

Allow for their learning style but don’t allow them to use their learning style as an excuse.

And most of all…..

Believe in these children, they may well be the future Edisons and Einsteins

of the world.