School Leaders, Teachers

The power of multisensory learning!

All learning happens through the senses, which act as pathways to the brain. Multisensory methods utilise all the available senses simultaneously. This can be summed up in the phrase ‘hear it, say it, see it and write it’. A true multisensory lesson will engage students on all these levels, at one time and should be active and interactive. The following blog post provides some tips and ideas to help you engage your pupils with a multisensory approach to learning.

The primary pathways the brain are:
o Auditory – through the sense of hearing
o Visual – through the sense of sight
o Tactile – through the sense of touch
o Kinaesthetic – through body movement

Employing as many of these senses as possible, simultaneously, will aid automaticity and speed of retrieval by enabling each mode of information to be stored in its specific location in the brain while establishing links between them. Multisensory teaching therefore supports the transfer of information from the Short-Term to the Long-Term memory.

There are many multisensory techniques which can be employed to aid the student’s learning, far too many to cover here. However, the following may be helpful in cementing the student’s phonological knowledge and aid their long term retention and retrieval.

Sand or Shaving Cream Writing
This activity allows the student to use sight, touch and sound to connect phonemes to their sounds. Students start with a handful of sand on for example, a painting tray, or a blob of shaving cream on a table o tray. They then spread out the sand or shaving cream and use their finger to write a phoneme or word in it. As they write, the student will say the sound each phoneme makes. If a word, they then blend those sounds together and read the whole word.

Air Writing
Air writing (also called sky writing) reinforces the sound each phoneme makes through “ muscle memory.” It can also help reinforce commonly confused letter forms like /b/ and /d/. Students use two fingers as a pointer (keeping elbows and wrists straight) to write phonemes in the air. They say the sound each phoneme makes as they write it. Students should be encouraged to imagine the phoneme as they write it and can also pretend they are writing each sound in a different colour.

Sandpaper Letters
Letters cut out of sandpaper can help students to retain a tactile (touch) memory of phonemes and their sounds. Students trace each letter with their fingers while saying the sound of the phoneme out loud. They can feel the shape of the letters as they write. ‘Squidgy’ letters can also be purchased for this purpose, such as those found from a number of retailers, for example – Here

Multisensory learning is a key component of our Lexplore Intensive Reading Development and Intervention Programme. Our Teachers Handbook provides many more tips, ideas and resources to help teachers create an inclusive classroom environment which supports a multisensory approach to learning for all pupils.

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