Kinesthetic Learning: harder in college, later a gift

Kinesthetic Learners are the most active learners, and they’re remembering if they’re jumping up and down or playing sports.   —  Linda Johnson

Kinesthetic Learners may feel discouraged about their chances of success in high school and in college. In the lower grades, teachers used more hands-on methods and kinesthetic learners learned easily. But teachers in high school and college are less likely to focus on different learning styles. They lecture (good for auditory learners) and require students to read (good for verbal learners) but do very little for visual/spatial learners and, in most cases, even less for kinesthetic learners. If you are a kinesthetic learner, you will need to develop strategies that work for you.

Being a verbal learner does not mean that the person’s verbal intelligence is high. It simply means that they way he learns best is through reading.  Likewise, If you are a kinesthetic learner, it doesn’t imply that you will be an outstanding athlete or architect. It simply means that when you learn, you learn more easily through kinesthetic methods.You cold end up as a great writer, but that’s not your style of learning.

Learning Styles from birth throughout life

Babies learn from what they see (visual), what they hear (auditory, and what they feel

(tactile). They also learn from from smell (olfactory) and taste (gustatory).  In other words, they learn through all their basic senses. The tactile sense is related to kinesthetic learning. The baby touches an object and feels if it is hard or soft, if it is smooth and rough, if it is smooth or rough, if it feels nice or it hurts.

The baby is the picture is feeling how hard and smooth her rattle is. She will soon chew on it to sense it in a different way. She also enjoys the other toy which is softer and fuzzy.

As babies get a little older, they begin using true kinesthetic skills. They play with simple toys that they can move . They manipulating toys, discovering what happens when they push each button or turn each knob. They learn through experimentation.

Preschool and Kindergarten teachers understand how children learn and provide a variety of materials for “hands-on” learning.  As soon as these children move on to elementary school, the focus turns to reading and listening. Now, different students will succeed. Hands-on teaching now is mainly restricted to math manipulatives, art, and sometimes science activities or the occasional project like creating a diorama.

In some middle schools where teachers have studied multiple intelligences, teachers may use a variety of teaching styles, but more and more, kinesthetic learning gets the least use because it is hard to understand how to do hands-on learning in literature or history.  In high school and college, kinesthetic learning is usually restricted to science (students doing experiments), art, home economics, shop, drama, physical education, etc.

This means that kinesthetic learners experience more success in these areas and see their future as being in some sort of hands-on job… using machines, repairing things that are broken, making things, or doing things. They might become mechanics, electricians, plumbers, cooks, and factory workers .This isn’t a bad thing. Training in all of these areas will focus less on reading and lectures, and more on practicing skills. Choosing a career where you can be successful and that will make you feel happy is a good choice.

But other students have different career goals  that require a college education and they will spend years of dealing with teaching that doesn’t mesh well with their learning styles.

Nine ways Kinesthetic Learners can survive in a non-kinesthetic world (college education)

1. Nearly everyone has one or several dominant learning styles and several other secondary learning styles. Kinesthetic learners can strengthen and use all of their secondary learning styles. The best learning actually takes place when you used multiple learning styles.

2. Kinesthetic learners may have difficulty focusing on an hour-long lecture. Some students focus better when taking notes (writing is a kind of hands-on learning.) Others find it helpful to doodle or draw images from the lecture. Be sure that you use doodling in order to focus on the lecture, not to take your mind off the lecture. You might use visual-spatial learning and create a concept map or other chart of the lecture.  Some find it helpful to take notes with multicolored pens or pencils. An alternate version of this involves making a copy of your notes after the lecture and marking it up with colored pens or pencils. You could also use color on a concept map.

3. Kinesthetic learners have found other helpful strategies to use while listening. Some chew gum (in a way that doesn’t bother other students). Some tap their foot. And several people report that using a stress ball (one that is hard to squeeze) helps them release pent-up energy and helps them focus on the lecture. You might also try tensing your muscles and relaxing them.

4. Kinesthetic learners also find it hard to concentrate while reading. There is no reason to read an entire chapter in one sitting. Preview the chapter and divide it into four or five or more shorter sections. You might be able to concentrate long enough to read a section. If not, divide sections into two or three smaller parts. It is a complete waste of time to keep reading if you have lost concentration.

5. The people who suggest the squeeze balls claim that these also help in reading. Others suggest getting exercise as you read. Are you able to read while on a treadmill or while lifting weights?

6. Some people suggest that you underline or highlight main ideas and important details while reading. You might try this to see if it really helps you learn the ideas. My experience is that most students underline or highlight to avoid thinking about the material. They end up with their book all marked up but haven’t learned anything.

7. Alternate reading and action. Read one or several paragraphs. You might take reading notes of the main ideas. Then take 5-10 minutes to walk, run, jump rope or whatever appeals to you. WHILE YOU WALK or whatever you are doing, go back over what you read. What were the main ideas? What information or definitions were important? Can you remember a new term and use it in a sentence? What questions do you have. What questions might your teacher ask on this material? And then you are ready to return to reading.  You will probably find that with some reading topics, you can go longer before an activity break. With complex material, you might need an activity break more often.

8. Some people recommend using flashcards to practice vocabulary words or facts. I’m not convinced that handling cards is really a hand-on experience. I do think, however, that if you can turn this into a game, you might find it successful. You might, for example, each time you get five or ten right answers in a row, give yourself a star on a chart. Then, after you accumulate ten stars, reward yourself.

9. Kinesthetic learners often learn by building a model or creating a chart of diagram. You might use the various visual processing strategies helpful. You might find it even more helpful if you use poster boards and create huge charts, concept maps or diagrams. Experiment and see if adding bright colors or little drawings make your chart more helpful.

What Kinesthetic Learners shouldn’t do

First, you should not tell yourself that just because you don’t learn the same ways other students learn that you aren’t as smart as they are. The truth is that in addition to being as smart as they are in learning in academic classes, you might be even smarter. You had to work much harder to get good grades in high school and to pass the SAT or whatever test you took.

In addition to your intelligence in the usual areas, you probably excel in some areas of kinesthetic and maybe other types of intelligence. While they might be able to read and listen with less effort, you can learn better in other areas. I had several kinesthetic learners in a physics class. While they understood the material and the labs, they had problems with the math and essay tests. I gave them extra credit for building and demonstrating devices related to the topic. I had to confess that I would have had difficulty doing what they were doing. Our intelligences and learning styles were very different. They appreciated the extra points and fair grades. I appreciate new equipment that I could use in future classes.

Secondly, you may think that because it is more difficult for you to learn like other students learn that this be will a handicap when you are looking for a job. Not true. You wouldn’t want an office job. You’d do well in a more technical hands-on area. But this doesn’t limit you to being a carpenter, electrician or auto mechanic.