Approximately five percent of all students are tactile or kinesthetic learners, according to Dr. Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.. These students learn with their bodies in motion. Most often, they are male.
Tactile learners are easily distracted and can become frustrated with auditory presentations. When other children get up to sharpen a pencil, someone or something is outside the window, or any number of other distracting situations occur, the child looses focus
These children are often labeled as disruptive, inattentive, unmotivated, or problematic by a teacher who either doesn't understand the learning style needs or prefers to ignore the small percentage of students in the class who are tactile learners.
The label may follow him throughout his life and create problems in class, work and life in general. The student may come to believe he can't learn and never reach his learning potential.
Is this sad, or what?
The tactile learner may be labeled ADD or ADHD when he is not. The parents may receive pressure to put him on medication in order to make him less likely to be distracted, but the medications prescribed to ADD or ADHD learners may create problems due to side effects rather than solve the problem.
My son received a letter from my grandson's teacher a few years ago. She claimed Ryan was disruptive and difficult to keep on task. She wanted him tested for ADD. Mike called his brother, who is a teacher, to ask his advice. "How can Ryan have ADD and be in the top one-percent of math students nationally? If he has ADD, could he stay focused long enough to complete a math problem?"
Steve encouraged him to refuse the teacher's request. "Ryan is not ADD. He's an intelligent child who needs a teacher smart enough to engage him in other learning styles. Fight the labeling. It will follow him throughout school." Thankfully Mike did.
Today Ryan is a scholar athlete, taking honors and advanced placement classes in all subjects. He called me last night to tell me he got all A's for this marking period, even though he's taking 3 maths this semester, something he had to get special permission to do. "Government is my worst class, Grandma. I only got a ninety-two percent in it. Government is so boring to me."
Tactile learners prefer to learn and explore with their hands. They enjoy and learn well with math manipulatives, learning stations, art projects and other experiential tools that are commonly used in pre-K through Grade 3. Once the shift is made to the strongly visual presentation mode common in Grades 4 to 8, and then to a strong auditory shift in high school and college, this learner can fall behind. The best learning environments are those that cater to all three learning styles at all times.
Eli slid from Cam’s lap to peer into the woman’s shopping basket. He fingered her piece of yellow flannel. He lost interest quickly when something else seized his attention. “Mine! Mine!” Suddenly he ran down the aisle, his arms outstretched to grab the skirt of a startled woman.
Cam hurried after his son. “Eli, stop.”
A determined Eli tugged one way, and the red-haired woman tugged the other. “Mine,” he screeched.
“Let go of me.” Material ripped. A feminine gasp filled the quiet of the store.
“Ma’am, I’m plum sorry. I don’t know what got into him.” He stooped to pry Eli’s fingers from her calico skirt, the blue print was familiar. The hem was partially frayed. It couldn’t be. Slowly his gaze traveled up the gathers of the skirt to a narrow waist and gaping material where his son had torn it from the waistband.
Or rather, was tearing it for Eli now lay on the floor, his back arched, one booted foot and a bare one firmly planted on the wood plank floor and his chubby face a reddened mask of determination. “Mine,” he growled.
Cam tried to pry his son’s fingers from this poor woman’s skirt. Eli held the material in his grasp, giving Cam a nice view of her ankles. Twine tied the thin soles of her shoes to the worn leather uppers.
“Would you be looking up my skirt, then? Is this the behavior you’ve taught your son? Tear the clothes off the ladies so you can get a free gander at the merchandise?”
By her brogue and red hair, she was Irish.
“Humph.” Mrs. Dunlap exclaimed, her grey eyebrows arched. “Merchandise would be correct. If I were you, Mr. McBride, I’d keep my innocent son away from the likes of her.”