The online classroom is an ideal place to teach visual learners because of the pictures, slides, and readings that occur with the computer screen interaction. Studies have shown that visual learners make up about 65% of the population and that 90% of our information is presented visually. I have found, though, that we can concentrate so much on the other learning styles, both auditory and kinesthetic, that we can easily forget to engage the visual learners during our classroom time.

The most important thing we as teachers can do is to engage all three learning styles as we present information. We should always seek out new ways to appeal to our learners, no matter what their strengths are. In a previous article, I listed methods that can be used to engage the auditory learner in the online ESL classroom. I have compiled a list of creative ways to engage the visually discerning students in our virtual ESL classrooms.

Teaching Strategies for Engaging Visual Learners

  • Use more pictures and images to express ideas and create optical and optimal word relationships for these pupils. The student will most likely remember a word if they can have a picture associated with it. They will also tend to understand concepts better with the proper illustration.
  • The use of videos and cartoons will not only aid an auditory learner but a visual one as well. The students will pay a lot of attention to the images and will be able to relate the video to the vocabulary or the grammar concepts.
  • Asking students questions related to a picture is an important way to engage a visual learner. Often, I will ask my students, “What do you see?” or “What is going on in this picture?” This fully engages the visual students and allows them to apply the knowledge they have gained through their online classes.

Visual Learner Puppets
Finger puppets are perfect for engaging visual learners.

  • Use puppets or figures to act out a dialogue. For the younger visual learners, the use of puppets is a fun and interactive way for them to grasp vocabulary meanings and simple sentence structures. Have the puppets act out dialogue and have the students bring out their own puppets or action figures in order to engage them and create a memorable learning experience.
  • Organize words or concepts into columns on the screen. Tables, columns, and boxes are all useful visual organizers for these students. An example would be to have a column with “fruit” as the title and another with “vegetables” in its title. Use text boxes that can be moved into each column or even pictures that can be dropped into each column. The students will be delighted to move or see the vocabulary words organized and categorized.
  • Color coding is another excellent technique that will engage the visual learner. Write all the vocabulary words in black and then have the students change the font color for all the “l” words, for example. You can do this with all sorts of categories: nouns and verbs, countables and uncountables, phonics sounds, etc.
  • Show the timer for your classes, especially during an activity. The visual learners need to see the timer so they can better budget their time. They also appreciate knowing how much time has passed in the class or how much time until the class is finished. This is a little hint that will help your visual students feel even more comfortable in your classroom, virtual or not.
  • Allow the students to have their books in front of them as well. If your student is one with a blended learning concept, such as with ALO7, they will have a textbook that accompanies the online class. Visual learners will feel even more comfortable with their book open beside them, as it provides even more visual content for them to draw from as they learn.
  • Write out the word and sentences when possible. When I ask a pupil a question, I will often type out their response so they can see how it is written as well as hear it. I believe for the visual learner this is key for them retaining the information and seeing how it is properly written.
  • Word puzzles such as scrambles, searches, and crosswords can be a fun and engaging activity for a visual learner. They engage their eyes and their brains, helping them to associate vocabulary words with their written counterpart.

Even though our online ESL classrooms tend to focus more on the visual student than any other type, it is still vital for us as tutors to consciously engage them and create fun and exciting new content for them. We will see through blending the learning styles in our classroom activities that we will better reach all of our students and see maximum results in the lives of our ESL students.

Let us know any other ideas you have for a visual learner in the comments below!

Citations for How To Teach Visual Learners In The Online ESL Classroom:
Bradford, William C., Reaching the Visual Learner: Teaching Property Through Art (September 1, 2011). The Law Teacher Vol. 11, 2004. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=587201.

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