There are 3 main learning styles. Some people believe they are just the teacher’s way of justifying teaching methods. In fact it has very little to do with ‘teaching methods’ and a lot more about how the learner’s brains processes incoming information.
It all comes down to our 5 senses. Some are more sensitive or heightened and our brains have chosen to be our primary mode of input from our environment. For example, a person with eye-sight problems such as partial blindness may, over time develop a heightened sense of touch. If one sense is weaker, other senses tend to compensate and over time we train those senses above and beyond.
The 3 learning styles are:
- The Visual Learner: Learns best through visuals such as videos, charts, demonstrations and infographics.
- The Auditory Learner: Learns best through listening to explanations, podcasts, or conversations.
- The Kinesthetic Learner: Learns best through movement, tactile and hands-on activities.
- Sometime the Reading and Writing learner is split into a 4th style. But I usually consider it kinesthetic as well since it is inherently about movement: writing it out and reading things out loud. Apparently it has worked wonders for my own kinesthetic homeschooler.
The Struggles of Kinesthetic Learners
Several research has allegedly found that there are only about 5% of people who are kinesthetic learners. Hence, not all educators are fully equipped to support action-based learning. And kinesthetic learners do struggle to learn in the traditional classroom environment. As well as when it comes to sitting still and going through questions during exams.
They can be loud because they like moving around, and when they can’t, they’ll start talking a lot or singing. Before we switched to homeschooling, my kid would literally sing through classes at school.
The Strengths of Kinesthetic Learners – It’s not always sports.
You might think the kinesthetic learner would be good at sports, but that is not always the case. Some are simply not as athletic or they just don’t like sports. On the contrary, you might find the kinesthetic learner a small scientist, testing away various experiments in the lab, someone who loves photography, or even a writer.
But whatever they are learning and doing, it would almost always involve movement.
Teaching Kinesthetic Learners to Read and Do Maths
I’m going to go with my own experience here. As it turns out, it was easier to teach the kinesthetic learner to write first, then read. Basically as they trace and write, we sound out the sounds, so they’re going through the motion of writing while also hearing the sound. Once they’re good with writing the alphabet, blends, reading out each word becomes easier. In other words, the more they ‘do’, the more they understand and remember.
The same goes for maths, they’ll understand it as they do it. Instead of first explaining how each concept works and having the kinesthetic learner do the exercises afterwards, as you would with the traditional teaching method, I’ve found that jumping straight into the exercises together, dictating or writing it out together for the first few problems worked better.
As they get older, the study material may involve more theories and become more abstract. Here’s where highlighting as you read, taking notes and reading out loud helps the kinesthetic learner retain and better understand what they are reading.
Identifying the Kinesthetic Learner and Differentiating from ADHD
Many times, the kinesthetic learner behaviour is mistakenly identified as ADHD. Here are some ways to tell the difference between a kinesthetic learner and a child with ADHD:
- A child with ADHD may get easily distracted. A kinesthetic learner just gets easily bored if told to sit quietly and may start to fidget. Hence, if the assignment involves movement, while a child with ADHD may get distracted, the kinesthetic learner will finish the assignment.
- Another way to notice in a classroom or sit-down setting is that the child with ADHD may often leave his/her seat for no obvious reason. The kinesthetic learner is just as likely to leave his/her seat as well… but to go to the bathroom, sharpen a pencil, etc. They will always come up with a reason/excuse to be moving around.
- Kinesthetic learners may move on to new activities more quickly and make lots of mistakes because they’re in a hurry to do the next activity, but they will finish the work. On the other hand, a child with ADHD will also appear to move quickly to other things, but they’re more likely to not finish each task and bounce back and forth between several things.
One thing to note is that a kinesthetic learner may not have ADHD, while a child with ADHD may be a kinesthetic learner. They’re 2 different things that may overlap, but more often than not, gets frequently mixed up.