You may have heard of a term floating around called “multi-sensory learning”. Maybe you know what it is but need help applying it to your daily lessons. Today, I am going to share what multi-sensory learning is and why it is important for early childhood educators.
What is Multi-Sensory Learning?
The multi-sensory approach to learning incorporates the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, or tactile methods in your lesson planning. Rather than just focusing on one area, multi-sensory learning includes all senses to benefit all students during instruction. This type of instruction has been proven through years of research to help all learners, even those struggling with learning disabilities like dyslexia.
The International Dyslexia Association states that “Multisensory teaching is one important aspect of instruction for dyslexic students that is used by clinically trained teachers. Effective instruction for students with dyslexia is also explicit, direct, cumulative, intensive, and focused on the structure of language. Multisensory learning involves the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language. Links are consistently made between the visual (language we see) , auditory (language we hear) , and kinesthetic-tactile (language symbols we feel) pathways in learning to read and spell.”
What about learning styles?
You may have heard of the term “learning styles” in the past being referred to these four senses, stating that a learner learns best using one of these styles. While we may retain information with certain modalities vs others, ultimately our students will benefit more from multi-sensory instruction hitting all areas. For example, I know I learn best with a tactile or hands-on approach rather than an auditory learning method. But that doesn't mean that I will only learn through tactile activities. Ultimately, a multi-sensory approach will be the most beneficial for all of our students.
The Four Types of Multi-Sensory Learning
Auditory refers to learning using our sense of hearing. Reading a story, listening to a song or a podcast, or having a class discussion are all auditory examples of learning. My favorite way to incorporate an auditory piece in my lessons is through a song. I simply search YouTube for whatever we are learning, pick a song, and play it to start our lesson. Music is also shown to help our brains retain information. Just think about how you still can sing every word to a song you haven't heard since you were a kid.
Visual refers to using our sense of sight while learning. Using teaching posters, flashcards, anchor charts, graphic organizers, or pictures are all examples of visual learning. A simple way to incorporate visuals in your lessons is by using some kind of teaching poster or anchor chart to show your students what they are learning. Having a focus wall in your classroom with more visuals is another simple way for your students to have a visual reference of what they are learning.
Kinesthetic refers to using movement while learning. This is my favorite way for my students to learn because it also gets their energy out! You can play games like Freeze Dance, Musical Chairs, or use activities like Write the Room to get your kids up and moving. You can find a lot of sample no-prep activities and games in this guide here: No Prep Phonics Guide
Tactile learning refers to hands-on learning or using your sense of touch. Sometimes, kinesthetic and tactile are lumped together, but I like having both in your lesson, especially for early elementary students. Using manipulatives like letter magnets, counters, or stamps, or activities like play dough mats. Typically, I reserve tactile learning activities for independent work or centers.
How do you fit multi-sensory learning into your lessons?
It may seem very overwhelming to fit multi-sensory learning into every single one of your lessons. It doesn't have to fit into every single one of your whole group lessons! You can have a kinesthetic activity during centers or maybe an independent tactile activity as a follow-up activity.
A sample layout of a lesson may look like this:
- Auditory: Play a song to introduce the lesson
- Visual: Use an anchor chart to teach the lesson
- Kinesthetic: Use a game like Freeze Dance to have students practice what they've learned
- Tactile: Use a sensory bin during centers to practice what they've learned
Using a multi-sensory approach in your phonics instruction
For phonics, I follow this same routine for each one of my lessons. In the SFK Phonics Curriculum, all of my lessons follow this exact routine, ensuring that your students will be engaged and learning the entire year! You can find the SFK Phonics Curriculum options below for more information.
Resources Mentioned in this Post
Let's use multi-sensory instruction in all of our lessons!