Hands-on Learners

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“Hands-on Learners,” Ensign, Feb. 2001, 66

Hands-on Learners

We discovered that our son who has a learning disability is a kinesthetic learner, meaning he processes information most efficiently through touch and motion. Since finding this out, we have identified many ideas to help teach him. As we studied about some of the different ways people learn best, we discovered that about 30 percent of the general population are full or partial kinesthetic learners, although most also learn well through audio or visual means.

Those children who learn best through movement may find it difficult to absorb gospel principles taught in traditional settings. Expecting these children to sit still may even result in disruptive class experiences. Happily, we found the following learning strategies helpful.

Role playing. Active children may find difficulty relating to some scripture stories just through listening. However, if they are asked to play the part of Alma or the angel or King Lamoni, they will long remember the details of the experience. Look around the house for costume ideas, and stage the role play in such a way that body language is used.

Rote learning. Instead of repeating words or scriptures for children to memorize, have them write down the words and phrases. However, for those who are very young, disabled, or very active, this might not be practical. We have found that having the child bounce or throw a ball while saying each book of the Bible or pedal the stationary bike while repeating the names of Book of Mormon prophets helps the child remember them. The energy expended somehow helps the brain retain the information.

Spelling. When kinesthetic learners need to retain important names or words, have them spell the words by tracing letters in sand, rice, or cornmeal on a tray, by using sign language, or by writing the letters in the air. They may even wish to shape the letters with modeling clay or with their bodies. We have also sealed about a half cup of ketchup or mustard in a plastic baggie and then had our child draw letters on the baggie.

We have found example to be the greatest teacher of all. Sometimes it is difficult to be patient with a child who learns differently, or perhaps we unintentionally burden them with inappropriate labels. To live consistently with gospel teachings, we need to remember these children need special help and that as parents we have been entrusted with providing that help.—Heidi Ashworth, Clayton Valley Second Ward, Walnut Creek California Stake