Multisensory Approach to Teaching Reading

Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll be exploring a multisensory approach to teaching reading. By the end of this lesson you'll understand why this method is so successful, especially with students with disabilities, and how to incorporate the multiple senses into your reading lessons.

What Is a Multisensory Approach?

Picture your favorite childhood memory. What stands out most to you? It might be a food, like the taste of a home cooked meal. Or, maybe you remember the bright red color of your dress at a birthday party, or the soft fur of your best stuffed animal. If you spent time outdoors, maybe the fresh scent of pine trees takes you back to days of playing outside. Although each of these examples focuses on one sense in particular, it's more likely that your memory involves all five senses: hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, and smelling.

Our most vivid memories contain multiple types of sensory information. We connect to storytelling, novels and movies that engage all of these senses. Yet we as teachers traditionally teach students in one modality, such as listening or seeing. This is especially true when teaching reading. Many assume that in order to learn to read students must focus on seeing letters and words. But there are many multiple sensory strategies to help students learn to read. This lesson focuses on incorporating multiple sensory inputs into teaching reading, called a multisensory approach. Just as your memories are engrained into your brain, hopefully by the end of these lessons your students' reading skills will be too.

Why Choose Multisensory?

Memories with multiple sensory inputs tend to stay put better than memories from just one modality. This personal experience is also backed up by neurological research, or the study of how the brain works. The brain is a complex net of connections between our brain cells. When we learn, new connections between cells are formed, or old ones are strengthened. When more than one sensory input is used to learn a new skill, more connections are formed, and in multiple parts of the brain, compared to one input alone.

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