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All About Kinesthetic Learning

All About Kinesthetic Learning

As an educator or administrator, you've likely noticed your students learn in different ways. For example, some may take thorough notes while others like to participate in demonstrations. Each student has their own learning style that affects how they comprehend information in your classroom.

Understanding the theory behind different learning styles can help you determine how to best teach your students. Some learning styles, like kinesthetic learning, require more involvement than others. Discover the meaning of kinesthetic learning, how it's beneficial for students and how you can incorporate kinesthetic learning strategies into your classroom below.

 children playing with blocks

What Is Kinesthetic Learning?

Kinesthetic learning is a style in which learning is connected to body movement, physical activity and hands-on experiences. Kinesthetic learners interact with their environments to better understand the subject at hand. They prefer practical concepts over theoretical concepts because deep learning occurs through application and physical involvement in the topic.

Kinesthetic learners prefer to actively participate in physical activity to learn a topic or skill rather than listen to a lecture or read about it. For example, a kinesthetic learner could watch a demonstration on how to skateboard, but to really understand the principles and techniques, they'd get on a skateboard and experiment.

The kinesthetic learning style is one of four learning styles in the VARK theory. To understand and identify how people learn best, Neil Fleming theorized that everyone has one of four different learning styles — visual, auditory, reading or kinesthetic (VARK). Here's the meaning of each one:

  • Visual: Visual learners learn best by seeing information presented visually. Graphic displays like illustrations, diagrams, charts, videos and demonstrations are most effective for visual learners. They may color-code their notes and draw pictures to help themselves understand a topic.
  • Auditory: Auditory or aural learners learn best by listening to information through conversation, recordings and music. Auditory learners often prefer quiet learning environments to listen intently without distractions. These learners may read aloud to themselves, use mnemonics to remember information, record notes rather than write them, talk one-on-one with a tutor, and listen to audiobooks and podcasts.
  • Reading/writing: Some may learn and understand information most effectively when reading and writing about it. Readers often prefer using hand-written notes, making lists, summarizing what they read, highlighting important content, color coding, creating presentations and studying alone.
  • Kinesthetic: Most kinesthetic learners approach learning with a trial-and-error method. The kinesthetic learning style involves lots of movement with physical demonstrations to keep the learner engaged. Kinesthetic learners often study and learn best in shorter bursts with breaks for movement.

Since Fleming originally suggested the VARK theory, it's been thought that many people learn best with a combination of learning styles. For example, many kinesthetic learners can also be auditory learners, which could involve listening to instructions or recordings while applying the knowledge.

While the VARK model can help students understand themselves better and determine the most successful ways to study, it's purely theoretical, and students should try several different studying and learning techniques. For example, one learning style may work well for a student in one topic but won't work the same for another topic.

boy looking at butterfly with magnifying glass

Tactile Kinesthetic Learner Characteristics

Kinesthetic learners learn and remember more information through touching, moving and doing. These learners are often unengaged in traditional classrooms and enjoy learning outside of the classroom.

From a young age, tactile learners enjoy building things and working with their hands and tools. They often like physical activity and sports and get excited to try new things. Kinesthetic learners are also often good at mazes and puzzles and like to conduct tests and experiments.

As mentioned above, kinesthetic learners take study breaks more often to refocus and typically think more clearly when they can move. These learners may use more gestures when speaking and may prefer to make charts or posters rather than do research for a project.

Many kinesthetic learners favor practical subjects like technology, art, design and sports. Kinesthetic learners often end up in hands-on careers like farming, carpentry, physical therapy, athletics and other trades. These positions allow kinesthetic learners to be active in their work.

Benefits of Kinesthetic Learning Style

Movement is extremely beneficial for learning, as it stimulates brain cells and gets the blood pumping to the brain. This helps the brain operate at optimal levels for learning. Kinesthetic learning in the classroom is beneficial for several other reasons, especially when incorporated into the classroom for young learners.

Here are a few ways learners can benefit from the kinesthetic learning style.

woman watching toddler play

1. Improves Comprehension Skills and Cognitive Development

Kinesthetic learners have more difficulty comprehending material in educator-centered formats like lectures. Without physically interacting with the material, kinesthetic learners only retain the material on a surface level and often struggle to gain a deeper understanding of the information.

When learners can move, the amount of oxygen in the blood increases, which means the brain gets more oxygen. With more oxygen, the brain can function more effectively, which will positively affect a learner's cognitive development and comprehension skills. Moving around while learning new materials helps stimulate areas of the brain that can help kinesthetic learners more effectively comprehend and retain information.

2. Stimulates Creativity

The kinesthetic learning style is often closely connected to creativity. Many kinesthetic learners are inherently creative, as they favor hands-on activities and learning environments like art, dance and music.

Kinesthetic learning can help stimulate creative thinking. Many kinesthetic learning activities require learners to think more creatively than they would while sitting in a lecture. Learners may also explore different learning perspectives when learning kinesthetically, further encouraging them to think outside the box.

For example, you may ask students to create dioramas depicting different ecosystems and what lives within each one. An activity like this encourages students to be creative in their designs while also helping them to remember what each ecosystem looks like. Stimulating creative thinking helps learners make valuable connections when learning.

boy painting

3. Builds Problem-Solving Skills

As mentioned above, many kinesthetic learners learn best through trial and error. They may try different techniques or strategies to determine the most effective way for them to do something.

Experimentation through kinesthetic learning helps learners develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Kinesthetic learning encourages learners to analyze and find new ways to work with materials rather than learning passively.

Additionally, through trial and error methods students can learn from their mistakes and learn from experience. For kinesthetic learners, this aspect is extremely valuable because they're more likely to remember information or processes when they're connected to real situations.

4. Strengthen Communication and Social Skills

Kinesthetic learning can help learners strengthen their communication and social skills, particularly when working in groups. When learners participate in group kinesthetic activities, they develop strong cooperation and teamwork skills. Having positive social interactions, especially starting at a young age, is crucial for developing strong social skills.

Communication is a significant aspect of life, as are many of the other skills kinesthetic learning helps students develop. This makes this learning style especially beneficial for young learners who are just starting to find a stronger sense of themselves.

elementary schoolers building robots

5. Leads to Many Career Paths

Kinesthetic learning is extremely beneficial for younger learners, as they can release energy while learning and are still developing their learning styles. Older learners can use their kinesthetic learning style as a basis to explore various career paths and post-graduation options. This is especially valuable for students who may want to pursue trade schools or directly enter the workforce rather than attend higher education.

For example, tech school students learn primarily through kinesthetic styles as they explore different careers through hands-on courses and learning materials. These schools benefit kinesthetic learners, as they can actively participate in what's being taught to gain a deep understanding of the content and potentially move forward in a related career.

Teaching Strategies for Kinesthetic Learners

Every student likely has a preferred learning style, especially as they get older and determine what works best for them. As an educator, meeting the needs of every student's learning preferences can be challenging, but it's possible.

You may survey your students to determine how they learn best, find ways to incorporate all learning styles or offer options for your learners. Adapting your lessons to accommodate your students' learning styles can help each student effectively learn the material.

Here are several teaching methods that educators and administrators can incorporate into their classrooms to provide kinesthetic learning opportunities.

 teacher instructing 2 students

1. Allow for Movement

Allowing and encouraging movement where appropriate in the classroom can make a significant difference for kinesthetic learners. You can allow students to move in numerous ways depending on what works for your teaching style and classroom.

Here are a few examples of how you can add movement to your classroom:

  • Allow students to stand: While it may seem like a small difference, standing during class can help kinesthetic learners focus, especially during long lessons or lectures. For example, you could provide a standing workstation in the back of the classroom that students can move to when they need to switch things up without blocking other students behind them.
  • Offer quick breaks: Everyone can use a break now and then, so offer quick breaks during long lectures. For example, give students one minute to get up, stretch, move around the room, jump in place or otherwise give their brains a break. This can benefit kinesthetic learners who may be struggling to maintain their focus.
  • Teach appropriate movements: While movement benefits kinesthetic learners, certain movements can distract other students. Teach students appropriate movements they can do from their desks, like bouncing their legs, or give kinesthetic learners space to move. Some students may find that pacing is helpful, so you may seat these students around the perimeter of the classroom so they can get up.

2. Move the Classroom Outside

Kinesthetic learners learn best with real-life applications, which occur most often outside the classroom. When possible, teach lessons outside the classroom to provide real-life examples that kinesthetic learners can relate to the information. For example, if you're teaching about the various types of clouds, you move your class outside for the day to allow students to observe clouds in the sky.

Taking your students to learn outside of school for the day is another effective way to give kinesthetic students tangible experiences. Educational field trips allow kinesthetic learners to immerse themselves in an experience to achieve deep learning.

child playing with alphabet blocks

3. Include Practical Components

Including practical components in your lessons can help kinesthetic learners comprehend information. Kinesthetic learners learn best when they can physically interact with what they're learning. Many topics lack this aspect naturally, so finding ways to include practical components can help kinesthetic learners grasp these topics.

Theoretical and abstract topics can be more challenging for kinesthetic learners to understand, making them effective areas to bring in something tangible. Blocks, modeling clay, puzzles, maps and craft supplies are examples of items you could use to make learning more tactile.

4. Encourage Active Note-Taking

Encourage kinesthetic learners to take active notes. Make note-taking a creative process with different colored pencils, pens, markers and highlighters. Drawing pictures and doodles related to the lesson is a great way for kinesthetic learners to actively create notes while learning. You may also encourage students to apply concepts to their own experiences and portray that in their notes.

Making note-taking physically active can also help kinesthetic learners take effective notes and retain information. For example, you may put different information around the room and ask students to move from station to station to create each part of their notes.

girl experimenting with beaker

5. Incorporate Different Activities

It's common for kinesthetic learners to get bored in class, especially during traditional lectures where the instructor does most of the talking. Incorporating various kinesthetic activities into your lessons can help make learning more engaging for students with kinesthetic preferences.

Look for ways to include experiments, surveys, hands-on projects, demonstrations and other activities students can actively participate in while learning. Interactive lessons are more memorable and engaging for kinesthetic learners, which helps them learn better. Kinesthetic learners tend to hold focus better when they can actively participate in learning activities.

Success by Design's Planners

Choose Success by Design's Printed Planners for Kinesthetic Learners

Printed student planners are the perfect way to give kinesthetic learners a more tangible way to keep their assignments and thoughts organized. Print planners provide kinesthetic learners a space to physically make notes of assignments, due dates, study strategies and more, helping them remember information better.

At Success by Design, we offer planners for all students, including primary, elementary, middle and high school ages. We also provide helpful planner accessories that many hands-on learners will find useful, such as fill-in wall charts. Interested in ordering custom planners for your students? Contact us to learn more about how you can get your school's mascot or logo put on the cover.

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