Skip to main content

The Benefits of Kinesthetics in the Classroom



Although many educators and parents know about the correlation between learning and movement, many disregard the connection once children get beyond kindergarten. But did you know that encourging students to sit still while learning and even completing homework could do more damage than good?  

Sitting is Bad for the Body and the Brain
The human body was not designed to sit for long periods of time, and research is now suggesting that a sedentary life is as detrimental to one’s health as smoking cigarettes.  Sadly, many school age children are now sitting in excess of 8 to 12 hours a day, and this has a negative impact on their bodies as well as their brains.  

Three Common Misconceptions:
  • Sitting still improves learning.
  • Students should stay in from recess when they don’t finish their classwork.
  • Classrooms become unruly when students are allowed to move around.

Bringing Movement into the Classroom:
Educators who insist that their students remain seated during the entire class period are not promoting optimal conditions for learning.  Instead, teachers should purposefully integrate movement into everyday learning such as daily stretching, walks, dance, drama, seat-changing, and energizing brain breaks.


Why Does Movement Benefit Learning?
Did you know that the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning?  When you encourage your students to be active, this:
  • stimulates nerve cells to bind which is what learning is, at a cellular level.
  • develops new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus which enhances memory and learning.
  • triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor which boosts the neurons' ability to communicate with one another.
  • increases the release of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which energizes the body and elevates mood. 
  • provides oxygen-rich blood that feeds the brain for optimal performance. 
  • raises blood pressure and epinephrine levels among sluggish learners.
  • improves the ability to handle stress.
  • exercises the muscles, heart, lungs, and bones and strengthens the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and corpus callosum.
  • fosters hemisphere integration.
  • enhances social skills and emotional intelligence.

Kinesthetic Ideas for the Classroom:
Here are a few ideas that can help you to integrate movement into your classroom.
  1. Teach appropriate movements that your students can make while sitting at their desk such as bouncing their legs under the table.
  2. Incorporate movement into lessons.  Allow students to move from one “learning station” to the next where short, interactive activities can engage students.
  3. Do crosslaterial movements that go across the midline to integrate the two hemispheres of the brain.
  4. Offer one-minute kinesthetic breaks in the middle of class where students can do a brain break activity, stretch, or even do a few exercises such as jumping jacks.
  5. Allow learners to stand and move around the class.
  6. Integrate activities such as acting out lessons or let your students create plays that illustrate the concepts.
  7. Offer a kinesthetic corner in your classroom where students can stretch on a yoga mat or roll on an exercise ball.
  8. Place information to be learned onto balloons or balls so that the students can review material by passing props to one another.
  9. Get standing desks, kinesthetic workstations, and chairs that allow students to move and bounce.  I use the Zenergy ball chair in my office, and I find that it helps my students as well as myself.  Place the highly kinesthetic learners on the sides of the class, so that their movement does not visually distract other students.
Clearly, movement is key in the learning process and it also improves overall health and wellbeing.  I hope you too can support this in your classrooms and individual work with students.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
                                            Follow on Bloglovin

Popular Posts

Back to School: Planning, Time Management and Organization Instruction

Many teachers can not fathom how apparently simple tasks such as using an agenda or turning in an assignment can be very difficult for some of their students.In fact, many students need comprehensive instruction and scaffolding to learn to plan, manage time, and organize.Executive functioning, which encompasses these skills is the last part of the brain to fully develop, and in actuality, does not reach maturation until students reach their early 20's.
How Hard Can it Really Be to Plan, Manage Time and Organize? I have to admit, when I first started working with students that struggled with executive functioning, I was surprised how challenging planning, time management and organization could be for some of my young, bright learners.What seemed to be clear and obvious was obscure, taxing and problematic for them.
These Students are Often Misunderstood: Instead of compassion and strategies, students that have difficulties with executive functioning are often intimidated, harassed and m…

Help for Struggling Readers: Creating Your Own Color Overlays

You can create your own overlays by using whole sheets or cutting strips of transparent, colored report covers, dividers or overhead projector film. 

Step one: Buy a variety of colorful transparent sheets.  You can use - color, transparency filmcolor, transparent report covers (plastic)color, transparent dividers (plastic)

All of these options can be found at office supply stores.
Step two:  Everyone is different.  Let your students try out the different colors and see which one they like the best. Step three:  For some students, keep whole sheets so that students have the option of changing the background color of the entire page of text.  Other students might like a thin strip of color, as it can help with tracking from one line to the next.  I make them a variety of lengths and widths, and often let students decide for themselves.  Note: The strips also make wonderful book marks. 
Step four (optional):  Place a plain sticker on the end of the overlay strip or the bottom of a whole sheet…

10 Free Ways to Improving Visual Tracking for Weak Readers

While reading, tracking across the page from one line to the next can be tricky when the text is small, but for students with dyslexia or weak reading skills, it can be a problem regardless of the font size. 
What Exactly is Tracking? Tracking is the ability for one's eyes to move smoothly across the page from one line of text to another. Tracking difficulties happen when eyes jump backward and forward and struggle to stay on a single line of text.  This results in problems such as word omissions, reversals, eye fatigue, losing your place while reading and most importantly it can impact normal reading development.  
Can Tracking be Improved? Tracking can be improved by strengthening eye muscles as well as getting your eyes and brain to work cooperatively.  There are three eye movements that need to be developed:   Fixations: The ability to hold one's eyes steady without moving off a target.Saccades: The ability to jump to new targets that randomly disappear and reappear in a dif…

Multisensory Teaching Accommodates the 12 Ways of Learning

Teachers are always trying to reach more learners and improve retention.  One of the best ways to do this is to employ a variety teaching methods.  This involves integrating the 12 ways of learning into instruction.  Here is an infographic that reviews the 12 ways of learning and provides some statistics on how learning improves when teachers implement multisensory instruction.

Here is an image of the same infographic that can be shared on Pinterest.

Here are direct links to:
A free Prezi on multisensory teachingA free video on the 12 Ways of LearningThe Eclectic Teaching Approach
I hope you found this to be informative and inspiring.  If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment below this blog post. Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products an…

Following Directions: How Do I Teach this Skill?

Learning to follow directions is a crucial milestone in any student’s learning program.  It is the foundation of learning and difficulties in this area can impact a student’s ability to take notes, follow a sequence of steps, as well as show their knowledge on written assignments and even multiple-choice tests.

Even if a student is listening carefully or reading and rereading text, it doesn’t mean that they will succeed at following directions.  Weaknesses in attention, executive functioning, and language processing (both auditory and visual) can present as great obstacles for these students.  So what can be done about this?

We need to teach students how to follow directions.  They need to learn the subtleties of linguistic cues.  They need to learn to carefully analyze each word and then know how to decipher what it all means.

Whether it involves listening comprehension (auditory, receptive language) or understanding written directions (reading comprehension), there are a number of…

Remediating Dyslexia with Orton Gillingham Based Reading Games

Students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities often learn differently and require an alternative approach to learning basic reading.  What's more, these young learners are working full tilt while sitting in the classroom and by the time they get home and have to complete their homework, they are mentally spent.  As a result, tagging on remedial reading lessons to a cup that is already overflowing can be enough to turn these kids off to learning altogether.

How Do We Help These Students Learn the Core Skills Needed to be Successful Readers?
First, use a remedial program that is backed by time, testimonials and research.  The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading is a well-established and researched approach that offers a multisensory, sequential, incremental, cumulative, individualized, and explicit approach.  There are many programs that are available.  Click here to learn about a selection of these programs. Second, employ an individualized approach as each …

15 Ways to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

How can we nurture resilient, active learners that embrace challenging academic material and become successful lifelong learners? Carol Dweck suggests that what we need to do is help students shed a fixed mindset and adopt a growth mindset. What's more, Dweck contends that developing a growth mindset will also result in less stress and a more productive and fulfilling life. 

What is a Fixed and Growth Mindset?
In a fixed mindset, students believe that their abilities are dependent on fixed traits that can not be changed such as intellect or talent. Individuals that think this way, often cultivate a self-defeating identity, feel powerless, and many struggle with a sense of learned helplessness. In contrast, students with a growth mindset accept that abilities and aptitude can be developed with persistence and effort. As a result, these individuals are not intimidate by failure, because they realize that mistakes are a part of the learning process. They continue working hard despite a…

Improving Spelling for Students with Dyslexia

Not all students require the same remedial process even though they struggle with the same academic difficulties.  Diverse combinations of cognitive processing weaknesses and deficits can unite to create the "perfect storm" that can cause challenges with reading, math, writing, spelling and more.  In fact, no two students have the same cognitive profile, so to provide the optimal solution, one needs to consider both a student's strengths and weaknesses when designing a remedial approach.  

Occasionally, I like to present the questions emailed to me from parents and teachers.  This week, I will share an email that I received from a parent in England as well as my response.

Email received: 

Hi there:
Love the website!
Our son (age 8) is dyslexic and we have been told that he has a good visual memory (so he can easily spot a correctly spelt word and can even easily distinguish the correct meanings of similar sounding words e.g. sea and see). However, he has poor memory retrieval…

Show Don’t Tell: A Descriptive Writing Game

Descriptive writing enables the author to paint scenes and characters in the mind’s eye of the reader. Like an artist, carefully selected, colorful words can convey vivid imagery, but only if the author learns to "show" and not "tell" the audience. Learning how to use illustrative adjectives, action verbs, graphic adverbs, expressive metaphors, vivid similes and showy personification is the key to writing engaging stories. What's more is it makes the process of writing a lot more fun!
Concrete learners or students that struggle with visualization or language processing can find descriptive writing difficult to learn. They can also find the learning process boring and tedious. As a result, I created a game to help make descriptive writing both enjoyable and memorable.
Show Don’t Tell & Show Don't Tell 2 Fabulously Fun Descriptive Writing Game, by Dr. Erica Warren at Good Sensory Learning, will walk you through the process. You will be amazed at the…