There is no right or wrong way to process information. Everyone has a preferred way of learning, from looking at images to simply observing demonstrations.
Kinaesthetic learners understand information better when they are actively involved in the task at hand. They thrive when presented with hands-on experiences and learn through doing instead of listening.
This article will explain the kinaesthetic learning style and offer practical ways you can ensure kinaesthetic students in your classroom are engaged.
A quick recap on learning styles
The VARK model suggests everyone falls into a category of learning. There are visual (V), auditory (A), read/write (R), and kinaesthetic (K) learning styles. Understanding the differences in these styles can help you cater your lessons to individual students.
Visual learners prefer to learn through images, such as graphs, maps, and diagrams. Auditory learners absorb information better via talking and listening exercises. Read/write learners are keen note-takers and learn by reading or writing information. Kinaesthetic learners learn through acting out scenarios or participating in hands-on activities.
Understanding the different learning styles can help you cater to each student in your class. Some students might prefer to learn information through a game or activity while others might prefer to take notes as you explain the topic. Identifying and adapting to these different styles of learning can help students feel supported.
What is a kinaesthetic learning style?
Having a kinaesthetic learning style means you learn best through physical activity. In other words, you need to get actively involved in a topic to understand how it works. Around 45% of school-age children learn kinaesthetically, as identified in a 2015 study by Charles Kivunja.
Sometimes called tactile learning or physical learning, students that prefer this style of learning process information better when they can turn it into a physical activity. This is because the mind and body are working together to understand what is happening.
Examples include hands-on activities, role-playing exercises, and play-based learning. Some tactile learners even like to walk around the room when working or writing.
How do I know if I have a kinaesthetic learning style?
Knowing what learning style you have can help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses. This can make you a better learner, regardless of whether you’re a student or a teacher.
There are various things you can do to find out if you’re a kinaesthetic learner. For example, if you have a history of learning best through movement or action, you’re probably a kinaesthetic learner. Most kinaesthetic students also find that written information doesn’t help their learning process.
Online tests can also help you ascertain what kind of learner you are. By answering a series of questions, you can find out if you’re a visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, or read/write learner.
Traits of a kinaesthetic learner
Students with a kinaesthetic learning style prefer physical activities over taught lessons. They can be very energetic and get distracted easily in a traditional school setting.
Most students also have good body memory or physical memory. This means their memory is improved by doing things rather than reading things.
How to teach children with a kinaesthetic learning style
Teaching children with different styles of learning can be challenging. However, there are various things you can do to ensure each child learns in a way that works for them.
For example, explaining a complex term through physical activity, such as a game, can help students have fun and process practical information better. This works great for complex subjects like maths and science.
Incorporating physical tools or aids can also help students get their blood pumping and learn at the same time. Something as simple as an interactive whiteboard (also known as an interactive display or interactive panel) can encourage students to be active participants in their learning.
This style of learning can also be a great way to engage shy and quiet students in the classroom and encourage them to come out of their shells and interact with their peers.
How not to teach children with a kinaesthetic learning style
Everyone’s brain is different. This is why everyone learns differently. But there are still some things you should avoid when teaching children who learn kinaesthetically.
For example, spending entire lessons talking to your students is unlikely to get them excited about the topic. This might suit children that learn through hearing but will only get lost on children that learn kinaesthetically.
Kinaesthetic students also struggle with sitting still for long periods of time. Not having regular breaks or breaking up the lesson with physical activities can harm some students’ ability to understand and absorb the information being taught.
How to engage kinaesthetic learners of all ages
Teachers that make use of many student engagement strategies in their lessons can help learners of all ages feel supported and catered to.
From toddlers to teenagers, there are easy ways to incorporate hands-on activity and active learning strategies into your lessons.
How to engage kinaesthetic learners in primary school
Most students start to develop a style of learning at primary school. Because young children have so much energy, it is also the easiest age to incorporate kinaesthetic techniques into your teaching.
Using games to teach maths and spelling can help children remember basic theoretical concepts. Field trips, projects, and competitions are also helpful because they encourage learning by doing.
Kinaesthetic students also respond well to the use of shapes, building blocks, and abacuses in the classroom, as well as going up to the front of the class and demonstrating their learning on the interactive whiteboard.
Explore our blog for tips on engaging students at the beginning and end of a lesson.
How to engage kinaesthetic learners in secondary school
The curriculum tends to be less focused on physical activity and more focused on verbal teachings in secondary schools. However, while this can help explain complex topics, kinaesthetic learners can struggle to retain information taught this way.
Adapting your classroom to physical activity can help students learn in a unique and refreshing way. This can be especially useful during stressful exam seasons.
Due to the level of study involved, most secondary school students would prefer to learn through movement and real-life examples than by sitting at a desk.
How to engage kinaesthetic learners in higher education
Unfortunately, a student in higher education has fewer chances to actively participate in their learning. However, because higher education involves so much self-directed study, students are generally free to choose how they wish to study.
Some higher education degrees include work experience so students can get a taste of what it’s like to get active in their chosen field. Because kinaesthetic learners learn by taking part in tasks, they also tend to excel at on-the-job training and jobs that involve body movement.
Technology is a great way to encourage students to play a more hands-on role in their learning. There are a number of ways you can use interactive whiteboards in higher education to create an interactive learning environment that keeps students engaged, even during lectures.
The benefits of having a kinaesthetic learning style
There are several benefits of having a kinaesthetic learning style. Some studies have found that physical education can help students retain information better. This is because they are learning and applying the techniques of what they’re learning at the same time.
Kinaesthetic learning has also been associated with muscle memory. By repeating tasks, students can build their motor skills, as well as boost their information retention.
Problem-solving skills also come naturally to people with a kinaesthetic style of learning. Because they are used to doing things until they get it right, they can have good critical thinking and cognitive development skills.
How to plan lessons that accommodate kinaesthetic learners
Planning lessons to accommodate kinaesthetic learners might sound daunting. However, it usually only involves a few tweaks to your usual teaching style. Kinaesthetic learning doesn’t always have to mean running around or playing games.
Classroom activities for kinaesthetic learners
Engaging children through music is a great way for students to have fun and learn something at the same time. From complex maths problems to learning the ABCs, almost any subject can be taught through song. There are hundreds of educational songs available to help students get excited about learning.
Something as simple as an interactive whiteboard can also help students learn by doing. From drawing with coloured markers to rearranging words on a screen, there are plenty of opportunities for children to achieve deep learning when they get hands-on with a topic.
Manipulatives, like building blocks and shapes, are also popular among students with a kinaesthetic style of learning. These objects can help children get more involved in the problem at hand and improve their critical thinking skills.
Using technology to appeal to kinaesthetic learners
Students in a traditional classroom learn mostly through verbal teaching. However, technology can inspire children to take a more proactive role in their education.
The internet is home to thousands of free educational games where students can put the skills they learned in lessons to good use. They might not feel like they’re doing work but most games will test their concentration, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Computers, tablets, and smartphones are also being used increasingly in classrooms. From coding apps to grammar apps, students with a kinaesthetic style of learning excel when information is presented in the form of a game. Social media is also being used more and more to watch videos and teach digital literacy.
Explore more tips for engaging students with technology within our blog.
Kinaesthetic learning is the process of learning through doing. From roleplay exercises to play-based learning, even small movements can transform the way a kinaesthetic student retains information.
Knowing how to get kinaesthetic students engaged can be difficult. But by incorporating some simple strategies, you can ensure each child feels supported in their learning.
Almost any topic can be explained through movement. Understanding how to do so can help you become a better teacher and help your students become better learners.
Discover everything you need to know about the VARK model in our Ultimate Guide to Learning Styles in the Classroom. Alternatively, you can explore our guides on how to teach children with a visual, auditory, reading and writing, learning styles below:
How to Teach Children with a Visual Learning Style
How to Teach Children with an Auditory Learning Style
How to Teach Children with a Reading and Writing Learning Style
Frequently asked questions about kinaesthetic learners
Can you have more than one learning style?
Yes, you can have multiple different learning styles at once. This is called multimodal learning. Some students learn best when focusing on one learning style. Others retain information better when they combine different styles of learning, which is why it’s a good idea to create lesson plans that accommodate all learning styles.
Is it good to be a kinaesthetic learner?
Being a kinaesthetic learner means you are curious about the world around you. This can help you stay active and boost cognitive development. Being a kinaesthetic learner also means you are more likely to seek out challenges and explore unfamiliar concepts and ideas. These are qualities that can benefit you throughout your life.