What is Multi-sensory Teaching?
“If a child is not learning in the way you teach, change your teaching strategy and teach the child in the way he learns!”
Multi-sensory techniques are frequently used for children with learning differences. Studies from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (United States of America) have shown that for children with difficulties in learning to read, a multisensory teaching method is the most effective teaching method.
Multisensory teaching techniques and strategies stimulate learning by engaging students on multiple levels. They encourage students to use some or all their senses to:
- Gather information about a task
- Link information for ideas they already know and understand
- Perceive the logic involved in solving problems
- Learn problem-solving tasks
- Tap into nonverbal reasoning skills
- Understand relationships between concepts
- Store information and store it for later recall
Using a multisensory teaching technique means helping a child to learn through more than one sense. Most teaching techniques are done using either sight or hearing (visual or auditory). The child’s sight is used in reading information, looking at text, pictures or reading information from the board. The hearing sense is used to listen to what the teacher says. The child’s vision may be affected by difficulties with tracking or visual processing. Sometimes the child’s auditory processing may be weak. The solution for these difficulties is to involve the use of more of the child’s senses, especially the use of touch (tactile) and movement (kinetic). This will help the child’s brain to develop tactile and kinetic memories to hang on to, as well as the auditory and visual ones.
Students with learning difficulties typically have difficulties in one or more areas of reading, spelling, writing, math, listening comprehension and expressive language. Multisensory techniques enable students to use their personal areas of strength to help them learn. They can range from simple to complex, depending on the needs of the student and the task at hand.
Some researchers theorize that many students have an area of sensory learning strength, sometimes called a learning style. These researchers suggest that when students are taught using techniques consistent with their learning styles, they learn more easily, faster and can retain and apply concepts more readily to future learning. Most students, with a difficulty or not, enjoy the variety that multisensory techniques can offer.
Now we can go through some of the multisensory techniques which could be used to assist a student in his / her learning.
I. To stimulate visual reasoning and learning
- Text and/or pictures on paper, posters, models, projection screens, computers or flash cards
- Use of color for highlighting, organizing information or imagery
- Graphic organizers, outlining passages
- Student created art, images, text, pictures, and video
- The above-mentioned techniques often include visual teaching methods and strategies.
II. Auditory techniques
- Books oban tape, peer-assisted reading, paired reading, and computerized text readers
- Video or film with accompanying audio
- Music, song, instruments, speaking, rhymes, chants, and language games
III. Tactile teaching methods
Multi-sensory techniques that involve using the sense of touch are called tactile methods. Tactile methods include strategies such as:
- Sand trays, raised line paper, textured objects, finger paints and puzzles to improve fine motor skills
- Modeling materials such as clay and sculpting materials
- Using small materials called manipulatives to represent number values to teach math skills
IV. Kinesthetic methods
Multi-sensory methods using body movements are called kinesthetic methods. These involve fine and gross motor movements.
- Games involving jumping rope, clapping or other movements paired with activities while counting and singing songs related to concepts.
- Any large movement activity for students involving dancing, bean bag tossing or other activities involving concepts, rhythmic recall and academic competition such as quizzes, flash card races and other learning games.