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Learning Styles'Kinesthetic/Tactile-"Let me"

By Pamela Maxey

 

Spinning tops that never stop. Runaway stagecoach. Bouncing "Flubber." These are images that come to mind when I think of some of the extremely kinesthetic/tactile learners I've encountered in my teaching career. Watching me try to harness and direct these youngsters was no doubt better than any 'I Love Lucy' episode.

 

When we began this series, we discussed auditory and visual learners. Most adults tend to be strong auditory or visual learners. Small children tend to be mainly kinesthetic and tactile learners. Some will continue to be the strong kinesthetic/tactile learners all their lives. These learners have the most difficult time in a traditional school setting and often even in a homeschool setting if you expect them to conform to your teaching style.

 

Many times, children with strong kinesthetic/tactile learning and weak auditory or visual skills are labeled with attention deficits. A child or adult with ADD/ADHD is overloaded with visual and auditory stimuli. Our brains are amazing in that we can filter the information we see and hear to make sense of our world. Someone with ADD/ADHD is often not able to do that. The overload of information causes the person to 'shut down' or not pay attention. The other side effect can be increased activity levels. An ADHD child is most always a strong kinesthetic/tactile learner and very weak in visual skills. Kinesthetic/tactile learners do not have to fall into the category of ADD/ADHD, but working with a child that is a strong kinesthetic/tactile learner can be challenging.

 

A kinesthetic/tactile learner is one who learns best through movement and exploring the environment. This child will tend to fidget with things such as pencils, pens, or play with keys. He may like to take things apart and put them back together again. This child may prefer to stand, work with his hands, and like to chew gum or eat while working. He will prefer to do things rather than watch a demonstration or read about it in a book. This child is usually good at finding his way around. He may be considered hyperactive. Kinesthetic refers to movement and tactile is touching. Small children typically learn best with kinesthetic and tactile modes. This is why small children must experience things, touch them, turn them over and play with them. When we see a preschool child playing with blocks and puzzles, we understand that is the way they learn. When a child gets older, we expect him to learn in different modes. Most children do begin to learn primarily in other ways. Some children still need the kinesthetic and tactile modes to learn successfully. Incorporating movement into your child's learning can help almost all children learn better, even for older children.

 

A child with strong visual skills and weak auditory skills can be stressful to teach, especially if you don't match those skills. Evaluate what you teach and why. Gear your curriculum and lessons to a more visual model than auditory model if that is your child's learning preference. You will most likely not have difficulty with math and spelling work. The areas with the most concern for you are generally reading and language skills. Even children with very weak auditory skills can be successful readers and writers, but it takes time and attention. Use your time to your child's advantage!

 

 
Many kinesthetic activities make sense to us as adults, but some activities do not. When we teach our child a sport such as baseball, we can talk about catching the ball for hours but we still must go outside and practice catching the ball. Many kinesthetic and tactile modes are used easily in lessons. For example, in science you can work with lab activities, act out plays or scenes in reading, work with manipulatives in math, or make food to practice following directions. These types of activities are good for all children whether kinesthetic/tactile is the main way in which they learn. Include movement and hands-on learning whenever possible for all children, especially young elementary aged children. As a child gets older, most will not need as much movement in order to learn. But, some children will need even more movement to help them learn. For those children, you need to add extra movement to their learning. This movement often does not seem to make sense to us as adults. Your child may need to stand or rock while he works. He may need to keep some part of his body moving in order to concentrate. For some, this can be chewing gum and eating, tapping his foot, standing up and sitting down, or tapping his hands. I often gave children a stress ball to squeeze while they were working independently or working with me. The movement allowed them to focus better and improved their learning. In some school situations, children are not allowed this movement and everyone seems to suffer Pairing a movement with memorization skills will increase a child's memorization abilities. You can memorize math facts by chanting the facts aloud while you are marching in place, clapping your hands, or throwing a ball in the air. The movement has nothing to do with the learning but the movement involves the body and helps the kinesthetic learner remember the facts. Some parents or teachers think they can work faster and get more accomplished by skipping the time consuming kinesthetic modes. For some children it may work, but for most the kinesthetic movement helps increase learning and for those who are very kinesthetic learners, it is essential for their success.

 
In order to teach your child using more kinesthetic/tactile modes, we must have a new perception of school. You may also need to put back on a "child-like" view in order to do things that may seem silly. Many teachers have a difficult time with jumping around the room or allowing their child to have lots of movement while he works. The perception most of us have from our schooling is that we must sit in a chair, listen, and work quietly. In a classroom, this is still the norm, and must be in many situations. At home, you have the opportunity to change that perception for your child if that best fits your child's learning style. Your child can jump around or rock in a chair while he is learning. You can have kinesthetic and tactile input in all that you do. A teacher with a classroom has limited time and space to do these things. Take advantage of your priceless opportunity to teach to your child's strengths. Ah, homeschooling!

 

Pamela Maxey is the founder of Classic Apple. She graduated from William Jewell College with a degree in Elementary Education. She has taught children with learning disabilities or homeschooled her own children for the past 20 plus years. She resides in Lee's Summit, Missouri with her husband and two sons and, as of the year 2000, counts herself among the growing sorority of breast cancer survivors. Here life is a testimony to the saving Love of her Heavenly Father.  You can contact her at 816-537-5801 or pmaxey@classicapple.com

 

Copyright 2003.
Originally appeared in Spring 2003. Used with permission
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.
www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com


 

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