Friday, August 21, 2009

using the multisensory approach

I believe that there are no bad brains, no broken children who must be fixed in order to fit in with their peers or to perform the way we adults believe they should perform. I also believe that there are ineffective teaching strategies that engage a limited number of children and leave gaps in understanding for many others who learn from a different point of strength.

If your child is struggling or simply not enjoying school, instead of teaching in traditional ways, try a multisensory teaching method, which simultaneously engages all of the senses. By incorporating specific elements in your teaching approach, you can ensure that each child will learn and that you can successfully teach multiple children at once. Multisensory teaching also creates a richer learning experience, benefiting even those who can learn in more traditionally accepted ways.

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Hands on. Children who best learn this way need to physically interact with materials; it will not be enough to simply hear something in order to remember it. They may physically build an item, or come up with their own way to find a solution to a problem. After they have worked out their learning, asking them to talk about what they did will deepen their understanding and their ability to remember the lesson.

Visual. Showing the learning in a picture (chart, graph, word map, etc) will enable children who learn visually to have a way to remember it. They may take a mental picture of the image you give them and then mentally see this when they encounter the idea in the future. (Research tells us that children from ages 4-7 will learn most effectively through these key elements).

Movement. Children who best learn through movement need to use motions that mimic the shape of learning. For example, children who are learning their alphabet may be helped by making the shape of the letters with their whole bodies while saying the sound of the letter.

Patterns. These occur both in math and in reading. Children who learn by patterns need to have information presented in groups and these patterns pointed out. For example, when working with spelling lists, it may help to group words like play, say, may etc. together. An effective math pattern is 0+7=7, 1+6=7, 2+5=7, 3+4=7.

Stories. By embedding rhyme and rhythm into stories which give a reason for why something is the way it is, children who best learn through stories will have a way to remember. When later asked to recall the piece of information, they may remember the story complete with the characters. An example is the letter A. We can say it is like an anthill (which has the same shape) and that a bug got tired while trying to climb up the side so tunneled straight through instead, forming the cross bar on the A.

Humor and attractive visuals are two of the ways to engage a child in the learning process. Telling a funny story about what they are learning will make the child want to learn.

After completing a multisensory lesson, ask your children “How did you remember that?” Talking about it will help you to better understand your children and know how to tailor future teaching. Realize that each child may learn in a combination of ways. Making children verbalize the way they remember also helps them understand themselves, allowing for future success in learning while boosting their confidence.

Becka has a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Development, and has 18 years experience in the field. She is a Certified Parent Educator and Licensed Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Sign Language Instructor. You can visit her site, at

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