October 8, 2011

The Power of the Fly Swatter

My son Cowen is a kinesthetic learner. In plain English that means Cowen is a boy and therefore CANNOT HOLD STILL TO SAVE HIS LIFE.

I have such fond memories of Miriam, my oldest daughter, curled next to my side, soaking in the reading lessons, happy to be with Mom and more than willing to actually look at the words on the page.

Not so with my son. He cannot hold still long enough to look at more than one letter of a word, and so he makes wild guesses at what a word says based on the first letter. Or, if glancing at the word is too much trouble, he just guesses without referring to the text at all. While the guessing and glancing is going on, he's also busy sliding off the couch, turning upside down, making strange noises, and flailing his limbs about in boy abandon.

I've reduced reading time to four measly pages a day. It is all I can handle.

However, a university student of mine told me about a great idea she got from watching a kindergarten teacher, that I now use with my son (did you follow that?). The kindergarten teacher gave her students fly swatters and had the students hit things.


Imagine my son's utter happiness when I handed him a fly swatter and told him to whack the letter that makes a "sssssss" sound.

He gives himself extra points if he makes any letters fly off the table from whacking so hard.

We've used the fly swatter idea for a variety of activities. We started with hitting the correct lower-case letter (he is a lot stronger with upper-case than lower-case). He's also whacked the letters that make certain sounds. It can also be used for sight words.

He loves it.

Don't imagine that he actually stays standing on that one chair. No, no. He stands on one chair, hits something with the swatter, jumps to the next chair, crawls around to the bench, jumps to the ground to get the letters that have flown to the floor, does a few kicks and scrambles around, and then winds up on the first chair again.

It drives my hubby bananas to watch it.

Most days I think Cowen is hilarious.

Other days, I wish he'd snuggle next to me and hold still for a few minutes.

But mostly I think he his hilarious.

Another good trick for kinesthetic learners is to focus on writing. My son enjoys writing because it involves movement. He loves to make up sentences that he thinks are funny, like: "My Dad sat on a cactus." If you put that sentence on a paper and tried to get him to read it he'd act like it was written in Chinese. However, he has no problem writing it.

Another good idea is have your kinesthetic learner spell out words with letters spread over a table or the floor. The more he/she has to move to get to the letters the better. So spread out the letters and then say, "Write the sentence: Mom is fun." The learner finds the letters he/she needs and puts together the sentence. Works like a charm because there is no holding still involved.

This kind of thing works for math as well. I often put up numbers around the room. When my son is ready I start calling out numbers. He has to run around the room hitting the numbers that I call out. I put some up high so he has to jump, others underneath the piano bench so he has to crawl/duck, etc. He likes it even more if I time him. Boys usually do.

Kinesthetic learners can drive you crazy, but they sure are fun!

If you have a kinesthetic learner at home--good luck!! We need it. :)

PS: I wrote the above post awhile ago, but I feel the need to amend it. When hubby and I were wrapping Christmas presents two weeks ago, I showed my hubby the books I had ordered for Cowen off Amazon (DK readers are 4 for 3--LOVE IT). I explained that I wanted to show Cowen that there are books he is interested in that he can almost read on his own (unlike the books he likes to carry around like Ranger's Apprentice that he won't be ready to read on his own for years). Most of the readers I bought were Star Wars themed.

Then my husband said, "Why don't you give Cowen some of them now?" Duh. The next day I showed Cowen the Star Wars DK reader (level 2). Cowen was thrilled. I told him he had to read his four pages in his phonics book, and then after he read all the words on a page in the Star Wars book that he could read, I would read the whole page. He read his phonics pages in warp speed, surprising both me and him, and then read far more of the first four pages of the Star Wars book than either of us expected.

This addendum doesn't have anything to do with kinesthetic learners, but it is always a good reminder that great readers are created. You create a great reader by creating an excellent environment for pre-literacy and then you motivate and tantalize. I forgot to motivate. I have since repented of that oversight, and reading time has been so much more fun lately!

Andrea is a homeschooling mother of five; ages 8, 6, 5, 2, and 8 months. She is a "retired" school teacher who still teaches a class or two at the local university, is the RS president, and maintains two blogs. She is constantly in danger of losing her sanity altogether. She loves books, books, and more books! She also loves writing, cooking, hiking, dancing, singing, hanging out with her family, and anything pro-redhead. You can read more about her homeschooling efforts on the blog Frolic and Farce.

3 comments - Add a comment below -:

Sallyseashell said...

You have wonderful ideas! I have a 5 year old who is all kinesthetic, and these ideas would work great for him!

Dana ♥ said...

Great idea! ...especially for active wiggly kids! We all have at least one, don't we? :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrea

There are certain exercises (Braingym) you could do with your son,which address his need to move considerably...thus enabling him to focus better on the task at hand.