A baby's first experience of the world comes through touch--the texture of mama's hair, the warmth of daddy's hug, the softness of a favorite toy or blanket. Our initial experiences with touch are pleasant. Later we may learn less pleasant lessons through touch, as I did one Christmas...
I received a shiny red bicycle when I was six and was so excited I couldn't wait for my dad to help me learn to ride it. I only intended to make an experimental run down the driveway while he got his jacket...but we lived on a hill. I wound up in our neighbor's cactus garden. That experience "sticks" in my mind as an important lesson learned through touch!
As a true child of the South, I remember learning another early lesson by sliding down a metal slide in short pants on a hot summer day. Unfortunately it took many trips down the slide to truly learn from the experience and devise a solution. ;)
Children, especially boys, retain their dependence on touch for learning well into their teens, but too often teachers eliminate the element of touch when they present a lesson. Why? Perhaps because tactile experiences can be messy or difficult to control. We lose much, though, when we leave touch out. Touch makes a powerful impact! Touching, feeling, getting our hands dirty...tactile experiences bring learning to life.
Tactile experiences also make learning more personal. When we read or hear a lesson presented, we're taking someone else's word for it, but when we're involved in doing something ourselves, our experience becomes personal--something we have actually learned by participating--and it's therefore much more memorable.
Why not capitalize on the power of touch whenever we can? Teach math facts using a hopscotch number line. Snap Legos together to make a stick of ten units then break it apart to help children understand the mathematical concepts of carrying and borrowing. Students can learn an immense amount from collecting samples of rocks, shells, plants, insects, and arrowheads that they can hold in their hands. One of my children's favorite biology classes featured specimens of brains, tongues, and intestines that came from the meat department of our grocery store.
It may be tempting to eliminate the messier hands-on projects, but there is an extra measure of fascination in what I call the "Ewww!" factor that seems to delight children---and what is delightful is memorable.
We mentioned a number of examples of tactile learning experiences in this lesson, and I suggest many more on my blog, HandsOnHomeschoolResources.com.
Do any of the ideas resonate with you? Start an idea file of hands-on homeschool resources that you could use to spark up the excitement with your students.