Action in the Classroom: Engaging Kinesthetic Learners
Instructional strategies and ideas to effectively meet the needs of kinesthetic learners.
By Dawn Dodson
In the culture of today’s classroom, identifying and accommodating different learning styles is a part of creating an equal learning environment for all stakeholders, students, and teachers alike. Perhaps one of the easiest styles to identify, and yet the more challenging to please, are the kinesthetic learners. These are the children who can’t quite seem to sit still. Fidgeting in their seats during assessments and individual class assignments, they're the ones who tend to constantly need to sharpen pencils, and ask to leave the room for drink and restroom breaks. Although this particular population may have trouble focusing on the class lecture or notes, everyone knows they are the star pupil in gym class and athletics. In the past, school has been tough for this group. However, as classroom instruction evolves, the needs of kinesthetic learners are being met through creative ideas and lessons. The following are ideas to help your kinesthetic learners experience success in the classroom.
Identify the Needs
Creating a positive environment for all learners begins with identifying needs and making the necessary accommodations to meet those needs. Children with kinesthetic learning styles learn through movement. Class activities that include standing up and sitting down, making a product, graphing, drawing, and role playing are all ways to help these kids harness and manipulate content.
In my own teaching experiences, using the “stand-up/sit-down” strategy is an easy way to review information while including your pupils that need to move in order to learn. I often have everyone participate in this activity during introductory lessons to novel studies. I provide them with anticipation guides that ask questions to help form predictions for which they circle a 1, 2, or 3 (i.e., 1-agree, 2-on the fence, 3-disagree). After each person completes the guide independently, we read each statement as a class and then children proceed to stand-up, sit down beside their desk, or if they are “on the fence”, kneel beside their desk. An engaging class discussion always follows each statement. I also use this strategy as a review, with the exception of using questions that have true/false or yes/no answers. It serves as a quick warm-up at the beginning of class.
In addition to the “stand-up/sit down” strategy, process drama activities are also successful in engaging kinesthetic learners. Activities that allow learners to role-play book characters, authors, and act out scenes from reading that give opportunity for comprehension, application, and synthesis of content.
Get A Move On!
Since kinesthetic learners learn most effectively through movement, create areas in the classroom that allow for stretching out and moving their muscles. The challenge can be arranging the room without creating a distraction for other learners. This can include centers with various learning activities that allow for large and small muscle movement. For example, having a flashcard and illustration center that can accompany content are not only effective study strategies, but also allows students to use small muscle groups. Creating an area for reading “around the room” is a space where readers can move around and sit comfortably on the floor. In my own classroom, I have two areas where carpet squares are available for reading comfortably, and pupils are allowed to move as needed. I also have clipboards available in this section of the classroom for quiet work time as well. Finding strategies and activities that accommodate kinesthetic learners is one step to help create a positive and productive learning climate for everyone.
More ideas and resources to support kinesthetic learners:
This in-depth unit explores creative writing and the process and analysis behind it. The engaging lessons incorporate various learning styles, and the final product is a two-voice poem and illustration.
A valuable lesson, children are able to identify their personal learning style. This also teaches awareness of other learning styles as well.
A creative lesson about idioms, all learning styles are addressed. From visual representations to group work and games, your class will learn to identify, comprehend, and use idioms.
A creative way to present a book, pupils create a digital book presentation. This project includes individual and partner work. It also has assignments that will help engage kinesthetic learners as well as other learning styles.