Understanding learning styles and incorporating kinesthetic/tactile learning into 4-H programming

We know that youth absorb information based on their learning style. What are the characteristics of a kinesthetic/tactile learner, and how do we incorporate kinesthetic/tactile learning into 4-H programming?

People learn through hearing, seeing and doing, according to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service4-H Volunteer Development Series: Learning Styles. We use all three methods, but each of us has a learning preference. We learn best using this preferred method. Furthermore, basic knowledge is learned through one of the five senses.

Why is it important to know how a youth learns? Because as an educator or youth worker, we must understand that teaching according to a variety of learning styles will assist youth to capitalize on their educational success. Since we know that not everyone learns the same way, we must also learn to teach in ways that incorporate a variety of learning styles.

Learning styles are most commonly broken down into three major styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile. In earlier articles we explored visual and auditory learning styles. Those articles included characteristics of visual and auditory learners and how to incorporate those learning styles into 4-H programming.

Now we’ll explore the kinesthetic learning style. This learning style can also be referred to as tactile learning. According to the National 4-H Headquarters, kinesthetic/tactile learners are those who learn best through touching, feeling and experiencing that which they are trying to learn. National 4-H Headquarters goes on to describe that kinesthetic learners prefer role plays, experiments, simulations and other hands-on activities.

Since it’s unlikely that you’ll have access to assessment tools which assist in identifying a youth’s dominant learning style, you’ll need to look for basic characteristics that help you to know what type of a learner you are working with. According to Education.com, kinesthetic learners typically:

  • Move around a lot
  • Like to touch people they’re talking to
  • Tap their pencil or foot while doing schoolwork
  • Enjoy physical activities
  • Take frequent breaks when studying
  • Do not spend a lot of time reading
  • Have difficulty spelling correctly
  • Like to solve problems by physically working through them
  • Like to try new things
  • Are coordinated and agile
  • Express their feelings physically
  • Dress for comfort, instead of style
  • Excel in athletics and the performing arts

Let’s put the popular 4-H catch-phrase “learn by doing” into action. As a 4-H leader or youth worker, how can you adapt your programming efforts to include educational processes for kinesthetic learning?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Create opportunities for youth to act out what they have learned—use a skit or a television commercial
  • Break up a large project into several shorter projects
  • Allow time for breaks
  • Use dramatic scenarios for solving problems
  • Encourage youth to find a place where they are comfortable—on the floor, standing or using a bean-bag chair—rather than sitting at tables and chairs
  • Use field trips to have youth explore different topics
  • Give instructions using physical examples

According to learning-styles-online.com, everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominate style of learning, with far less use of the other styles. They go on to explain that others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. 4-H National Headquarters reminds us that understanding learning-style preferences can help 4-H staff and volunteers provide a variety of experiences for youth to allow them the greatest margin of success in learning new skills and concepts.

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