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What defines kinesthetic learners?

“Kinesthetic learners or tactile learners learn through experiencing or doing things. They like to get right in the thick of things by acting out events or using their hands to touch and handle in order to understand concepts. “1

Kinesthetic learners boy running
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

In previous blog articles, we covered different strategies for visual learners and auditory learners in the ESL virtual classrooms. This post will focus on perhaps the most difficult learning type engagement in the digital academic world, the kinesthetic learners. I often find myself challenged with capturing and keeping the attention of my hands-on learners due to the fact that I am not actually in the room with them to keep them moving and engaged. Here are some techniques and strategies I have found useful in my virtual school room.

ESL Teaching Strategies for Kinesthetic Learners

*SHOW ME: To get my active kinesthetic students moving and participating I like to ask them to show me different things. For young ESL pupils, I will ask them to show me something of a specific color or shape. As they progress, I ask them to show me something they eat or show me an item from their vocabulary list. It is preferable to give them a time limit, like a countdown from ten, so the lesson can move along quickly.

*CHARADES: Kinesthetic learners need to be moving, and this is an easy way for them to move and still stay immersed in the class. If you have access to a chat feature, send them something to act out and have the other students guess what it is. If you don’t, just ask the students to pick a word from their vocabulary list and act it out while you take guesses.

*ANNOTATION: The simple act of moving the mouse can meet the needs of a hands-on learner. My courseware includes annotation, and I will ask my students to draw lines and match items on the screen or even to be my teacher’s helper and write numbers of words on the screen when I need them.

*CLAPPING OR MOVING WITH SYLLABLES: A kinesthetic learner benefits from clapping or tapping out sounds and syllables while learning to read. They can also learn well by moving their fingers along a word or following phonemes with their mouse. I have even had them move their finger along the other forearm just so they are moving something as they read.

*SONGS WITH MOVEMENT: Many of us can remember the songs we learned in our childhood with accompanying gestures, such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot.” Using these songs or making up movements to songs applicable to the lesson can significantly increase the retention for a kinesthetic learner. Even the simplest of actions, such as snapping fingers or swaying side to side, is better than sitting still and singing for a tactile student.

*SIMON SAYS: This classic game is handy for teaching imperative verbs to our ESL kinesthetic students. Give them orders and have them stand up and execute them just as in the regular classroom game. Make sure they adjust their cameras if necessary so you can award points or check their compliance.

*TPR: Total Physical Response if often emphasized for ESL teachers to use while speaking with and instructing our students. It is also helpful to have the students mimic the actions as they learn, as this will help a kinesthetic learner memorize

Although online learning often conjures up images of sitting still and silent in front of a computer screen, I believe that with a bit of focus and attention, we can create a positive learning experience for all of our students, no matter their learning style.

Be prepared to move, dance, jump, and be tired at the end of a class. I promise it is worth it and will help your hands-on students have a very positive experience.

What ideas do you have for your kinesthetic students? Share in the comments below.

Citations for ‘ESL Teaching Strategies for Kinesthetic Learners’:
1 Elrick, Lauren. “4 Types of Learning Styles: How to Accommodate a Diverse Group of Students.” 4 Types of Learning Styles: How to Accommodate a Diverse Group of Students | Rasmussen College. August 09, 2018. Accessed June 03, 2019.

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