By Will Klinger
How many senses do your students use to learn—one, two, three? Most teaching techniques engage either the vision or auditory system of students, and often both; the slide show and lecture combination is becoming more widespread.
Seeing your colleagues use those methods may make you feel like that’s how you’re supposed to engage students, but what major benefits are you and your students missing out on when their other senses are neglected?
That’s where multisensory learning comes in, a method in which information is received with a variety of senses in the body. Multisensory teaching techniques have major benefits for your students—benefits that can’t be overlooked.
1. Students learn differently and require different stimuli.
As you likely have noticed, not all students process information in the same way. Most students have a learning type, or a way of receiving information that is optimal to their given personality and cognition.
Some students are strong auditory listeners and can understand concepts by listening to an explanation, while others may need to draw out concepts with a pencil and paper.
Some are excellent at tracking information with their eyes and prefer to watch a play, while some others learn best by physically acting out a play.
However, even the students who do respond well to the watch-and-listen technique, for example, may not be processing information as well as they could be. Multisensory teaching ensures that each student, regardless of learning type, is provided with a means of understanding the information.
2. Cognitive development happens faster.
Multisensory learning environments enhance brain function. Each sensory system has targets in the brain that stimulate cognitive function:
- Somatic/tactile learning promotes fine motor skills
- Vestibular/kinesthetic learning promotes body memory
- Olfaction/gustatory systems provide strong sensations that remain strongly connected to the information they’re associated with
Because of this, when students hear information that’s connected to another sense, they can conceptualize and later apply that information better than students who just watch and listen.
Multisensory teaching techniques stimulate the brain in a variety of ways so that each sensory system becomes more developed and higher functioning. This improves essential functions of the brain such as listening skills, movement, vision, tactile recognition and conceptualization.
3. Students will be more involved in learning.
It’s easy for a student to zone out. The school day is nearly seven hours long and it’s difficult for students to pay attention to every piece of information when it comes to them the same way, class after class, day after day.
Students are attentive when multisensory teaching techniques are used because of the many ways the brain is being stimulated at one time. If a student is doing something tactically or physically, while listening to instructions and seeing information, then there’s not much of an opportunity for the student’s attention to stray.
Teaching in a way that forces a number of senses to work together not only allows students to make stronger connections to the information, but demands more focus in an enjoyable way.
3 Tools for Multisensory Teaching
Use these tools to bring multisensory teaching to your classroom.
SOMATO (Somatic sensation + Vestibular + Vision)
SOMATO is a keycap surface system that allows students to “feel their words” by making typing more like handwriting. Requiring no change of typing behavior, this up-and-coming tool makes typing more interactive and stimulating via the use of tactile character recognition. SOMATO allows each key to be individually recognized by the student’s fingertips using bumps and ridges and, therefore, adds a new sensory dimension to typing. This has lead to a 40 percent reduction in typing errors in early tests. For all ages
TouchMath (Somatic Sensation + Vestibular + Vision)
TouchMath’s 3-D numerals use physical numbers so that math can be touched. These physical numerals are 5 inches in length and have TouchPoints that help students develop numeral and quality association. The product comes with activity sheets that can be printed from a CD. For Pre-K – 1 + special education
Education Place (Vestibular + Auditory)
Education Place is a website with a variety of instructions for different activities that can be performed in the classroom. There are dozens of categories and fields of activities for all ages. These activities allow students to learn by doing. For example, students learn to communicate and brainstorm with each other in order to reach their goals. For all ages.