Multisensory learning integrates auditory, kinaesthetic, tactile and visual approaches simultaneously so that students can learn more effectively. Multisensory learning is beneficial for everyone because it stimulates multiple brain pathways at the same time, but it is particularly important for dyslexic students as they often have problems absorbing and memorising new information. When teaching phonics, for example, a teacher might use auditory, kinaesthetic and visual techniques at the same time by asking a child to look in the mirror when they say a phoneme sound so they can make and observe the movement of their mouth.
Multisensory learning can be used to teach any subject at all, from reading to maths and science.
Dyslexic author, Ben Foss, is famous for distinguishing between ‘eye reading’ and ‘ear reading’. Literacy is not just about reading text on paper, it’s also about listening to audio books and text-to-speech applications.
Teaching techniques across all subjects include:
- Varying the tone, volume and speed of voice when talking to a student.
- Limiting distracting noises from elsewhere when a student is learning.
- Making sure the student is sitting where they can hear clearly.
- Learning in a small group or one-to-one.
- Reading instructions to the student out loud.
- Verbally describing pictures and diagrams to the student.
- Using songs, poems and rhymes to learn new material eg. times table songs.
- Learning through verbal games eg. playing The Minister’s Cat to learn adjectives.
- Encouraging students to use voice recorders on smartphones to record and play information.
- Using television and radio in lessons.
- Encouraging students to talk through their learning and to give oral presentations.
This is learning by doing. It involves both fine motor skills (using fingers and hands) and gross motor skills (using the large muscles of the arms, legs and torso). A common activity used with dyslexic students is ‘air writing’ where students say a letter and simultaneously write it in the air. Letters can also be written in sand or shaving foam.
In English students might:
- Act out or mime stories.
- Play grammar or spelling board games like scrabble.
- Learn new grammar, spellings and forms of punctuation through games.
And in maths and science:
- Move objects or themselves around in order to understand numbers, calculations, shapes and space. For example, beanbag addition and learning fractions by cutting cake.
- Work with mathematical tools such as abacuses, protractors and unifix.
- Clap, tap or snap fingers to explore how numbers are related.
- Play mathematical or scientific board games like Magic Maths and Bug Bingo.
- Combine sports activities with maths by adding points, dividing teams, measuring out race tracks, comparing race times etc.
- Use dance and music to learn new maths and science concepts.
- Do some gardening. Gardening is a great hands-on way to learn about biology, English and maths. As well as learning about plants and insects children can read and write labels and instructions, mix the correct amount of fertilizer to water, estimate the number of seeds in a packet before counting them, and measure and compare plant growth.
- Maths and science concepts can be learnt through design and technology – the physical act of planning, measuring and building something.
- Make puppets and perform puppet shows.
Tactile learning means learning through touch and it overlaps with kinesthetic learning. Tactile learning resources are things like coins, dominoes, dressing up clothes and props, magnetic letters, puzzles, rubiks cubes, clay, paint, playdough, sand, water etc.
Tactile techniques include learning through:
- Building and making.
- Physical activities.
- Arts activities.
- Drama and role play.
- Tracing (eg. tracing words with fingers to spell them).
- Using a computer (for example, playing maths, English or science games).
Examples of tactile learning are:
- Acting out a scene from a Shakespeare play.
- Building a tower of numbers to practise number ordering.
- Understanding a chemical law by performing an experiment.
- Using squashy boxes to learn about number and calculations.
Visual learning is learning by seeing information. Visual learning techniques include:
- Encouraging a student to draw a map or diagram to help them to better understand something eg. a mathematical or scientific concept or a complicated story plotline.
- Creating timelines.
- Creating mindmaps to collect and organise thoughts.
- Using film as part of lessons.
- Colour coding text to make key concepts easier to distinguish.
- Teaching with flashcards.
- Using models to explain things.
- Teaching through demonstration.
- Making photo essays (sequence photos and write matching captions to tell a story).
- Making and using flowcharts. These are a type of diagram that explains the flow of an idea or process through a series of boxes connected with arrows.
Our sister company, TutorMyKids, can match your child with a specialist dyslexic tutor who understands the importance of multisensory learning.
All our tutors understand that children with dyslexia can have difficulty absorbing abstract information, especially when it involves memorizing a sequence. Multisensory teaching breaks down these learning barriers and – just as importantly – it’s fun!
Get in touch to find out how we can help your child today.