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What is Multisensory Learning & Why is it so Effective?

by Sarah K Major October 12, 2018

What is Multisensory Learning & Why is it so Effective?

When I was in the classroom, the most challenging task I faced by far was making sure ALL my students had the same shot at learning successfully. Learning seemed so easy for a handful of children, but I wanted to level the playing field for the students who struggled to learn. It wasn’t an option to just assume some kids were going to have a hard time learning.

I studied each of my struggling learners, and over time, they taught me how they learned. One thing I learned is that how content reaches a child’s brain varies from child to child. Over time, I learned to teach in ways that utilized several pathways to the brain so that all my kids had the same chance to learn.

What I learned from my students formed the basis for Child1st. I experienced firsthand challenges teachers face, and I wanted to help.

Obstacles to meeting the needs of all learners:

  • How will I know what each child’s giftedness is?
  • How can I design lessons that are tailored to each learner?
  • How will I make time in the day for the extra planning and teaching?
  • How can I get my hands on teaching materials that work with each type of learner?

WHAT IS MULTISENSORY LEARNING?

All learning happens through the senses, which act as pathways to the brain. These are the primary pathways to a child’s brain:

  • Auditory – through the sense of hearing
  • Visual – through the sense of sight
  • Tactile – through the sense of touch
  • Kinesthetic – through body movement

A true multisensory lesson will engage students on all these levels at one time. Multisensory lessons are so impactful because no matter the learning strength of each child (be it auditory, visual, tactile, or kinesthetic) a multisensory lesson will target the learning strengths of all students at one time. We can teach once and successfully reach all our students.

Children who are strongly auditory and need lessons to be presented via this modality don’t just need to hear a lesson taught; they mostly need to hear themselves speak what they are learning.

Auditory learners benefit from repeating new content out loud. They benefit from using an auditory amplification device, so they can hear themselves more clearly. They benefit from reading aloud. Auditory learners will benefit from explaining what they have learned to another student or to a small group of their peers.

Children who are visual learners don’t just need to see what they are learning, they need visuals that show the meaning of what they are learning. They benefit from charts or graphs that organize content in ways that make sense of the whole. Visual learners strongly prefer seeing content organized in ways that allow them to discover patterns. They benefit from illustrating what they are learning.

Visual learners remember by equating symbols to known objects. Their strength does not lie in listening nor in repetition and memorization. They tend to prefer content organized so they can snap a mental picture that is permanently stored and easily retrieved as needed. The visual modality most frequently is accompanied by the tactile or kinesthetic modality.

Children who learn tactilely must have the opportunity to use their hands to learn. This goes beyond paper and pencil learning. Tactile learners make meaning by moving things around, by manipulating objects that represent the concepts they are learning.

Good examples of tactile materials are math counting chips, base ten materials, and fraction pieces. Clocks with hands that move and real money to count are also very useful to tactile learners. When learning to read high frequency words, cards that show a word inside a visual and have the plain word on the reverse side are far more effective than lists of words to memorize.

Kinesthetic learners must move in order to focus and learn. They also benefit from moving in ways that mimic the concept they are learning. Perfect examples include body movement that reflects the meaning of a new word they are learning.

Body motions that reflect the shape of alphabet letters are very helpful for young children learning to tie the name of letters with their symbols and sounds. Kinesthetic learners are most often visual learners as well. They can present a challenge in the classroom due to their need to move, but when they understand their giftedness, they become their own best ally.

CREATING A MULTISENSORY LESSON

When I create a multisensory lesson, I choose at least one design element from each of the modalities and combine them into one lesson.

Auditory Design Elements

  • Child reads aloud
  • Child uses auditory amplification device (such as a Toobaloo)
  • Child sounds out words aloud as he/she writes each word
  • Child uses rhyme or rhythm in content to help with memory

Visual Design Elements

  • Tie symbols to known objects (example: M is “mountains” because they are the same shape)
  • Discover patterns in learning
  • Embed symbols in visuals that show their meaning
  • Show details from within a global whole
  • Illustrate concepts being learned
  • Create visual graphs or maps

Kinesthetic Design Elements

  • Tie learning to movement
  • Write concepts learned
  • Hands-on, constructivist learning
  • Visualize themselves doing the steps in solving a problem
  • Act out what they are learning
  • Practice doing what they are learning

 

SOURCES FOR MULTISENSORY TEACHING MATERIALS

Child1st exists to create multisensory materials that will help teachers make their students successful. The products are all kid-inspired, kid-tested, and have brought success in learning to thousands of children world-wide. All materials are supplementary, are ready to use, come with any necessary instructions. We have created every product with children in mind, yes, but we are here in support of teachers. All teaching resources are ready to use. By their very design, they target multiple pathways to the amazing brains in your classroom.

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Sarah K Major
Sarah K Major

Author

Sarah's absolute belief in every child’s ability to learn, and her passion to empower the child by supporting his/her own unique giftedness have fueled her life’s work and provided a new pathway for children to succeed academically.