By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
Study tips for kinesthetic learners are a little different than for other learning styles. But first, a little about learning styles:
Educators and scientists have identified four common learning styles: kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and read-write. You could fall into one category, two categories, or even all four. In fact, the more the better, as that means you will be more successful in a variety of learning environments. Not sure which one you are? Take this quiz.
What is a kinesthetic learner and are you one?
A kinesthetic learner is one who better understands, learns and remembers new information when the learning process involves physical movement or tactile experiences. Study tips for kinesthetic learners often involve motion, hands-on activities and interaction with others.
Common characteristics of kinesthetic learners
You might be a kinesthetic learner if you:
- Like to move around while in learning environments
- Often struggle with lecture classes
- Do well in lab environments (sciences)
- Prefer to work in groups or partners, rather than individually
- Like to make posters, do experiments, use hands
- Are easily bored
- Remember what they did, not necessarily what they saw or heard
- Can be impulsive (blurting out answers, getting up quickly, etc.)
- Enjoy trying new things and new routines
- Are not a fan of reading instructions and would just rather do it
- Require frequent breaks during non-preferred activities
The challenge for kinesthetic learners
Unfortunately, kinesthetic learners tend to struggle once they get out of elementary school. In elementary classrooms, there’s lots of hands-on learning, experimentation, and moving from activity to activity. But as we move through high school and college, learning environments become more lecture-based and less hands-on.
The reality is that we can’t change how a teacher presents the material to us, right? So essentially we need to change how we present it to ourselves when we study it. I know how weird that sounds. Stay with me.
If the majority of your learning environments are auditory or visual-based, you may struggle more than your peers to process the information. In that case, you have to be deliberate in how you study this material on your own.
Many people with ADHD are kinesthetic learners. Here are 11 study tips that work well for students with ADHD.
8 study tips for kinesthetic learners
Not all study methods work for all people. Sure there are absolutely some foundational study methods like active recall and spaced repetition. You need to know these.
But below I share with you 8 study techniques that tend to work well for kinesthetic learners.
1. Use your hands while studying.
To engage your hands while studying you could make and use flashcards (actually write out the flashcards — don’t use an online tool like Quizlet). You could also draw out information on a whiteboard, make a physical timeline on index cards and arrange them in order, etc. Just make sure you engage your hands as you study — other than holding a book! When you involve your hands, you engage your muscle memory. Your muscle memory is way stronger than your short-term brain memory. As a result, you’ll better remember what you study.
2. Combine studying with low-key movement.
This is an excellent study tip for kinesthetic learners. You could walk while listening to an audiobook. If you have to read an online textbook, download a text reader app. Put your iPad on the treadmill and watch a video related to what you’re studying as you walk slowly. (Don’t have a video as part of your homework? Find one.) Pace around the house as you talk aloud to yourself or to someone else during a study session.
3. Study in groups.
Not everyone benefits from group study sessions, but kinesthetic learners do tend to retain more information when studying with others. The reason this is an awesome study tip for kinesthetic learners is that group study sessions will naturally involve more movement, conversation and activity than solo study sessions. And of course, it’s the movement and activity that kinesthetic learners crave. Here’s some advice about how to plan a group study session the right way.
4. Seek out new study locations.
If you’re kinesthetic, you won’t enjoy sitting at a desk for long periods of time, so find another room once in a while to study. (For the times you DO need to sit at a desk, follow these tips for setting up a kinesthetic learning study space.) Go to a library and find a cubicle or a nook. Go to a bookstore, a picnic table outside, the library in the town over from you. If you’re in high school and there’s a local university nearby, you can often find a way to sit in that library. Mixing up your environment makes a difference in motivation because it adds an element of novelty.
5. Keep study sessions short.
Nobody should be pulling all-nighters or epic study sessions, but kinesthetic learners, in particular, should keep study sessions to around 45 minutes or less. It’s fine to take a break and start again, but anything over 45 minutes and you’ll get foggy and bored.
6. Summarize your class notes.
Of all the study tips for kinesthetic learners, this is one of the most helpful. As part of your studying, you’ll obviously be reviewing your class notes. But remember that reviewing is not studying. So, as you read through your notes, make summaries of each page or of each chunk of material. You can type the summaries if writing them out annoys you.
7. Find examples and multiple problem sets.
Kinesthetic learners need to do the content as much as possible when they’re studying. So, whatever the subject is, find examples online, find additional problem sets online, or ask your teacher for them. Do the questions in your textbook even if you’re not required to. Find any version of the content you’re learning that you can engage with, solve, and do.
8. Teach someone else the material.
This is a study tip for all learner types, frankly. But it’s true that if you can’t explain it clearly to someone else, you don’t understand it yourself. A study suggestion here would be to spend some time reviewing your material – just a manageable chunk of it – and then try to explain it clearly to someone else. Don’t have someone else? At least speak out loud to yourself. This strategy doesn’t work if you are just thinking about it – you have to say it out loud.
A final note about study tips for kinesthetic learners
Whether you know for certain that you’re a kinesthetic learner, or if you don’t have any clue what your learning style is, try out these 8 study tips for kinesthetic learners. Sometimes just mixing up your study routine is enough to get you more interested in what you’re learning. If you’re looking for more information about all the learning styles, read my complete guide to learning styles.