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  • by Blaine Helwig

Kinesthetic Vocabulary Learning – Language Arts Block

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Title 1 elementary students are experiencing difficulty with the most common, high frequency English words, and educators are trying to add another layer of language acquisition on top of a poor foundation. This is true, but the foundational layering of basic words is a relatively easy fix. The most basic English words may be mastered using simple stop-gap resources (i.e. 800 word Non-Negotiable Word Program and 1,000 Word Fluency Word Program), but those free downloadable programs at The New 3Rs Education Consulting are NOT designed to build a student’s vocabulary beyond the high frequency word level. Hence, building students’ vocabularies must be constructed from a structured, developmental approach. It is the next step in the process.

There are three basic student learning styles that classroom teachers design their daily instruction to facilitate and build students’ vocabulary prowess: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. The most effective pedagogical method uses a combination or all three learning styles in lesson design. Since the vast majority of students have significant language learning gaps in our Title 1 schools, it is beneficial to use all three learning styles with a classroom full of children. Consequently, regardless of their learning preference, all learning styles can be addressed simultaneously.

In short, it is estimated that 35% of students respond favorably to a visual learning style; whereas, 25% of students lean toward an auditory learning style. The remaining 40 percent of students respond or perceive information via a kinesthetic learning style through feelings, instincts, emotions and physical movements. The key to instructional effectiveness invariably requires consistency and routine, so students have sufficient practice and application to ingrain and retain the new vocabulary words into long-term memory.

Language Arts – General Approach to Kinesthetic Learning

The general approach to kinesthetic vocabulary methodology should incorporate and embed both the visual and auditory learning styles in the daily instruction. At a bare minimum, the new vocabulary word should always appear in view of students in print form, and the teacher should always provide the correct pronunciation. There are many ways to provide a visual for a word and the creative means to do so should be explored.

Step 1: Visual Learner Style

  • Beginning in second grade, teachers should require five (5) to fifteen (15) new weekly vocabulary words.

  • Students write the word with a simple and concise definition. Its Part of Speech and one to two synonyms to increase word knowledge.

  • Students write a basic and simple sentence using the word correctly.

  • Students draw a picture that matches their sentence for each word.

All the newly presented words should be added to an active classroom vocabulary word wall. The word wall should be reviewed during transition times, but the word wall cannot become a static wall poster. It is a learning tool that is actively and consistently engaged.

The weekly vocabulary words may be chosen from a class novel that the class is currently reading or a recommended grade level list from the district curriculum office. With whatever the medium that the words are selected, they should have high value content. The words should also not be randomly selected words void of considerable thought – to the contrary, specific vocabulary words should be chosen that pertain to appropriate and developmental grade level use. In third grade, words like ‘ancient, erupt, difficult, unusual, threaten, survive, etc.” are typical words that meet these criteria. If the teacher does not know where to begin with a word set for their grade level, it is recommended to procure a list of developmentally appropriate grade level words from a reputable vendor source (e.g. Wordly Wise 3000 or Sadlier Oxford).

Step 2: Kinesthetic and Auditory Learner Style

  • Teacher has a set of cues to initiate the activity (e.g. “Students in the Ready Position”) and continue the activity to the next word (e.g. “Attention”).

  • Teacher calls out the vocabulary word or its synonym.

  • Students act out the word’s meaning as they stand near their desk on the agreed upon depiction.

  • Students recite the concise definition back to the teacher.

It is recommended that students and the teacher collaborate on the ‘acting’ depiction for each vocabulary word. The teacher should guide this process to ensure that accurate representations are selected for each word. For example, if the vocabulary word is ‘difficult’ the children may opt to put their hands on their head and appear frustrated, or they may stand with hands on their hips with a perplexed look on their face. Whatever depiction is selected, the students should stand by their desk with sufficient room to move in their own personal space.

A paper-pencil assessment may be given on Friday, but the class should be amply prepared for success on the weekly vocabulary words via kinesthetic practice throughout the week. Additional words may also be included in the assessment from prior weekly words stressing that word knowledge is important to retain. This process works well in language arts, social studies, science and mathematics, but there are specific considerations for mathematics and science that must be addresssed.

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