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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally appeared in Spring 2003. Used with
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.