The Importance of Recognizing Tactual and Kinesthetic Learners
Young children learn by touching, feeling, moving, and experiencing. Indeed, we have to protect them from being injured by sharp objects, electricity, hot water, and pointy items, which they eagerly grasp, squeeze, or put into their mouths. During the school years, however, educators often ignore these tactual and kinesthetic preferences. Instead, classroom instruction focuses on auditory and visual teaching strategies.
Restak (1979) and others have indicated that many students do not become strongly visual before third grade, that auditory acuity first develops in many students after the sixth grade, and that boys often are neither strongly visual nor auditory even during high school. Therefore, since most young children are tactual and kinesthetic learners, such resources should be developed and used, particularly for those who are experiencing difficulty learning through lectures, direct verbal instructions, "chalk talks," and textbook assignments. Instruction should be introduced through an individual's strongest perceptual strength and reinforced in the two next strongest modalities (Bauer, 1991; Carbo, 1980; Dunn, 1990a; Kroon, 1986; Ingham, 1989; Martini, 1986; Weinberg, 1983; Wheeler, 1980, 1983). Further, because many K-2 youngsters are enthusiastic about designing and building tactual/kinesthetic games and materials, they can easily teach themselves through this procedure. Use the easy-to-follow directions in this chapter to help primary youngsters gradually achieve instructional independence.
Students who do well in school tend to be those who learn either by listening in class or by reading. This leads most of us to believe that the brighter students are auditory and/or visual learners. In reality, however, we usually teach by telling (auditory), assigning readings (visual), or explaining and writing on a chalkboard (auditory and visual). Youngsters who are able to absorb through these two senses are the ones who retain what they have been taught. They also respond well on tests, which are either auditory (teacher-dictated) or visual (written or printed).
Two decades of research have verified that many students who do not do well in school are tactual or kinesthetic learners (Dunn, 1990c); their strongest perceptual strengths are neither auditory nor visual. These boys and girls tend to acquire and retain information or skills when they can either handle manipulatives or participate in concrete, real-life activities. Because so little of what happens instructionally in most classes responds to the tactual and kinesthetic senses, these students are, in a very real sense, handicapped. Once they begin to fall behind scholastically, they lose confidence in themselves and either feel defeated and withdraw (physically or emotionally) or begin to resent school because of their repeated failures.
Many young children appear to be essentially tactual or kinesthetic learners. As they grow older, some youngsters begin to combine tactual and visual preferences; for them, the resources suggested in this chapter will be helpful. Eventually, some youngsters develop auditory strengths and can function easily in a traditional class where much of the instruction occurs through discussion or lecture. But this group does not represent the majority of K-2 children.
We have found some parallels between age and perceptual strengths among students. Even among high schoolers, however, many continue to be unable to learn well either by listening in class or by reading. Sensory strengths appear to be so individualized that it is vital to test each student and then recommend resources that teach to that student's strengths rather than his or her weaknesses. When you recognize that selected youngsters are not learning well, either through readings or from class discussions or lectures. experiment with several of the following resources to provide tactual or kinesthetic instruction that may reverse their underachievement.
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