One of the most challenging types of learners to address in the classroom is the kinesthetic learner. Kinesthetic learners learn best by moving their bodies, activating their large or small muscles as they learn. These are the "hands-on learners" or the "doers" who actually concentrate better when movement is involved. These children are apt to move about in their seat or around the classroom.
Kinesthetic learners often struggle with retention of vocabulary because vocabulary is often taught in a way best suited to the auditory or visual learner–such as the recitation of lists, reading while in their seat or by direct oral instruction by the teacher. However, there are a number of comprehension strategies that will benefit not only the kinesthetic learner, but will raise the comprehension level of all students, as well.
Comprehension strategies for kinesthetic learners involve moving their bodies in a way that maximizes the understanding and retention of a word, phrase or concept. When asked to recall vocabulary in speaking, reading or writing, they will recall what action they were performing when introduced to that particular word.
Experiential activities are the key to developing successful comprehension strategies for the kinesthetic learner. These activities are excellent to use across the curriculum, and will engage multiple intelligences:
- Teach the American Sign Language alphabet and have the class use it when practicing spelling words.
- Play a game of Pictionary. Students can draw a vocabulary word or phrase and ask the group to guess the answer. This works well with the whole group or in small groups.
- Students can make puppets and use them to demonstrate a vocabulary word or concept.
- Construct a classroom collage based on vocabulary words by cutting images from a magazine or the Internet and pasting them on paper.
- Students can perform plays or skits they write themselves in front of the class or a small group.
- Ask students to design a game board based on a story and demonstrate the rules to the class.
- Act out new vocabulary words by dividing the class into teams and playing a game of charades.
- Use clap-tap-slap game-songs to teach longer words or even to memorize bigger chunks of text. Here are some videos that demonstrate game-songs:
For kinesthetic learners in particular, a few unorthodox approaches in the classroom can help:
- Allow the student to perform jumping jacks or a particular dance while reciting new vocabulary.
- Allow the kinesthetic learner to draw while you are giving direct instruction.
- Allow kinesthetic students to walk around the classroom while reading aloud.
Learning and retaining vocabulary by using comprehension strategies best suited to the kinesthetic learner not only benefits them, but you’ll find your entire class will have fun and gain from the experience of learning while doing!
For more comprehension strategies to share with your classroom, read our free guide, K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices.