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Learning styles: What is kinaesthetic learning?

Victoria Ougham, Primary School Teacher
28 Jun 2023
5 min read
Learning styles: What is kinaesthetic learning?

We all learn differently. In a world where we all process experiences in different ways, learning styles (sometimes referred to as multiple intelligences) can help us in teaching roles to understand and best support students.

What is 'kinaesthetic learning'?

The kinaesthetic learning style – also known as tactile learning – is learning through ‘doing’. Many people learn best by doing an activity or experiencing a process hands on. ‘Kinaesthesia’ is defined as awareness of the movement and positioning of body parts, and is central to this learning style.

What does it look like in the classroom?

Kinaesthetic learners process more effectively using tactile learning techniques – and may become bored easily in a ‘traditional’ classroom setting and need frequent ‘brain-breaks’ or movement time. They often enjoy being outside of the classroom, generally showing a love of outdoor learning, field trips and project work.

Kinaesthetic learners may prefer subjects such as art, music and P.E., where physicality is a fundamental part of the subject. They may also be well suited to science, their learning preferences lending themselves to the physicality of conducting experiments.

Children in early years can enjoy kinaesthetic teaching styles, with play, exploration and practical activities integral parts of nursery roles.

Activities and strategies for kinaesthetic learners

There is plenty of potential for ‘hands-on’ learning in all subjects across the curriculum. Even in traditionally writing-heavy subjects like English or History, we can incorporate kinaesthetic teaching techniques by setting activities that enable learning through doing, like role playing or debating. School trips are great for this, giving students opportunities to immerse themselves in history. Exploring local areas together can provide children with a rich learning experience and can solidify historical knowledge.

Similarly, in Maths, using real representations such as using play money, younger students will have something physical to learn with, helping them understand concepts. Incorporating this into real-life scenarios, like designing and budgeting for a bake sale is a great way to enable hands-on learning whilst still developing the core knowledge of the students. Handing out mini-whiteboards or magnetic numbers to show answers is another great practical learning technique.

For Science, the online and in-person Great Science Share for Schools is ideal for supporting kinaesthetic learners, providing a huge list of tactile resources and ways to take part.

Five-minute kinaesthetic time-outs within lessons can be really helpful for learning, and these can include:

  • Yoga
  • Dance routines
  • Energisers, such as star jumps or dancing to a favourite track

The benefits of kinaesthetic learning

Kinaesthetic approaches in teaching has many benefits. Firstly, it enables effective self-regulation, as it can help children work independently and require less assistance. Additionally, practical learning and project-based work develops creative thinking in formative years, which in turn boosts cognitive development.

Understanding learning styles is key to successful classroom learning, and using this information can enable students to achieve their full potential.

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