Kinesthetic learners have just one of many learning styles you’ll come across, but they often need a little extra help. Make sure your class suits all learning styles by adding a few special activities that are fun for everyone.
Have you ever had a student who just couldn’t sit still? Or constantly needed to be touching something? Then you have faced a kinesthetic learner. These students love to learn through action and don’t respond well to traditional teaching methods.
While your CELTA or TEFL course might have touched on catering to different learning styles, it’s a whole different ball game once you are in the classroom and have to manage all the different little personalities.
Catering to this unique learning style in the ESL classroom can be quite a challenge but will help make your lesson plans more engaging.
Using ESL games that allow the learners to see, do, and touch will help your kinesthetic learners enjoy the lesson and the whole class will be having fun while practising their English skills.
Kinesthetic learners tend to also be active learners. We have more on active games for young learners here.
What Is a Kinesthetic Learner?
Kinesthetic learners take in information by discovering and experiencing. These students want to touch everything, move around, and use their whole body to learn.
Characteristics of Kinesthetic Learners
- The learner enjoys working with their hands
- They use their hands to speak and like to describe things with their hands or even their whole body
- They don’t like sitting down at their desks for extended periods of time
- They respond best to Total Physical Response activities which let them learn by moving and touching.
ESL Games Kinesthetic Learners Will Love
Jeopardy is a class favourite and for good reason. It encourages teamwork, critical thinking, and gives students an excellent chance to practice their speaking skills.
The game requires little setup on your side and is a great way to review different topics that you have been teaching in your class. Jeopardy also gives students a break from their books and creates an exciting atmosphere of friendly competition.
- Prepare a jeopardy board with questions on the topics that are being reviewed.
- Assign a point value that aligns with the difficulty of the question.
- Split the class into groups of 4, 5 or 6.
How to Play:
- The first group chooses a topic and a point value.
- Read the corresponding question aloud and then everyone in the group has the opportunity to raise their hand and answer the question.
- The first student to raise their hand gets to answer first. If they are right their team receives the designated amount of points.
- If they get the question wrong, their team loses the points and another team has the chance to answer.
- After all the questions have been answered, the team with the highest score wins!
2. Fly Swat
Fly Swat is one of the best ways to review vocabulary while getting the whole class away from their desks and physically engaging in an activity.
- Create a bunch of flashcards for the target vocabulary you will be reviewing.
- Stick the flashcards onto the board in a random order.
- Split the class into two teams and have them line up in front of the board.
How to Play:
- Each team sends up one person to the front and they are given a fly swatter.
- Read a word aloud and the first student to find it on the board and swat it wins a point for their team!
- To make it harder, you can also ask questions or definitions.
- Don’t forget to only let the students only hit one word per turn to prevent them from hitting as many words as possible.
Charades is a classic game that all children love and is an excellent choice for kinesthetic learners. It allows them to use their whole body and be away from their desks while having fun reviewing vocabulary (or even grammar).
- Create cards with the target vocabulary. You can choose from animals to sports and even action verbs.
- Write one word on each card and mix up the order.
- Split the class up into two groups.
How to Play:
- Each team nominates one person to go up and select a card.
- The student then has to act out the word and their teammates have to guess the word.
- If their team gets it right, they get one point.
- Rotate between the two teams until you have reviewed all the vocabulary.
- The team with the highest score at the end wins!
4. Memory Game
The Memory Game is a fun way to get students to practice their listening and speaking skills. It encourages them to use their creativity and put their new English skills to the test.
- Arrange the seating in the classroom so everyone is sitting in a circle or for bigger classes you can divide the class into groups.
- Demonstrate with an example and check that the students understand the game.
How to Play:
- The first person (this can be you or a student) starts the story with a fragment like “Once upon a time there lived an evil witch“.
- The next person then has to repeat the fragment and add a phrase of their own.
- Keep going around the circle or from group to group until someone messes up.
For younger students or to practice a particular sentence structure, you can adapt the game to suit your lesson plan needs.
For example, if you are teaching the students vocabulary about food and going to the shops you can make the sentence fragment “I went to the shops and bought …“
5. Simon Says
Another classic children’s game that is perfect for kinesthetic learners is Simon Says. It’s a great game to play with students to help them improve their listening skills while at the same time drilling vocabulary.
While the most common way to play Simon Says involves pointing to different body parts, there are tons of ways to put your own spin on it and make it more challenging.
Ask students to find objects around the classroom, touch certain colours, practice specific actions or attempt more difficult tasks like “Simon says pat your head and rub your belly.”
So there you go! Spruce up your lesson planning with these five great kinesthetic learner games and start catering to your learners’ different needs.
And while not every single student learns best this way, it’s a break from the monotony and a great way to have fun with the whole class.
What do you do for kinesthetic learners in your class? Tweet your ideas to us!
About the Author
Lauren Melnick is a South African travel blogger and ESL teacher currently living in Ubon, Thailand. When she isn’t making lesson plans and watching nursery rhymes on YouTube, you can find her eating up a storm, taking selfies with dinosaurs, and planning her next adventure.
With schools around the world, Shane English School always has exciting new opportunities to offer.