“That kid could not comprehend what was written in the book!”, “It pained to see my kid struggling with simple counting even at 4th Std!”, “My kid shies away from reciting poems, can’t understand why!” All these concerns point that there is something different needed for some kids to learn basic skills. On deeper exploration and research, the idea of alternative teaching methods (ATMs) came to light. These methods used multisensory learning as a major enabler. This learning style employs resources that help bridge the gap between practical and conceptual aspects of basic skills development in children.
In this post, let’s find about effective resources employable in multisensory learning or multisensory instructions. These resources are applicable for all levels of studies, thus, help continue the learning process from wherever left due to any reason. Also, multisensory learning methods are applicable for all basic skills like reading, writing, counting, reasoning, calculating, etc.
About Multisensory learning
Multisensory learning is not dependent on the listening and reading abilities only, the two skills usually employed in early education. Its scope expands to kinesthetics, touch, sense of balance, etc, too. (Kelly & Philips, 2016)
The teaching methods employing multisensory techniques involve children more deeply in the concept-building process and help them have better retention of the topics learned. For example, merely trying to read the book can be stressful, but trying to make words using props or manipulatives is not. Thus, the multisensory approach helps make use of other pronounced senses if a few are not mature enough to contribute to learning.
All these approaches or methods for imparting knowledge lead us to resources that help accomplish teaching objectives. Lets’ explore all popular examples of multisensory learning resources.
Best examples of multisensory learning resources
1. Technology-based multisensory learning resources
Technology has penetrated the education space much deeper than ever. Almost every aspect of education has been infested with technology-driven tools. While assistive writing and reading apps have come as easy supports for people with dyslexia, the soft versions of books, etc. are bringing required sophistication to classroom environs. A few technology-based multisensory learning resources commonly employed in modern education are:
- Video Podcasts: Wherever something actionable is to be taught, video podcasts have become quite relevant. Some uses of these vodcasts are teaching how to write letters or draw an animal or structure, or teaching craft, etc.
- Smartboards: These are assistive teaching tools that can work on voice recognition methods and give a more engaging resource to students seeking basic competencies
- Educational apps: Device-friendly apps for developin reading, writing, spelling building, vocabulary enhancement, counting, and several other skills can be run on tablets, laptops, etc.
- Augmented reality games: Augmented reality games have generated deep interest among both young and adult learners.
Let’s move to the second category of multisensory resources which are simple objects and largely employ tactile and kinesthetic along with auditory-visual senses.
2. Simple Materials
Classroom supplies and resources for early education need to be simple, affordable, and child-friendly. Kids with developing motor skills or learning to attain grip on objects are kept in mind while designing such resources. Hence, you may find the following multisensory learning resources suitable for growing kids:
- Manipulatives: Tiles, tokens or chips, beads, cuisennaire rods, etc. find their use in building phonological awareness and counting skills. These are further employed for teaching complex calculations and advanced language skills too.
- Play items: Sand boxes, dry erase boards, hair gel in a bag, soft balls etc. that help go creative in giving multisensory instructions
- Play mats: Play mats containing numbers’ matrix or alphabets’ grid can have a sound box attached. The moment child presses any number or alphabet the corresponding letter’s or number’s sound is produced.
- Posters and models: All posters hung in classrooms’ walls or play areas have a purpose. These do the job of grabbing attention and driving kids to see them regularly. It helps retain the learning offered by these posters and models. Similarly, models offer the concrete replica of the concept and help building strong association skills.
- Various supplies: The common examples include raised line papers, finger paints, textured tabletops or balls, etc. Several board games used for enhancing motor skills and visual association also offer good learning using multisensory instructions.
How resources are employed in multisensory learning?
Multisensory learning methods are mostly doable activities that teachers can ask children to do in order to drive them towards grasping some concepts. These employ association methods, the Orton-Gillingham approach, and other research-backed methods that are found effective in building basic skills in early learners (with or without learning difficulties).
We have discussed activities for foundational language skills in our recent post. Moving further, we introduce core processes based on multisensory approach, which may comprise (a few parts Extracted from Tutoring Joey Chapter, Book Multisensory Teaching Methods):
- Using word art, tiles or dominoes for familiarizing with alphabets, words, numbers, mathematical signs, etc.
- Color coding
- Outlining important information, etc.
2. Auditory stimulation
- Showing videos or movies for knowledge enhancement
- Teaching basics using rhymes
- Giving audio versions of books to hear
- Introducing sounds of various types to teach emotions, etc.
3. Tactile approach
- Making clay models
- Building structures with manipulatives or solving problems using manipulatives
- Writing on sand or playing games where finger painting, pressing with fingers, etc
- Playing instruments
4. Kinesthetic Methods
- Playing with rope
- Running or hopping
- Movements of wider and larger range like backpack tossing, throwing ball, etc
Who benefits from multisensory learning resources?
Multisensory learning has become an improved way of internalizing concepts at all study levels. Their utility is not restricted to offering additional support to children or adults with specific learning disorders only. In fact, these are applicable wherever a more tangible way of gaining knowledge is required. So, the beneficiaries may include:
- Children at preschool stage (with and without learning disorders): Multisensory resources help in developing motor skills in case of writing difficulties, and enable strong letter-sound, image-meaning, number-value associations to help grasp meaning of written text.
- Students at advanced study levels: Wherever processes or working models are to be explained, multisensory resources help great deal. Example, learning surgical procedures, machines’ operations, Science and Technology or Medical, etc. classes, and others.
- Trainees: With the help of resources like explainer videos, product knowledge becomes easy to offer.
- Children with special conditions: Children suffering from autism, attention deficit or poor neuromotor control get their fair share of knowledge with the help of multisensory resources.
The prevalence of cases of specific learning difficulties (approx 5-15% US population and similar statistics in other nations) made it imperative to transform the education model to something more inclusive. Such shift in paradigm has brewed the right conditions for introducing multisensory resources into classes. With their welcoming appeal and ability to generate curiosity, these resources help teachers inch closer to academic objectives.
 Early Experience & Multisensory Perceptual Narrowing, David J. Lewkowicz, Dev Psychobiol. 2014 Feb; 56(2): 292–315.
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