Tactile Kinesthetic Learning Style

Tactile-Kinesthetic Learning

What is tactile-kinesthetic learning?

We all learn through hearing, seeing, and doing.

Tactile-kinesthetic learning is the ability to make sense of the world through touch, movement, and doing. It’s the ability to identify, organize, and interpret the environment through touch and movement.

Tactile and kinesthetic learners are able to understand and remember information better when they can physically interact with it.

How does tactile-kinesthetic processing affect overall learning skills?

Tactile-Kinesthetic Processing

Most of us don’t think about learning skills in conjunction with the tactile-kinesthetic processing system. However, tactile-kinesthetic processing skills are very important to your ability to learn and master reading skills.

Students learn and process information through the vision system, the auditory system, and the tactile-kinesthetic systems. There are a total of 27 areas of processing that impact learning. We are more familiar with visual processing and auditory processing.

Just as seeing and hearing have an impact on students learning, so too do physical movement and tactile-kinesthetic processing.

What impact does tactile-kinesthetic processing have on learning?

Tactile kinesthetic processing can impact a child in a number of ways. For example, when the system is working optimally, body movements through space are smooth and easy. Writing is easy. Telling left from right is easy. Remembering where you left an item is easy.

On the other hand, difficulties with tactile processing can lead to problems with fine motor skills such as writing or cutting with scissors. Tactile kinesthetic processing can also impact a child’s ability to understand spatial relationships and their ability to judge time.

A deeper dive into tactile-kinesthetic learning and reading

Many people think of dyslexia in terms of students that reverse letters or words. They think it is a visual processing problem. However, there is more to it than that. The root cause of reversing letters or words is typically due to the kinesthetic areas of laterality and directionality not working as well as they could, should, and can. These are all learned skills and can improve.

There are 9 specific areas of tactile-kinesthetic processing.

You will notice each of these areas has to do with physical activity, hands-on work, techniques, and abilities to understand the environment surrounding you. Look over these 9 abilities and then read the impact of tactile-kinesthetic processing. That section will let you know what happens when your tactile processing isn’t working as well as it could, should, and can.

Areas of Tactile-Kinesthetic ProcessingDescription
Body ImageThe ability to use the body as a reference point to judge other relationships, to be aware of your body and your body’s capabilities. What are the body parts? What can they do? How do you make them do it? And where are they in space while they are doing it?
Things to look for:
Body image difficulties can lead to difficulty in naming body parts, trouble sitting still, appearing clumsy, and irritating others by not honoring others’ personal space and boundaries. Difficulties with body image may result in a lack of confidence in oneself.
Sensory-perceptualThe ability to receive input from your eyes and integrate it with the motor output expressed by your hands. An example is when you play soccer, you see the ball coming towards you and you kick it.
Things to look for:
Sensory-perceptual difficulties can lead to problems with coordination during physical education. Other difficulties involve being able to ‘read’ meaning from gestures and expressions, or from what others think are easy-to-see cause-and-effect relationships.
LateralityThe ability to have an internal awareness of the space located to the right and left of the midline in the body. The internal awareness of both sides of the body working together and in opposition to each other. 
Things to look for:
Laterality difficulties can lead to difficulties with recognizing the difference between ‘b’ and ‘d’, ‘b’ and ‘p’, ‘was’ and saw’, and telling how far or how near something is in relation to themselves. This is also characteristic of children who don’t have a preferred hand for writing (being right-handed or left-handed). Sometimes children will use both hands for a job that requires only one hand. Sometimes these children have difficulty holding a piece of paper at the same time as they are writing on it. Often these children will have difficulty crossing the mid-line of their body.
DirectionalityThe ability to project laterality awareness of the concept of left and right into the space beyond the fingertips. In other words, the chalkboard is on the right-hand side of the room and the windows are on the left. Making letters facing the correct way is another example of directionality.
Things to look for:
Directionality difficulties can lead to difficulties with placing numbers in a column, aligning words neatly on a page, proper spacing of words, and scanning a page from left to right. During movement exercises or physical education, directionality difficulties show up in the child who can’t seem to stay in step with the rest of the class.
LocomotionThe ability to move the body through space, exploring the relationships between your body and the objects in the space around them. It provides a stable concept of space and time. 
Things to look for:
Locomotion difficulties can lead to difficulties in judging how far or near an object is to you. It also leads to difficulty with judging time, e.g., how much time has gone by. It also impacts a child during games such as dodgeball, soccer, baseball, or catch; that is, being able to receive objects coming towards their body and to propel objects away from their body.
ContactThe ability to manipulate and explore objects. It involves reaching, grasping, and releasing objects. Building with blocks is an example of this.
Things to look for:
Contact difficulties can lead to difficulties with touching and exploring objects. It can also lead to difficulties with cutting, tracing, proper pencil grip, handwriting, or holding a book while reading.
Spatial-TemporalThe ability to understand the relationship of two objects to our body and the relationship of these two objects to each other. This is the ability to divide space vertically (up and down), horizontally (left and right), and fore and aft (Kephart, 1971). Spatial concepts are based on height, width, and depth. These are the three dimensions of the Euclidian spatial system. Spatial ordering is a component of this: the ability to perceive how parts of things fit together. [e.g. What goes together to make a pattern, organizing your backpack or your desk, and thinking with pictures.]
Things to look for:
Spatial difficulties can lead to difficulties with remembering where you have left something, having a disorganized desk, having poor alignment of numerals on a math paper, inadequately spacing letters and words in writing, or difficulty in understanding measurements, maps, and graphs. A student might also have difficulty relating the size of an object with an appropriate container. Learning to tell time can also be a challenge. Mathematical concepts such as fractions can be difficult.
MotorThe ability to move in space with coordination and rhythm (smooth movements), both gross-motor and fine-motor. An example of gross motor is walking or running smoothly. Fine-motor examples are related to eye-hand coordination such as sorting, buttoning, putting puzzles together, sewing, and handwriting.  
Things to look for:
Motor difficulties can lead to sloppy or illegible handwriting. Students may have difficulty holding a pencil or tire quickly from writing. They often have difficulty with balance and coordination, and body rhythm (moving smoothly) to music. Throwing and catching a ball, jumping, or skipping may also be difficult. These are the children who seem awkward or clumsy.
Sensory Motor 
The ability to integrate the areas of the tactile-kinesthetic system together to gain meaning from identifying, organizing, and interpreting sensory data received through the senses.
Things to look for:
Sensory Motor Integration difficulties can lead to problems with gross and fine motor movements. Difficulties moving around the classroom from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ in an efficient manner can occur. Identifying and matching objects by touch may be difficult. Knowing right from left, up from down, forward from backward, under and over may be difficult. This can also lead to difficulty with judging time.

The good news is… these are learned skills

All of the areas of processing are learned skills. Lessons and techniques can be used to teach and strengthen this area of processing. You can teach with specific methods that actually improve each of the areas of processing.

The more teachers and parents become aware of the areas of processing that impact learning and begin teaching with hands-on manipulatives and activities using all modes of learning, the easier learning becomes.

Resources and activities to improve tactile-kinesthetic processing

Scholar Within includes a variety of activities in the Homeschool Reading & Spelling Program. The program uses specific methods that improve reading and spelling skills along with all of the 27 areas of processing. This program also includes the mind-body and executive function activities which give further practice in all of these areas of processing.

Some specific essential kinesthetic learner activities include hands-on activities that keep your student’s interest:

  • Building with blocks or Legos
  • Doing a jigsaw puzzle
  • Playing catch
  • Draw with crayons, markers, or chalk
  • Cutting with scissors
  • Painting
  • Dance or move to different types of music or beats
  • Doing science experiments
  • Building a model
  • Taking things apart and putting them back together again
  • Playing Red Light Green Light
  • Playing card games
  • Bean bag toss
  • Jumping rope while practicing spelling
  • Use word flashcards or math flashcards
  • Field trips

What are learning styles?

Learning styles have to do with learning preferences and strengths. For example, some students prefer to learn by seeing while others prefer to learn by hearing.

Visual learners are those who prefer to learn by seeing. They like to see pictures, read text, and look at diagrams.

Auditory learners are those who prefer to learn by hearing. They like to hear lectures, listen to audiobooks, and participate in discussions.

Tactile-kinesthetic learners in the classroom prefer to learn by touching and moving. They like to use their hands to build, experiment, and touch things. Tactile-Kinesthetic learners are often described as “doers”.

Research shows that learning through multiple senses and learning styles helps students learn faster and more efficiently than just through one. Even if a student has a preference to learn in one way, it will help them further develop all their areas of processing by learning in multiple ways. This is the reason why we include multi-sensory instruction with a lot of different types of activities in Scholar Within’s learning programs.

27 Areas of perception that impact learning

Auditory Learning Style
Tactile Kinesthetic Learning Style

Are learning styles the same thing as visual, auditory, and tactile-kinesthetic processing?

No, they are not the same thing. Learning styles have to do with learning strengths and preferences while visual, auditory, and tactile-kinesthetic processing have to do with how information is processed.

When processing information is difficult in the visual system, a student might have trouble seeing the board or reading a book. When processing information is difficult in the auditory system, a student might have trouble following oral directions, listening for long periods, or participating in class discussions. When processing information is difficult in the tactile-kinesthetic system, a student might have trouble with fine motor skills such as writing, taking notes, or using scissors.

Again, there are 9 areas each in the visual system, the auditory system, and the tactile-kinesthetic system. A difficulty dealing with a few of these specific areas can make learning more difficult than it needs to be.

At Scholar Within we incorporate a variety of hands-on activities that improve all of these skills while improving reading and spelling at the same time.


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