Multi-sensory instruction

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A multi-sensory approach to language learning helps students learn through more than one of the senses at the same time. Students are taught using all pathways of learning (visual, auditory, kinesthetic or seeing, hearing, touching) simultaneously, in order to enhance memory and learning.

What are some basic multi-sensory teaching techniques?

When reading, tracing the letters while seeing them and hearing/saying them at the same time, triggers greater memory recall. The key to success with tracing is having the student see it, hear it and trace it at the same time. Tracing can be used when children are just beginning to connect sounds and letters, and it is often helpful to use varied textures and items to trace on, for example; sand, fabric or carpeting.

When spelling, hearing the word, saying the word, and segmenting the sounds on fingers (finger or touch spelling) while sounding out the word, helps to build accuracy. For example, the teacher says the word, the student repeats the word, the student sounds out and segments the word on his/her fingers (one sound per finger, i.e. p a t), and then writes the word.

Segmenting words into syllables using arm movements or finger spelling, is another multi-sensory technique that is very helpful.

Forming letters with your hands is another way to provide a visual, kinesthetic and auditory memory connection. For example, you can make a “b” with your left hand and a “d” with your right hand, saying the sound it makes at the same time. Often, children with language difficulties have problems distinguishing between visually similar letters, especially b and d. However, forming the letter kinesthetically with their hand, seeing it, and saying the sound, can provide instant recognition for the student.

Who benefits from multi-sensory language instruction?

A multi-sensory language approach benefits those with reading and/or spelling difficulties. It has been proven to be effective for a wide range of ages and abilities, including adults.