Kinesthetic learning, also known as tactile learning,  is a learning style in which students learn things by carrying out physical activities, instead of listening to lectures in classes or otherwise. The word kinesthetic means using one's body to do or create something.

Kinesthetic learning isn’t a new approach towards learning. In 1983, an American psychologist, Howard Gardner mentioned the term “kinesthetic intelligence” in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence. He says that physical activities such as dancing, for example, need a high level of kinesthetic intelligence.

So, now the question arises, how do we figure out if someone is a kinesthetic learner or not? Well, there are certain characteristics to look for to find out if the kinesthetic learning strategy will work for someone or not.

Characteristics of a Kinesthetic Learner

Kinesthetic learning takes place when we allow students to have hands-on experience. A very simple example of a kinesthetic learning style is a child learning how to use a swing or learning to ride a bicycle. You can provide the child with instructions that they can listen to and understand, but the actual learning will happen when they’re actually doing the task.

The characteristics of a kinesthetic learner are that they require a multi-sensory learning environment. This means that the student’s learning surroundings need to engage more than two of their senses. In this way, the student or our kinesthetic learner. is able to learn by doing instead of just listening to classes or lectures.  They will be actively engaged in their learning even though the environment might be non-traditional.

Teaching Kinesthetic Learners

Subjects can be taught to cater to kinesthetic learners. Through a strength-based and learner-centered approach, educators should engage kinesthetic students in activities that require movements because they learn by doing. Activities could include role-plays, drama, dance, races and competitions, field trips, and projects.

Some approaches to kinesthetic learning are:

  • Taking classes outside of the classroom
  • Gamification of lectures
  • Using experiments to teach
  • Role playing activities

How do you teach a kinesthetic learner?

Anyone who has been a teacher knows that each child learns differently. What approach works for some students might not work for others. So it becomes important to understand what helps your student retain information and understand the concepts you teach them best.

To begin with, you can identify students with whom traditional teaching styles work best. Then you change these traditional methods with kinesthetic learning tools to cater to kinesthetic learners. For example, students who are visual learners respond well to visual guides and retain information better. So, for such learners, you can use mind maps and color-coded notes. Not only does this help them understand things better, but it also makes your students appreciate the effort.

Kinesthetic Learning Strategies

Most traditional classrooms aren’t suitable for kinesthetic learning. So, such students find it hard to pay attention in class or understand what is being taught. As an educator, you can use some strategies to make the environment more ideal for such learners. For example:

1. Allow the use of muscles and movement:

Let your students stand up and flex their muscles. If your student is a kinesthetic learner, standing and working can lead to better comprehension, retention, and focus. You can allow students to do small activities, like bouncing a ball or using a spinner. Such small movements will allow the brain to focus better. Here is a video that will help you understand the concept better:

2. Use visual tools

You can provide your students with color-coded notes and flashcards. The physicality of flashcards or highlighted notes spurs the brain into action. Kinesthetic learners tend to like moving things, and flashcards can aid in developing a moving picture that your brain might prefer over just listening to lectures or words in the book.

3. Teach creatively

Don’t just stick to words on a presentation or blackboard. Broaden your horizon of teaching. Make use of drawings, diagrams, and flowcharts wherever you can. The storytelling format of teaching works wonders as well!

Teaching while catering to individual student needs isn’t really an ideal scenario and quite honestly, not possible. But a combination of traditional teaching methods along with kinesthetic approaches can do wonders for your class. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that as educators, we’re always ready to rise up to the challenge and adapt. Who knows, while trying out new methods of teaching and learning you might find a way of teaching that works out amazingly for you too!