A kinaesthetic learner

A kinaesthetic learner





‘Stop fiddling! Stop swinging on your chair! Leave the equipment alone! Don’t write until I tell you to!’

Can I write on the board? Can we make our own sentences? Can I show you? Shall I write down the board work?
















Recognise these conversations? Watch out! The kinaesthetic learners are about!


Most of you who have studied learning theory at some time know the word kinaesthetic. If you don’t here’s very simple explanation:


 A kinaesthetic learner is one that likes to learn by doing things, rather than listening carefully or looking at diagrams. All the time you are explaining or pointing out something, they are itching to get going and do it for themselves.


Kinetic energy is the energy that we store and then use to move about - the word kinaesthetic comes from the same root ‘kine’ which means ‘move’. It is the same word that is used in ‘cine’- ma the word for moving picture images on a screen. So kinaesthetic means ‘liking movement’ or a ‘moving about type of person.’


Before we talk about ‘kinaesthetic learners’, it is important to understand that being a kinaesthetic learner doesn’t mean you never listen and you have no eyes. When we talk about learning styles we talk about a preference, not a way of life. Kinaesthetic learners can be wonderful to have in a classroom as they are keen and enthusiastic, often volunteer for things and are very quick to learn through drama and role play. But they can find it hard to sit still and they are great ones for drawing and doodling all over worksheets, the desks and even themselves!


How to spot a kinaesthetic learner.

Look at the speech bubbles at the top of the page. These kinds of incidents occur when there are kinaesthetic learners in your class. Notice who is fiddling with a pen during your explanation of the grammar. Who volunteers to clean the board and hand out books? Whose chair is continually on two legs? Who uses gestures when they are reading aloud? Who grabs the group activity cards before everyone else?


Managing kinaesthetic learners. Things that they do well.

In some learners of this type, the love of movement will be linked to art and presentation of their work will be excellent. Always give them time to arrange their colour pencils and use colours in your board work to give them a chance to do the same. Children who respond to pictures will also enjoy this.

In other learners, the kinaesthetic tendencies will be linked to drama and the need to get up from behind the desk. Use these learners for simple classroom tasks like running messages and cleaning the board. Good kinaesthetic learners often finish their written work quite quickly and can disturb others, so build in these small opportunities for moving around. Ask them to help you stick cards on the board, use them in demonstrations of activities and for collecting things at the end of the lesson. You are especially supporting their learning if you do all these things in English.

Activity games such as ‘head, shoulders knees and toes’ and running dictations will also be useful for them.

You will also find that kinaesthetic learners learn well if there are gestures and movement linked to new vocabulary- get them to ‘put up’ an umbrella, or ‘kick’ a football. For longer vocabulary you should associate word  stress and intonationwith hand gestures or body movements. Kinaesthetic learners can listen and absorb for much longer periods if there is some movement while they are listening- following a story while making gestures for example.

See the ‘Telling a Good Story  teaching tip in the Go4english archives.

Provided there is enough movement and communication in the classroom, kinaesthetic learners will do very well indeed.

So why are kinaesthetic learners seen as problem students?

There is a very small group of children who have learning and attention disorders and this can be connected with a need for movement around the classroom to a degree that tests the patience of the teacher and the other students. Students with these learning disorders may have very short attention spans and may find it hard not to disturb other students, even taking their pencils or drawing on their books. This is a compulsion for movement and may need special handling. These are not the only kinaesthetic learners you will encounter!

If you are labelling quite a lot of your students as ‘problems’ and find they are always wriggling and not concentrating then there are many things you can do. 


  • Teachers tend to try and make the classroom too passive. They have a tendency to talk too much, to explain too much and to expect children to sit still for periods of up to 40 or 50 minutes. They can spend long periods of time at the front of the class ‘teaching’. But are the students learning? Even children who find it easy to learn via listening can only do it for a certain amount of time! You may be wasting your efforts.
  • Always think about incorporating a period of movement or activity into the lessons. Teach in small ‘chunks’ of NOT MORE THAN 10 minutes. This means introduce a point and then quickly get the children doing something. Keep exercises short and if you need to do repetition, vary the format.
  • Think about the layout of your class. Desks in rows can make interaction more difficult. Put children who have difficulty sitting still at the edges where they will cause less disruption. Try to arrange the room so that all children can come up to the board if they want to.
  • In longer lessons, make sure there is a ‘stretch your legs’ break in the middle with a song or a game, even up to the age of 14. 
  • Be prepared for noise. Do not be fooled into thinking that a silent and still classroom is learning. There may be nothing going on in those heads!
  • Monitor your own teaching and be flexible. Do not do the same thing every day. Look for ways to involve all the children in the lessons and you will find you work is much easier!
  • If you have a child you cannot cope well with, talk to your colleagues. They may have some useful suggestions. Children have different attitudes in different lessons.


Success depends on your own positive attitude as a teacher and on being realistic about what kids can do. Have you ever taught a class full of teachers? I have and they can’t sit still or be quiet very easily either! 

Movement is good. If you find yourself continually saying ‘Stop it, stop it,’ it is TIME FOR A CHANGE!




Let us know how it went!


The go4english team are always delighted to hear your comments and feedback on the materials we develop for you. Please email us with your comments and suggestions so that we can make sure you get want you want from us.


Related pages:

Games 1 - Games 2

Grammar 1 - Grammar 2

Lesson Plan

Song - Story