The Kinesthetic Learning Style: Traits and Study Strategies

Girl dribbling basketball
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Do you have lots of energy? Do you get antsy in long lecture classes? Have you ever noticed that it's easier for you to study if someone asks you questions while you shoot hoops or walk around? kinesthetic learning may be your thing. If so, you may be a kinesthetic learner.

Kinesthetic learning is one of the three different learning styles popularized by Neil D. Fleming in his VAK model of learning. In essence, a kinesthetic learner process information best when he or she is physically engaged during the learning process.

Often, those with a kinesthetic learning style have a hard time learning through traditional lecture-based schooling, because the body does not make the connection that they are doing something when they're listening without movement. Their brains are engaged, but their bodies are not, which makes it more difficult for them to process the information. Much of the time, they need to get up and move to put something into memory.

Strengths of Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners have many strengths that will help them achieve achieve success in the classroom:

  • Great hand-eye coordination
  • Quick reactions
  • Excellent motor memory (can duplicate something after doing it once)
  • Excellent experimenters
  • Good at sports
  • Perform well in art and drama
  • High levels of energy

Kinesthetic Learning Strategies

If you're a kinesthetic learner, try these techniques to improve your comprehension, retention, and concentration while studying:

  1. Stand Up Instead of Sitting Down. You already know that sitting for extended periods of time is bad for your health. But did you know that, as a kinesthetic learner, standing up will improve your comprehension and retention? When you stand up, your body is more engaged and connected to the learning process. Investing in a book stand or standing desk may help you concentrate for longer periods of time and remember more of what you read.
  2. Combine Your Study Session With Exercise. Instead of plopping on the sofa with your notes, get up and do burpees or jumping jacks in between chapters. Ask a friend or family members to quiz you on your study guide while you shoot hoops or jump rope. Combining activity keeps you energized and cements the ideas you're studying in your brain. Plus, as a kinesthetic learner, you need a physical outlet for your excess energy, even when you have to study.
  3. Utilize Small Movements. It's not always possible to stand up and and do high knees during a study session, but you can still use kinesthetic study strategies to keep yourself engaged. Bounce a tennis ball against the floor and catch it every time you answer a question.Twist a rubber band around your wrist or a pencil while you read. Even if the motions are small, they'll help you stay focused and attentive.
  1. Use a Pen. Use a Pencil. Use a Highlighter. Underline important vocabulary or concepts while you read. Highlight and color code passages that connect to one another. Use a pencil to draw flow charts in your books that help break down the passage into small pieces. Add sticky notes that show main ideas and your own inferences. Using effective reading strategies combined with movement makes studying easier for kinesthetic learners. 
  2. Try Tension and Relaxation. When you're in a study situation that truly limits your ability to move, use this tension and relaxation technique to stay focused. In intervals of five to ten seconds, tighten a particular muscle. Then relax when the seconds have passed. This technique helps to release unwanted tension, which is something kinesthetic learners often experience during idle times.
  3. Get Creative. If a topic has become difficult for you, appraoch it from another angle. Use materials you can manipulate, like blocks or figurines, to visualize a battle scene or explore mathematical concepts. Draw pictures about the topic you're learning or design a video or storyboard explaining the ideas to someone new. You have excellent motor memory, you're likely to better remember something you built than something you read.

    Kinesthetic Learning Tips for Teachers

    Kinesthetic learners need to move their bodies in order to learn. These students are often called "fidgety," and some teachers might interpret their behavior as distracted or bored. However, a kinesthetic learner's movement does not imply a lack of attention – in fact, it means that they're trying to process information in the most effective possible way. Try these strategies for reaching kinesthetic learners in your classroom:

    • Allow kinesthetic learners to stand, bounce their legs, or doodle during lectures. You will get more out of them in class if they can move around a little bit. 
    • Offer various methods of instruction – lectures, paired readings, group work, experiments, projects, plays, etc.
    • Ask your kinesthetic learners to complete relevant tasks during the lecture, like filling out a worksheet or taking notes.
    • Allow kinesthetic learners to perform movement tasks before and after lectures, like handing out quizzes, writing on the chalkboard, or even rearranging desks.
    • If you feel the kinesthetic learners slipping away from you in class, pause the lecture and have the whole class do something energetic: marching, stretching, or switching desks.
    • Keep your lectures short and sweet! Plan several different activities throughout each class period in order to be mindful of all your students' learning styles.