How to Teach Kinesthetic Learners to Read
(Or to be really spot-on, the title could read: “Teaching Young Children to Read Successfully”)
As I was typing this title, pictures of kids’ faces began popping into my head one after the other. Within about five seconds I realized that to use a term such as kinesthetic learner is about as accurately descriptive as saying HOUSE and having anyone understand exactly what kind of house you are referring to. The stereotypical kinesthetic learner is one who is constantly moving. But I have taught learners who were gifted kinesthetically but in the classroom were as still as mice.
Another thought that immediately chased the first one down is that ANY child is going to learn with more facility when a tactile or kinesthetic element plays a prominent role in their learning. No matter the preferred learning styles, young children all benefit from hands-on, 3-D, body movement. Which brings me around to why Child1st exists to begin with. We are here working, thinking, researching, designing every day because of our belief that if you incorporate certain specific elements and practices into teaching a child to read, you will achieve a far higher degree of success.
Book Learning vs. Whole Body Learning
The following comments, therefore, apply to young children in general, but to kinesthetically gifted children in particular. First of all, let’s think about the reasoning behind why we approach teaching children the way we do (“we” being product designers at Child1st). Imagine for a moment a child – your child, perhaps – sitting on a chair with words on a sheet to memorize, or sentences to labor over or phonics rules to learn. Can you see him go numb over trying to learn reading concepts from paper and printed word? Having a child memorize anything is a very narrow approach to getting info into his brain in a usable format and one which he will understand. And frankly, children the age of the child in the photo here might not have the internal motivation to "learn" or work at learning something that irrelevant to them and boring! There's got to be a better way, right?
Learning to Read with Your Whole Body
If, however, you take an approach that involves multiple regions in the brain and body (whole body/brain learning) can you imagine the potential for your child? The brain learns best from sensory input, meaning body movement, visuals, touch, and concrete objects (instead of photos of them). Given the fact that whole body/brain learning is more effective, here are some tips for teaching your kinesthetic learner:
- For every concept taught, let the child replicate the concept with her body such as in whole body spelling. The child below is tracing an imaginary 6 in the air with his whole body involved before writing with paper and pencil what his body already felt.
- Relate every abstract concept (symbol, rule, etc) to something tangible that is known to the child.
Involve the child’s hands in learning rather than just his eyes or ears.
- Teach every concept to all three modalities: hearing, seeing, moving. (For example, if you say something and she listens, you are missing two modalities. Instead, say something, and then have your child say it while she writes it and watches herself write it such as when playing Quick Draw.)
- Let him work out a solution using concrete objects. (Example, if you are sounding out a word, show him a picture of the target word, let him use large letters, and rather than just sounding out the word, have him select the appropriate, corresponding letter as he says the sound.)
- Make sure the cycle of learning is a complete circle. If you work towards teaching to all three modalities at one time, then step two is giving the child time to deepen learning by drawing what she learned, writing a phrase using the new word and then illustrating it. Step three, the final piece, is when the child can share with you what she just learned. She can show you the drawing she made and talk about what she did. What happens here is that the brain absorbed information, ordered it and processed it into long term memory, then the learning was shared verbally and tangibly. It is such a beautiful, effective process!
We’ve Done Most of the Work for You
I know this sounds really daunting and overwhelming – to transform traditional ways of teaching reading to young children and suddenly make them whole body, teaching to three modalities, pacing yourself so the child can process and then share. WOW. I might sit down and cry a bit to myself if I had a brand new child (or even a slightly used one who has struggled in the process of learning to read) waiting for me to help him learn to read. It is my great delight to share with you that we’ve designed a reading program that will allow you to easily impart the joys of reading to your young child in all these ways. The lessons in Easy-for-Me™ Reading are not just easier for the child, they are wonderful for the adult because if you follow our simple directions each day, you WILL be including all the bullets I listed above. The child will be learning whole brain/whole body, will learn to rely on and strengthen his visualization skills (another important topic) and will be doing hands-on work, will have time to deepen his learning, and will have time to share what he learned.
We believe so much in this system that has been tested multiple times both in home school situations, but also in full classrooms, and believe me, the lights go on when you teach this way because it is how the child learns most easily.
Take the summer to familiarize yourself with the approach, scan the resources, and then be ready to be stellar in the fall!
Also, check out our blog that details strategies for teaching the kinesthetic learner.