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Multiple Intelligences: Using Manipulatives To Reach Tactile Learners

By Margo Dill

Tactile, or kinesthetic, learners learn by doing. One way to reach these students' learning style is to help them make models of concepts you are teaching. You can also provide them manipulatives such as play money or fraction bars in math class. Creative teaching will help tactile learners!

Making Models

Using different multiple intelligences in your classroom can benefit all your students. About thirty percent of students are thought to be tactile learners--students who learn best by doing. If you use instructional strategies that focus on auditory and visual learning, such as giving and writing notes, then students who learn best with tactile learning, or kinesthetic learning, may be lost. Students with this learning style need to be able to see and create models of concepts to make connections in their brains and retain information. This is especially true if you are teaching abstract and new concepts. For example, tactile learners may have difficulty in social studies remembering their city, state, country, and continent as well as the three branches of government.

The best way to help students who benefit from tactile learning remember where they live and which is the bigger land mass is to make models. Teachers, parents, or even the students can use computer graphics and print out a small picture of a town or city labeled with the name. The next step would be to print out a labeled picture of the state, the country, and finally Earth, and then the student can cut out the pictures and arrange them to fit inside each other. Each picture should be slightly larger, and the student can actually place the city in the state, the state in the country, and so on.

To teach kinesthetic learning for the branches of government, students, teachers,or parents can create a model with the picture of the president, several people for the Congress, and judges for the Supreme Court. Once students have learned these three branches, then more pictures can be created for the levels of government. Laminating these pictures will help them last longer, and students can write on them with dry erase markers and move them around.

Using Manipulatives

Teaching multiple intelligences will make lessons more meaningful for students. For example, when teaching tactile learning, manipulatives help tactile learners learn. Students with any learning style can use manipulatives, but they really do help kinesthetic learners understand concepts and objectives. Manipulatives are usually given to students in math and science courses, although some educational companies have recently developed reading, social studies, and language arts manipulatives.

Some common math manipulatives that can be made or purchased to especially help tactile learners are pattern blocks, fraction bars or circles, base-10 blocks, and play money. Common science manipulatives that teachers use with all learning styles are scales and balances, microscopes and slides, and rock collections. Tactile learners learn best by doing, so when they can conduct an experiment and draw conclusions from their findings, they will better remember the information.

Another way to use manipulatives and to allow kinesthetic learning to take place and build on strengths is letting the students be the teachers. Students can show younger students or buddy students how to use fraction bars or look at a slide under a microscope.