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Kinesthetic, or tactile, learners make up the smallest percent of your student (approximately 5%) but are often the most noticeable in the classroom environment. These are the students who cannot seem to focus on your lecture, participate in discussion groups, read a book at their desk, or sit for an exam. They are the students who ask to go to the bathroom 2 or 3 times during class, are told to sit down or turn around, and consistently volunteer to do trivial classroom tasks like watering the plants, escorting a peer to the nurse, or going to get something from another room. These are the students that you often get frustrated with when trying to progress through a lesson, but are oftentimes the most relatable and enjoyable to get to know. According to Fleming's learning style theory, "students who have a predominantly kinesthetic learning style are thought to be natural discovery learners" (K & Helena, pg.20). They learn best by doing, which is where they earn the moniker "do-ers", and perform best in environments such as P.E., shop, and computer class. K & Helena go on to say that:
"They prefer learning by doing as opposed to having thought first before initiating action. With a tendency to prefer exploring concepts through experimentation, they may not benefit from learning by reading or listening. Moreover, such students need few verbal or written instructions and are confident in participating in hands-on activities. Thus, kinesthetic learners would enjoy making things and learning through practical activities and learn best in a laboratory, workshop, gymnasium, simulated or real environments where they can be active" (pg.20).
To help identify these students in your classroom, read the following description from Lincoln Land Community College: "They try things out, touch, feel, and manipulate objects. Body tension is a good indication of their emotions. They gesture when speaking, are poor listeners, stand very close when speaking or listening, and quickly lose interest in long discourse. They remember best what has been done, not what they have seen or talked about. They prefer direct involvement in what they are learning. They are distractible and find it difficult to pay attention to auditory or visual presentations. Rarely an avid reader, they may fidget frequently while handling a book. Often poor spellers, they need to write down words to determine if they “feel” right" (llcc.edu).
As discussed above, kinesthetic/tactile learners can have a hard time fitting into the traditional classroom. This is because these students learn by doing, by moving, by engaging- these processes form connections that help them remember, discover, and understand.
Strengths of Kinesthetic Learners (Roell, ThoughtCo.)
- Great hand-eye coordination
- Quick reactions
- Excellent motor memory (can duplicate something after doing it once)
- Excellent experimenters
- Good at sports
- Perform well in art and drama
- High levels of energy
Weaknesses of Kinesthetic Learners
- Sitting still
Oftentimes the most difficult part of adjusting to and making accommodations for these learners is letting go of the traditional classroom environment. These students have a very hard time staying seated, reading and writing at a desk, and not being a distraction to other students. Accommodating their needs starts by having an honest conversation with them, asking them what helps and hinders their ability to learn, and finding a way to help them without being a daily distraction to other students. If they understand that their needs have to be proportionate to those of their peers, together, you can create plans, strategies, and arrangements that do just that.
Kinesthetic Learning Strategies for Students and Teachers (Roell, K & Helena, llcc.edu)
- Allow students to stand in the back of the room
- Have standing work stations
- Set up a space where students can sit in a non-traditional style (beanbag chair, couch, ledge, etc.)
- Incorporate learning stations into lesson design
- Incorporate interactive items, models, and technology
- Allow students to type on a computer rather than write
- Allow small movement items like fidget spinners, stress balls, rubber bands, etc.
- Designate kinesthetic learners as classroom helpers
- Stop and stretch (regular breaks to focus and reengage)
- Interact with white and/or smart board
- Role play scenes from books or historical events
- Utilize math and science labs that make students discover content rather than learn it
- Have students create projects, exhibits, labs that allow them to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding
- Have students teach each other
- Change the classroom setting when possible; go outside, to another part of the building, or (if possible) take field-trips
Eample of a Primary School Kinesthetic Math Activity
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