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What is Multi-Sensory Learning?

By: Rachael Crawford

There are many different types of learners- all of which learn at different speeds, prefer different modalities, or interpret information differently. Some students may be able to listen to an hour-long lecture and take in every bit of information, while others were lost after the first sentence. One thing we do know is not one two people are the same- meaning the way we teach students cannot all be the same.

New brain studies indicate many positive feedback of learners who utilize the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile (VAK) approach to learning. This means learners are simultaneously learning through all modalities. Each of these modalities utilize different parts of our brain, so when used together, it creates a pathway and makes cognitive functioning processes more cohesive. When teachers implement this approach for their students, that is called Multi-Sensory Learning (MSL).

MSL is simple to start. You do not need to go out and buy sand for students to write in or Play-Doh for them to create letters with- this is all fun, but not necessary. MSL's main premise is to connect neurological pathways in the brain. This is done by creating

auditory clues, visual representations, and then tactile connections. An example would be when teaching the formation of b and d, since most younger students struggle with the directionality of each. The first step is to create a visual for students to see. This can be a poster with visuals for forming each letter. Then, create auditory clues. This could be providing the steps for each formation or using a mnemonic device. Finally, go through the motions of how to create each letter by first air writing and then transferring to paper. All of this takes little prep, but when used together makes a huge impact for learners. They now have the tools to see, talk, and feel how each letter was formed. Below is an example of what I use for b and d reversal.

What are the Benefits of Using Multi-Sensory?

There are many benefits to using MSL. Not only does research support it, but students also enjoy it.

1. Student Engagement

Using MSL helps to increase student engagement in a lesson because students become active participants. They are in charge of creating the linkages between the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic tools you provide them.

2. Differentiation

MSL provides differentiation for all different types of learners in your class. Students are provided with all different modalities in order to learn a new concept. MSL is also proven to be beneficial for students with dyslexia and ADHD.

3. Retention of Information

When utilizing just one modality of the brain, neurological connections are not being made, making it more difficult to retain new information. Using MSL creates a pathway that utilizes all modalities of the brain, making the retention of new information more of an ease.

Think of MSL as a game of baseball. If a player continuously hit singles or doubles, it will never reach home on its own. In order to get a "homerun," a player must touch every base. Same with our brain. For students to cognitively understanding new material, each modality of MSL has to be covered. Without it, students are not making full conceptual linkages of new learning.

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