How can you use the kinesthetic learning style to differentiate instruction?

Using the kinesthetic learning style to differentiate instruction in your lessons is beneficial for everyone, even if they are physically handicapped because they will be still be able to see and hear, in most cases, the movement. One group of students that it will benefit the most will be the students labeled ADHD because you will be using one of their strengths. Once kinesthetic learning is implemented in a classroom the ADHD students will many times become the “star” students. They become positive role models, which is something that most ADHD students have never had the opportunity to be because of constant redirection by the teacher. Sometimes that constant redirection, albeit necessary, will lead to class clownism or low self esteem.

When I was teaching my three year old daughter, Anna, the four seasons two days ago, I put movement with each season. I had her cross her arms and shiver as she said winter, spring up like a flower for spring, swim for summer and fall down for autumn. It took her about five minutes to learn it and hasn’t stopped. Doing this reminded me that using the kinesthetic learning style can even resemble play.

One area the kinesthetic learning style can be used to differentiate instruction is during the content learning or the “mini-lesson” section of a full lesson. It can last 10 seconds or take 5 minutes. I have used it to teach middle school social studies. When teaching about The Great Depression, I had all of my students stand up and turn their pant pockets inside out in order to emphasize that people didn’t have any money and many times were desperate. I told them that people used to do this during this time and they called it Hoover flags (Hoover was President). It took 10 seconds and yet it got them out of their seat and allowed them to physically do something.

Another example of using the kinesthetic learning style to differentiate instruction would be when I taught about the Silk Rd. It took about 2-3 minutes. I had created a floor map of Asia and had the students take turns and walk across the path or “road” that I had drawn on it. As they did this they traded items with each other like spices, silk and gun powder (fake of course).

A third example of using movement during the mini-lesson was when I taught about the Black Codes during Reconstruction. This actually borders on a short activity because it took a little over 5 minutes. I used flexible grouping and had the students get into groups of 5 they played a game that I created. One person was the host and the other four were the freedmen. I had laid out grids using painters tape on the floor, four deep and four across for each group to use. If a player got to the line they were equal to the Caucasians in the South. The host would allow the players to pick a card one at a time and then they would read it out loud and either move forward, backward or stay where they were. Each card had a Black Code on it so no one ever made it to the line. The students felt frustrated which is similar to how the freedman felt. It showed them how these laws kept the freedmen “in their place”. It also allowed them to move and interact.

Full Classroom activities that use the kinesthetic learning style to differentiate instruction can take a lot of prep work. A great resource that can help decrease the planning is “History Alive”. One of my favorite activities that I created was about D-Day, the Landing at Normandy. I changed the whole classroom around and made it the battlefield. I had a paper boat that the students jumped out of and into the paper water then onto the beach and through the string “barbed wire”. On the other side of the wire were the Germans standing on chairs behind a paper cliff. I made casualty cards; this is what the ARMY uses when doing training exercises. The student had to act out their deaths or injuries, medics would help them, and only a few of them would make it to the cliff. I had gun noises and explosions in the background. It was role play and it was learning. The students always asked to do it several times so each time I would have them switch their casualty card and have a new experience. It was a fabulous 20 minute kinesthetic activity.

Differentiating using the kinesthetic learning style from the multiple intelligences theory can be a lot of fun and useful to the students. Here are some other suggestions for kinesthetic activities that aren’t so content specific:

  • Body answers
  • Building things like scenes with legos or play-doh and then explaining the events
  • Acting (skit, musical skit, comedy sketch, monologue)
  • Role play
  • Touching materials like the silk and spices in the silk road example
  • Creating  and performing a cheer
  • Puppet show
  • Dance
  • Talk show
  • Tasting foods from a certain country you are learning about
  • Diarama helps social studies teachers differentiate instruction using multiple intelligences.

Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico

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