Can you imagine what it would be like to navigate our surroundings without a sense of touch? It would probably be challenging to simply get from place to place, let alone learn anything! For many learners, a hands on approach greatly enhances the learning process, and we as teachers need to know how to accommodate these students.
Virtually everyone learns through the sense of touch, but there is a vast continuum with some learners reporting the tactile modality to be somewhat distracting while others find that it serves a vital role. In fact, over the past 20 years as a learning specialist and educational therapist, I have found that there are three distinct types of tactile learning that should be considered.
- Feeling objects in the environment: Some students learn best when touching or manipulating objects. Using an abacus for math calculations, interacting with a historical diorama, or even sorting sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks, for example, can assist with the encoding process.
- Sensing words through a writing instrument: Other learners report that feeling the letters form or typing out ideas can help them to process information. This might be, for instance, brainstorming ideas on a dry erase board, taking notes on an ipad, or organizing ideas into outline or web form.
- Engaging with sensory gadgets or doodling: Still others indicate that fidgeting with tactile toys, sensory tools, and drawing serves as what I like to call “hand gum.” This movement helps some learners focus their attention and “keeps them going.”
Each learner has their own unique learning needs that are formed by both their cognitive makeup and their past learning experiences.
How Can Tactile Learners Be Accommodated in the Classroom?
There are a number of strategies one can use to accommodate those students that crave a tactile approach. Be sure to ask the student which strategies are most appealing as they may have specific preferences.
- Trace important words while memorizing information.
- Take notes and write outlines.
- Carry a stone, clay, stress ball or sensory gadget that can be rubbed or manipulate while listening or studying.
- Rewrite notes or important facts.
- Draw or trace important diagrams, pictures, graphs, or flowcharts.
- Manipulate materials during hands-on activities.
- Draw to capture images of information that you are learning.
- Create dioramas and models.
- Organize physical materials. Tactile learners remember where they placed things.
What are the Other Learning Styles?
Four commonly known learning styles are: visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic. But did you know that there are eight other ways that the brain processes information? Teaching to all 12 ways of processing is best and offering multisensory instruction as well as assignments that honor all these modalities helps to prepare students for academic success.
How Can I Assess the Learning Needs of My Students?
One can determine a student’s specific learning preferences by completing the Eclectic Learning Profile. This assessment is a part of Dr. Warren’s publication the Eclectic Teaching Approach.
Clearly, learning to meet the individual needs of students is a great approach. However, let’s also make sure to optimize potential by providing a rich, multisensory learning environment that also accommodates the preferences and capabilities of each student.
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