Learning styles and learning modalities are often spoken of interchangeably. Modalities refer to how students use their senses in the learning process. We commonly consider four modalities: visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (moving), and tactile (touching). As you might guess, the more senses or modalities we can activate, the more learning will take place.

The great majority of students can learn using all four modalities, but we all have preferences that can be capitalized on, as well as weaker leanings that can be enhanced. In our classrooms, we must provide an environment that is conducive to all four. Traditional classrooms rely heavily on auditory stimulation with lecture and discussions. Now that we have considered the developmental characteristics of young adolescence, we realize that visual, kinesthetic, and tactile modalities also play strong roles in adolescent lives.

The below table will help us understand characteristics we may observe in students who learn best through hearing, seeing, moving, and touching.

Traits of auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile learners.


Auditory learners tend to...
  • enjoy reading and being read to.
  • be able to verbally explain concepts and scenarios.
  • like music and hum to themselves.
  • enjoy both talking and listening.
Visual learners tend to...
  • have good spelling, notetaking, and organizational skills.
  • notice details and prefer neatness.
  • learn more if illustrations and charts accompany reading.
  • prefer quiet, serene surroundings.
Kinesthetic learners tend to...
  • be demonstrative, animated, and outgoing.
  • enjoy physical movement and manipulatives.
  • be willing to try new things.
  • be messy in habits and surroundings.
Tactile learners tend to...
  • prefer manipulatives when being introduced to a topic.
  • literally translate events and phenomena.
  • tolerate clutter.
  • be artistic in nature.