What’s their learning style? Part 2: Kinesthetic learners

Kinesthetic learners learn best by being hands on and “learning by doing.”

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” This famous quote by Benjamin Franklin could be the motto for the kinesthetic learner.

We retain 10 percent of what we see, 30-40 percent of what we see and hear, and 90 percent of what we see, hear and do. Adults and children all have a great capacity to learn new skills and enjoy learning in a variety of settings; however, we all have a preferred manner in which we are most comfortable learning. There are three primary styles of learning that I will highlight in this article series: auditory, visual and kinesthetic.

If you are teaching a co-worker a new skill, your children at home, running a 4-H meeting, training fellow volunteers or teaching your neighbor to knit, it will benefit you to understand a little about each of these learning styles. Understanding the basics of these learning styles can also help you personally and professionally. Think about how your children, spouse, co-workers and friends appear to learn and perceive information. When you share information, are you presenting it in a way that makes sense to them?

Kinesthetic learners may be considered active and on the move. They learn best by doing and can’t wait to get going so they can actively explore the world around them. They thrive in an environment where they can see, touch, feel and do to learn. They will enjoy role playing, scenarios, games, benefit from demonstrations and may be able to remember things better when they can associate an action with it. They can inspire others to participate since they are many times the first to dig in and get going on the project.

Sometimes kinesthetic learners are misunderstood and appear to be fidgety, distracted or unable to focus when in reality they just can’t wait to get started. They are so eager to dig in; listening to all of those directions is just hard and boring. Let’s face it, some tasks just won’t appeal to this group of learners, at least not in the traditional way they may be presented. So think outside the box and get creative to grab their attention and you’ll be glad you did.

Consider letting your child play with a stress ball or toy while they are studying, as it can actually help them focus on the task at hand; many knitters can be found in the workplace these days while participating in conferences. Allow children to build models and conduct experiments to learn concepts. Manipulatives make the concepts they have read about come to life and help them remember how they work. Frequent breaks help them stay focused and allows them to get up and move around while they are studying. Spelling words out of letter tiles is a lot more fun than the old paper and pencil test your mom made you take, and they will remember arranging those tiles into the correct sequence. These simple techniques can bring the lessons of the classroom to life and make studying a more pleasurable experience for students in elementary school and those in graduate school.

If you are training adults, allow them to have fidget items during trainings. You can put out pipe cleaners, stress balls or playdough, or you can purchase actual fidget items from training catalogs if you like. Break up the day and go for a walk instead of sitting through your next meeting with a colleague. You may find the activity gets your heart pumping and your ideas flowing; just be sure to capture those ideas on your smart phone app in your office when you return.

As volunteers train youth, they should consider the learning styles of their members. Meetings should take into account all three styles of learning to be most effective. If you are a coach, volunteer or teacher, consider how you plan your next presentation. Do you have a component in your training that will engage the different learning styles? Do you have handouts, diagrams or illustrations? Can a participant or two volunteer to demonstrate the skill or role play a scenario to drive the point home? Weather you train adults or volunteers at your kitchen table, in the barn or in the board room, you should consider the learning styles that impact how people learn.

Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development programs utilize the experiential learning model to teach volunteers and members a variety of skills in all project area in communities across this state. We understand that to retain information and really learn, it is best to ensure the content is being applied to real life. Learners need to be able to see the connection between what they are learning at the meeting, in the classroom, textbook, lab or lecture and their life every day. When we know why it matters and how we can use the information, we will remember it. As the school year begins, parents can help their children make these important connections as well as bring subjects to life in their homes. Be sure to read the rest of the series to learn more about the other learning styles and to get helpful tips to bring learning to life.

If you find you want to change the lives of young people in your community and become a volunteer, or get your child involved as a 4-H member, contact your local MSU Extension office to begin your journey today.

Other articles in series:

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