Read an Excerpt
Verbal versus Nonverbal Learning
And Kinesthetic Learners
Many children are denied the opportunity to use their full learning potential by current educational techniques. Budget cutbacks affecting the arts and physical education not only eliminate enrichment classes, but may actually eliminate classes that help visual or kinesthetic learners learn. Our present system is geared to verbal learning, and if your children are not verbal learners, they don't fit the system. Most testing methods are limited to a linear, sequential format geared to verbal content. Visual or kinesthetic students often are labeled "slow learners."
One such student was Carlos. He was a handsome eight-year-old with dark brown hair,
beautiful brown velvet eyes, and a shy grin. He came from a bilingual family that emphasized strong academic performance. He, however, was a dreamer,
involved in his own fantasy world of adventure on submarines and trips to outer space. He spoke rarely in class, never in group discussions.
The focus of Carlos's interest was art; he drew complex spacecraft and underwater vehicles while I instructed the class about vowel blends or capitalization.
During a writing or math assignment he would stare off into space for minutes at a time and then meticulously form his letters or numbers. It took him forever to write a sentence or finish a series of math problems; he rarely finished an assignment in the allotted time.
Two months after school started, I began to notice that Carlos was one of the first children to close his eyes during an imagery exercise and that he enthusiastically verbalized his images. The children and I listened raptly as he told us what he "saw" during the "Undersea Adventure"
walked down the tunnelway and entered the bubble room. I felt strange in the room. There was water all around it. But in the room there was no water, only soft pillows. Outside there was a skateboard, and I got on the skateboard and skated all the way up to the top of the room. There was a wheel of fish at the top, with a shark in the middle and killer whales and dolphins all around. Then it was time to come back here.
After hearing his responses to many imagery exercises, I noticed that every time we closed our eyes and imaged, an entire movie, with a complex plot, unfolded for
Carlos. Many times he would draw pictures of his images after an exercise and then describe to us what had happened.
As we accepted his visual images, Carlos gained more and more confidence to
his ideas. He became more and more articulate. As the months progressed, Carlos began to "dream" less in class and get more work done.
Carlos brings to mind another visual thinker who became a famous artist. This child was a dismal failure at school. He stubbornly refused to do anything but paint;
his paintbrush became the extension of his arm. His father was an art teacher himself, so this young boy was surrounded by visual delights and the wonderful smell of oil paints. He tried to re-create his home atmosphere at school by taking the pigeons from his father's studio to class with him, but he refused to sit still to learn to read, write, and count.
The father, realizing his son's innate ability as an artist and his love for the visual, finally took him out of school at age ten and let him wander the streets of his town, enjoying the street scenes, sketching and painting as he pleased. When it was time for him to take entrance exams into an academic art school, he passed in one day tests devised to last a month. He had learned to prime his memory with visual cues.
This learner, Pablo Picasso, was fortunate to have the opportunity to experience the street life of Madrid.
In our current society, this educational approach is rarely possible.
think we put too much stress on our kids to read, write, and speak. Our overemphasis on the written and spoken word inhibits expression in other ways.
We are a society that loves to categorize and label.
I push my cart up and down the aisles of the local supermarket, I am amazed at the way mothers and fathers of all cultural backgrounds insist on having their young children name food products. "What's this?" the father asks.
"Soup." "That's right, a can of soup. And what's this?"
"That's right, a peach."
I don't hear is, "Hold this. Feel the shape, the weight, the texture of it. Touch it to your cheek. Smell it. Notice all the colors."
Why do we limit what our children know to the simple monosyllabic label that represents an object that has a scent, texture, shape, taste, and is a visual delight? What about the sound of a peach? It may evoke a lullaby.
Some children receive so much attention for being "cute" verbally that they don't know how to turn it off. They believe that if they're not talking incessantly, they might not be loved or recognized.
Hillary was such a child. She had highly developed verbal skills and verbal memory. She delighted in relating stories about her trips to Jerusalem and Europe, and her fact retention about the lives and customs of people in these countries was amazing. Petite and enthusiastic, she had received much attention from adults over the years for being an articulate, precocious, pretty child.
at times she was a bit haughty. She had difficulty with friendships because she was extremely opinionated about everything. "You're supposed to do it this way, Jill." "You pronounced that wrong, Maureen." "You're not very good at drawing, are you, Max?" As the litany continued, it was no surprise that some of the children lost their patience with her and began to tell her to shut up!
One day, while listening to Hillary express her ideas after an imagery exercise, I
noticed how much she
while talking. Her hands and arms gestured, her head tilted, her eyes brightened. Her face came alive with expression. Her whole body was engaged in describing her image. She looked as if she were acting out a ballet of her ideas.
It occurred to me, while watching her move, that she might be a kinesthetic learner who had had little chance to express that side of herself. I asked if she'd rather dance her images than tell us about them. After some initial reluctance, she got up and began to sway back and forth, miming strands of a willow tree gently dancing in a soft summer breeze. She slowly lifted her arms,
took one final look at me for reassurance, and moved gently around the room like the soft breeze she had become. These movements expressed so much more about her than all of her words combined.
We were all quite surprised and captivated. Hillary was ecstatic! She had found another way to express herself—a way that had been denied to her by the limitation of her constant chatter.
There are risks when trying a new form of expression, but the benefits outweigh the risks. One new form of expression unlocks another. After
her images, Hillary felt more confident to try art and poetry.
During a poetry exercise the following week, I suggested that she "move" her ideas before attempting to put them on paper. She walked around the classroom,
stopped, sat down on the floor, and moved her arms as if rearranging something.
She then wrote:
When you lie on the ground
Looking at the clouds
You also watch the wind blow them
Around and around
If a child can draw an image, hum it, or move through it first, he or she may then be able to talk or write about it more easily. Try it with your own child.
You'll be delighted with the results.
6: An Undersea Adventure
Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath.
Now imagine that you are walking down to the beach. It is a beautiful, sunny day,
and you enjoy the sound of the surf.
As you walk along the beach you notice a trap door in the sand. You lift up the trap door, and there is a stone stairway leading down under the sand. You walk down the stairway, feeling perfectly safe, and find yourself in a long tunnelway. You walk through the tunnelway until you come to a room at the end of the tunnel. You enter the room, which looks like a glass bubble. You realize that you are in a glass room under the sea. Beautiful colored fish are swimming outside. You notice that there is a submarine and a diving suit in the room for your use if you choose to venture out into the sea. There is also a pillowed chair in the middle of the room if you wish to sit down. You now have a minute of clock time equal to all the time you need to enjoy all the wonders of the sea.
(After a minute)
Now it is time to return.
You walk back through the tunnelway, up the stairs toward the sunlight. You close the trap door, knowing that you can return here whenever you wish. You leave the beach and become aware of sitting here, fully present.
am going to count to ten. Join me at the count of six, opening your eyes at ten, feeling fully alert and with full recollection of your adventure. One . .
. two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . six . . . seven . . . eight . .
. nine . . . ten.