Teaching Kinesthetic Learners in Physical Education


physical education

As every teacher knows, no student learns the same. To help students learn as efficiently as possible, teachers must recognize different learning styles and accommodate them in their lessons. Physical education (PE) is no different. As a physical educator, it’s important to first understand the different learning styles and then look for ways to accommodate them.

While there are different ways of categorizing learning styles, these are the three that are considered most common:

  • The visual learner learns best by watching someone demonstrate a movement
  • The auditory learner learns by focusing on sounds and rhythms to learn movement patterns
  • The kinesthetic learner learns by identifying what the movement feels like

Everyone draws on each of these to varying degrees, but most students rely on one type of learning more than others.

Each type of learner needs a different type of coaching and guidance. Visual cues such as “See where your bat was over the plate when it hit the ball?” help a visual learner, while an auditory learner is better helped by verbal descriptions of the movement, such as “Did you hear the difference between your strong hit and the weaker one?”

While most people are either visual or auditory learners, the needs of minority kinesthetic learners shouldn’t be neglected. As many people are most comfortable teaching in the style they learn – and most teachers are either visual or auditory learners – it can be difficult to know how to teach a kinesthetic learner.

Here are some tips for identifying the kinesthetic learners in your PE class, and teaching them in ways that will make it easier and more fun for them to learn.

Identifying a Kinesthetic Learner

Kinesthetic learners may use larger hand gestures or more expressive body language to communicate. They prefer to play with the physical parts of a model rather than reading about how it works, and they may fidget when sitting or listening to someone talk. Kinesthetic learners may use language that points to their orientation towards the physical, with phrases such as, “That feels right,” or “I can’t get a grip on this.”

Kinesthetic learners are action-oriented, and prefer to do something to understand it, rather than read about it or listen to someone else explain it.

Teaching a Kinesthetic Learner

As kinesthetic learners learn by doing, they are well-suited to sports and PE. In fact, while kinesthetic learners are often at a disadvantage in traditional classrooms – with these classrooms’ emphasis on lectures and visuals – PE is a rare opportunity for kinesthetic learners to shine. Students who are kinesthetic learners find sports to be an invaluable environment to learn, think, and flourish.

Kinesthetic learners process information when they are given the opportunity to move. They want to know what the movement feels like so they can use that feeling as a reference point. Simulations, guidance, and repeated practice are important in developing this frame of reference.

Move them through the skill you are teaching them. Do simulations. Practice. Give as many tactile cues as you can. Ask questions like “Did you feel where your arm was when you released the ball?” and “That was a great goal kick. How did it feel on your foot? Where did your foot hit the ball?”

Be careful, however, to monitor the accuracy and form of their practice. Offering a kinesthetic learner the chance to practice a skill repeatedly is only helpful if you ensure they are practicing with the correct form.
By correctly identifying the way students learn, you can easily make your PE class accommodate all learning styles; including the kinesthetic learning style. With kinesthetic learners’ natural enthusiasm for physical activities and targeted teaching methods, they will thrive in your PE class.

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