Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld

Get Your Learning On

Everybody come on
Get out your books, it’s time to read
Or maybe listen to absorb is all you need.
There’s NO wrong way to engage and learn
So sit right down it is now your turn.


Some say listening works best
While others like observing the rest.
Some students say they focus more
When music, talking, or moving is in store.
Others like to sit down and write
Knowing the details is what makes them bright.

There are ways to learn though puzzles and words
Or sitting outdoors and enjoying the birds.
Many logical ways to learn through sounds
When the focus is present, there is only learning found.
No matter the preference, method, or way
Learning is accessible and eager to stay! – Tara Bernhagen


In 1983, Howard Gardner, a psychology professor at Harvard University, proposed the theory of multiple intelligences to more accurately define the concept of intelligence. Gardner’s theory argues that traditionally defined intelligence does not sufficiently encompass the wide variety of abilities people display.

In his model, a child who excels at math is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles with it. The second child may be stronger in another area, thus capable of learning the given material through a different approach or he or she may excel in a field outside of mathematics. In his book, Multiple Intelligences, Gardner explains that rather than relying on a uniform curriculum, schools should offer “individual-centered education,” with curriculum tailored to the needs of each child. In reality, this is another form of differentiated instruction.

Below, is an image that explains the different intelligences people may display:



Most people are familiar with “logic smart” or “word smart” kids – those are the children that traditional education is created for. We have started to incorporate more “picture smart” and “music smart” materials into the elementary classroom as well. In this article, I will focus on “body smart” children or kinesthetic learners, and in particular ways that we as teachers and parents can help them learn how to read through movement.

            Sidewalk chalk or highly washable markers. Parents or teachers can write large letters on the floor and have children walk from one to another to spell out sight words. While they are walking, the adult or another child can write those words on the board. The gross motor movement helps kinesthetic learners connect the letters with the accompanying sounds.

            Create motions to go along with letter sounds or phonics sounds. For instance, for the sound “ou/ow” you can make the motion of a small pinch in the palm of your hand. For the letter “a” you can rub your eyes like a child who is crying and say “ah, ah, ah.” There are formalized programs that have “kinesthetic alphabets” that parents and educators can use too.

            Sandpaper letters. Some schools, such as Montessori schools, require sandpaper letters when students are learning to read. These “sandpaper letters” are individual thick pieces of smooth paper that have the letters in sandpaper pasted onto them. This way, the student runs his or her fingers over the sandpaper in the shape of the letter in order to learn the letter and the sound.

            Playdough letters. The more that kinesthetic learners touch and move in connection to letters and sounds, the more quickly they will learn to read. Another great way to get kinesthetic learners moving with letters is to give them playdough and have them shape letters and words out of the material.

            Cookie letters. This strategy is likely best done at home and is quite similar to the playdough letters – except you can eat them! Buy cookie cutters in the shape of the alphabet and allow children to cut out different letters to spell different words. This promotes kinesthetic learning and is delicious too.

            Stair sight words. As children walk up the stairs, they can read or sing the different letters, doing the same as they go down. As their skills develop, sight words can be utilized instead of the alphabet so that students interact with those words on a daily basis through movement.

            Comprehension beach ball. For more advanced readers, adults can write different questions related to comprehension such as “What is the main idea of the story?” “What is the problem in the story?” “Can you come up with a different ending to the story?’ Then, a ball is thrown and whoever catches the ball, chooses a question to answer.

Kinesthetic learning is not for everyone. In fact, for some it can be a more difficult form. That is why it is important for parents and teachers to know the strengths of their children and students.


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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at