Dr. V.S. Gayathri
A Look Into Multisensory Teaching!
Effective communication is very important while teaching and one of the most crucial characteristics of an effective teacher. Communication can engage the learner through a single sensory (for example- auditory) or through multiple sensory (for example- auditory, visual, and kinesthetic). It has been found that teaching with a multisensory approach provides additional pathways for the learner to receive information.
In a study, it was found that multisensory teaching methods are quite beneficial in elementary language education for kids with speech and language disorders. Multisensory methods are primarily used among children with dyslexia, affecting 10-15% of all people and 80% of those with a disability, and other speech and language disabilities.
Let us first understand what is multisensory teaching and how is it different from the classical way of teaching.
What is multisensory teaching?
It is teaching using all the learning pathways in the brain simultaneously or sequentially like visual, auditory, kinaesthetic/Tactile, oral, etc. It is a way of teaching that engages more than one sense at a time.
Multisensory techniques are quite popular these days and frequently used for kids with learning differences. Research by the Studies from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, USA indicated that for kids with difficulties in learning to read, a multisensory teaching method has proved to be the most effective teaching method.
Multisensory teaching techniques stimulate learning by engaging kids on multiple levels.
While learning, most kids rely on sight to look at text and pictures and to read information. They also rely on hearing to listen to what the teacher is saying.
Multisensory teaching is not restricted to reading and listening. Instead, it tries to use all the senses. It is not that every lesson will use all five senses (taste, smell, touch, sight, hearing, and motion). So in most multisensory lessons, kids engage with the material in more than one way.
Multisensory teaching encourages students to use some or all their senses to:
Gather information about something
Link this information to concepts they already know
Understand the underlying logic in solving problems
Learn problem-solving skills
Practise non-verbal reasoning skills
Understand relationships between different concepts
Multisensory teaching is beneficial in many ways. Let us see how.
How is it beneficial for learners?
Improved focus: Kids become more attentive when multisensory teaching methods are used because their brain is stimulated in more than one way. If a kid is required to do something while listening to instructions and looking at information, then there is very little scope of concentration lapse if he/she has to complete the task. Here the senses work together to allow the child to make stronger connections to the information, and more focus is required in an enjoyable way.
Retained attention: Multisensory teaching helps in better retention because more than one sense organ is involved to process the information and apply it. Hence, even if a child forgets what they heard, they will definitely remember what they saw. So, it is more like a 360-degree approach.
Learning pathways (Simultaneous or Sequential): Some kids might be good listeners and can grasp concepts by listening to an explanation, while others might need to see the concept on paper to interpret it. Some might be good at tracking information visually, while others learn by physically doing it. Multisensory teaching ensures that every kid, regardless of their learning type, is given a means of understanding and process the information in their own way.
Enhances learning: Multisensory learning environments help to enhance brain function. From promoting fine motor skills to body memory to providing strong sensations that are strongly connected to the information they need. Hence, with this teaching method, kids can conceptualize and later apply that information than others who just watch and listen. It stimulates the brain and hence learning becomes more developed and productive. This in turn improves the essential functions of the brain such as listening skills, critical thinking movement, vision, tactile recognition, and conceptualization.
What are the different elements of multisensory teaching and how to incorporate them?
Multisensory Teaching strategies can be broadly classified into-
1) Visual Techniques
Text or pictures on paper, posters, or on the computers or flashcards
Use of colour for highlighting information or imagery
Graphic organizers, outlining passages
Any form of art, images, text, pictures, and video
Air Writing- Here, the kids are required to write in the air and pronounce the words while doing so. In this method, their diction gets better and they have a better understanding of pronunciation. This works best in smaller grades where the students have just started learning alphabets and words. This involves both visual and oral techniques.
2) Auditory or Oral techniques
Books or information on tape, peer-assisted reading, paired reading, group discussions, or computerized text reading
Video or film with accompanying audio
Any form of music, song, instruments, speech, rhymes, or language games
3) Tactile techniques
Multi-sensory techniques that deal with the sense of touch are called tactile methods. They include strategies such as:
Sand trays, educational objects, finger paints, and puzzles to improve fine motor skills
Modeling materials such as clay and sculpting materials or tools
Small and unique materials called manipulatives to represent number values to teach Math skills
4) Kinesthetic techniques
Multi-sensory methods that involve body movements are called kinesthetic methods. These involve fine and gross motor movements.
Games like jumping rope, moving objects, clapping, etc. along with activities while counting and singing songs related to the concepts.
Any large movement activity for students involving dancing, or other academic competition such as quizzes, flashcard races, and other learning games.