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What Is Tactile Learning?

Aug 25, 2020

Learning styles are important for teachers and students alike to understand. Teachers who understand learning styles are able to help different kinds of students thrive in their classroom, using unique strategies, activities, and assignments to cater to all different kinds of learners. 

The main learning styles are auditory, visual, kinesthetic or tactile, and sometimes reading and writing. While everyone will likely use all of these learning styles in their education, most students have a certain learning style that comes more easily to them. Teachers can identify the different types of learning styles their students utilize most, and then cater activities and classroom learning to help a wide variety of students learn and grow. Ultimately, teachers want their students to thrive in the classroom, and understanding learning styles and how to incorporate them into a classroom is key for that success.

Learn more about the kinesthetic learners and tactile learners, how educators can identify these kinds of learners, and how teachers can use this style in their classrooms.

What is kinesthetic or tactile learning?

Kinesthetic or tactile learners need to physically touch or try something in order to learn the concept best. This style is often called multi-sensory learning because tactile learners hear or see to learn, and then complete their learning by trying it out themselves. This is very different from auditory and visual learning where learners need to see or hear instruction in order to learn it. Kinesthetic is hands-on, focused primarily on a learner trying for themselves as an avenue to learning.

Characteristics of a kinesthetic learner.

Teachers can greatly benefit from figuring out what kind of learning style a student prefers. This helps them to be able to connect with a student in the best way for their learning, and allows them to try new techniques if a student is struggling with a concept. There are a few ways a teacher can identify a kinesthetic learner in their classroom, including:

Needs to move. Kinesthetic learners often learn best when moving. Their sense of touch and ability to move around can actually help them comprehend and learn things better.

Enjoys hands-on activities. Students who particularly enjoy participating in hands-on activities may be kinesthetic learners.

Remembers information better when they write it down. Kinesthetic learners can often be identified as those students who are focused on taking notes or writing in their planner as part of their learning.

Ignores or overlooks instructions. Kinesthetic learners may have trouble remembering or following instructions. If you have a student who particularly struggles with following the rules, they may be a kinesthetic learner.

Dislikes feeling confined. Both physical and mental confinement can be a problem for kinesthetic learners. If you have a student that doesn’t want to think inside the box, or has a problem with being in a small classroom, seated at their desk, they may be a tactile learner.

Difficulty focusing for long periods of time. Kinesthetic learners aren’t great at sitting still and listening or reading for a long period of time. They crave physical movement, and are often good at physical activities. A student who doesn’t want to sit still may be a tactile learner. 

Kinesthetic learning examples.

  • Beyond learning what characteristics to look for, it’s greatly beneficial for teachers to know what kinesthetic learning looks like in action, helping them get ideas for how to use kinesthetic learning activities in their classroom. Some of the examples of kinesthetic learning include:

  • Ask students to identify rock types for a geology lesson. Instead of having students watch a movie about rocks or look at pictures, set up a more hands-on activity. Place rocks around the room and have students walk to each station, looking and touching the rocks to identify what type they are. In STEM learning particularly, hands-on activities can be crucial for success.

  • Have students make a diorama for a time in history. This hands on, creative work is a great way to help kinesthetic learners actually retain the information. They’ll remember more about what happened in history if they are making something with their hands.

  • Include options for students. For example, give students the option to write a book report, or create a video book report. Kinesthetic learners may appreciate the opportunity to do a more creative, hands-on project.

  • Create flashcards for rote memorization. Give students an assignment to create flashcards for memorizing dates, names, etc. Kinesthetic learners will retain information much more easily if they have dramatic visuals that they created.

  • Use props in math. Use tiles to help teach students addition and subtraction, use actual shapes in geometry class, and other props. These tools can be a great way to help students who prefer tactile learning.

Kinesthetic learning strategies.

As a teacher, it’s extremely important to know how to encourage different students so they can thrive in the classroom. Understanding what tactile learners need will help you be able to work with them and motivate them to find their own ways to focus, enhancing their study strategies and offering good study tips for them to use at home. Some great strategies teachers can use to help kinesthetic learners include:

  • Allow kinesthetic learners to move around. This can mean bouncing their leg, stand, or taking a quick walk around the room. Allowing students to move during the day is great for their focus.

  • Give students work to do while you lecture. Give students a worksheet to fill out, a specific way to take notes, or even a map to color while you are lecturing. This will help kinesthetic learners retain information.

  • Let kinesthetic learners help out around the classroom. Allow these students to get up and move by passing out papers, writing on the board, etc. 

  • Have creative time. While you read or show a video to students, allow them to doodle, color, work on a project or craft. This movement and hands-on work will help these students retain their information.

  • Go on field trips. Field trips can be a great way for kinesthetic learners to interact with new surroundings and learn new things. 

  • Hold labs or experiments. Science, history, and even math can have fun, engaging projects that allow kinesthetic learners to get active and be hands-on in their learning.

If you want to be a teacher, it’s extremely important to understand learning styles and be aware of ways to help students learn in your classroom. Earning a degree will help prepare you to become a teacher, and learning the best ways to connect with unique students will help you become a great teacher! 

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