When children are playing active games, be it on a playground or in organized sports, they are doing more than passing the time. Active play inspires learning. In fact, educational theorist Howard Gardner, the pioneer of multiple intelligences theory, identified kinesthetic and body intelligence as one of the core learning styles many students possess. An understanding of children's kinesthetic learning styles can help parents and educators create situations for maximizing their absorption and retention of new concepts.
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In Gardner's definitions of multiple learning styles, the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence encompasses an individual's ability to use her entire body or parts of her body to solve problems or retain information. A kinesthetic learner uses mental skills to coordinate her body. This definition applies to gross motor activities as well as fine motor skills.
Creating a classroom or home that embraces the bodily-kinesthetic learning styles demands a transformation. Traditional schools typically embrace only two learning styles, linguistic and mathematical. Kinesthetic learners need room to move, explore, dance, stretch, exercise and express themselves physically. Parents and educators should create spaces dedicated to movement, such as a carpeted corner lined with beanbags or floor cushions.
Bodily-kinesthetic learners are tactile learners. The physical world and its variety of textures catches their eyes. They dislike lectures and passively taking notes and prefer active and discovery learning situations. They use body language such as hand gestures to emphasize points. They jump in and try out different hypotheses rather than reading directions or waiting for instructions.
Kinesthetic learners express themselves well through dance, athletics and theater, but they also can excel at fine motor skill activities such as constructing models, building with math manipulatives or putting together puzzles. They are happiest when they are involved in a project, be it a pick-up basketball game at recess or tending to a garden. New tools are of perennial fascination to kinesthetic learners, so outfit a science corner with magnifying glasses or a reading area with earphones for listening to stories.
When a child excels in kinesthetic and bodily learning, some educators or parents assume that she cannot absorb information in other formats. However, Gardner's theories attest to the fact that children can possess multiple intelligences of varying levels simultaneously, and can even work outside of their typical approaches when given appropriate scaffolding.
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