Teaching Strategies for Kinesthetic Learners in STEM Education

By H. Davis


Each fall, students, teachers, and parents come together for another academic school year, and as we watch our students grow, it quickly becomes clear that each child has their own unique way of learning about the world around them. One student might spend countless hours reading a book quietly in the corner, for example, while another looks for a reason to go outside and explore. One student begs for you to take them on a field trip to the museum again, while another wants to go and touch the museum's most prized possessions to learn more about the exhibit in front of them.


During the early 1980s, educational researcher and psychologist Howard Gardner concluded what many parents suspected: not every child learns the same way. In other words, there’s isn’t a standard way to teach every child since children learn by using different methods. Gardner later pointed out that although students might seem equally intelligent during a group assignment, a lesson plan that works successfully for some students doesn’t work the same way for all. So the chances of students being confused about a particular assignment during a group project are likely higher than we like to think. In the end, Gardner’s investigations led him to conclude one thing, there are several different learning styles: auditory, visual, linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, and of course, kinesthetic.


What is a Kinesthetic Learning Style?


Let’s take a closer look at one often overlooked learning style to help you figure out ways to teach kinesthetic learners in your classroom about the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. The most physical learning strategy of them all, kinesthetic learners obtain information by movement and motion. In fact, the word kinesthetic refers to a student’s ability to learn through by use of physical activity. So although they’re at a slight disadvantage in the traditional classroom environment, when it comes to things like physical education (PE), and other outdoor activities, the tables are turned. The reason for this is because of kinesthetic learners process information when they are given the opportunity to move around in a classroom environment. Their bodies want to know what the movement feels like to use it as a reference point later on. That’s why as a teacher, simulations, guidance, and practice are important for this kind of students – especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Why are simulations, guidance, and practice important for kinesthetic learners? One reason, in particular, involves their thinking ability. Using simulations and practices in class increases students critical thinking ability, which is the main goal of helping student transition into active learners according to Concordia University.


Ways to Teach Kinesthetic Learners in Your Classroom


These students should be allowed to move freely throughout the classroom. Do simulations, examples, and practice problems. Give them as many tactile cues as possible. Throughout the lesson, ask questions like “Do you remember how your arm felt when you pushed over the Lego blocks?” and “That was a great kick.” This will help them develop a better understanding of the material.


Whenever possible, be sure to offer your active learners things they can physically interact with. In math, for instance, use pattern blocks and base ten blocks to help your students internalize the new math formula. You can also teach your students about the world of engineering by having them connect straws in the shape of a pipeline, or build a bridge using blocks, pencils, and paper. Art also plays an important role in STEM, so don’t be hesitant to give kinesthetic learners construction paper to write on with crayons, colored pencils, and markers. Allow them to free-write and express themselves without educational boundaries.


You can also add motion to homework assignments by having students conduct different exercises – like jumping jacks, push-ups, and burpees to monitor their heart rates using electronic devices. A standing desk is also a great way to help fidgety students focus more. One can easily be created by the teacher (or the parents) by letting students do their classwork and/or homework on a stack of books or on a counter. This will give them the ability to stand while working.


Remember, active learners, benefit the most when they’re allowed to move frequently, which can be a problem for some teachers. But rather than categorizing them as disruptive students, look at it as a learning opportunity for both of you. It’s also important to encourage your students to use rhythms to help them remember things like mathematical formulas and information located on the periodic table. If their way of learning is too loud, help them find an alternative method.


Changing up your lesson plan for kinesthetic learners can be difficult for any teacher.  However, with careful planning, you can create a game plan that will not only benefit your active learners, but benefit your auditory, and solitary learners as well.




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