Multi-sensory learning… a natural approach to teaching


Why don’t more educators use senses as a teaching method?

People have different learning styles; some are visual, others auditory or tactile, and others a combination of all of them. Yet the majority of traditional classrooms teach in an exclusively visual or auditory way. What about the rest of the senses? We smell, we touch, and we taste too!

When taking a multi-sensory approach to learning we help kids (and adults for that matter) to engage more comprehensively, as we provide context and present the same information but in different ways.

According to cognitive science publications, we normally remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and 50% of what we see and hear. By adopting a multi-sensory approach, we greatly increase our learning experience and - more importantly - we stand a better chance of getting improvements across a range of students by addressing their different learning styles simultaneously.

So how can we incorporate sensory stimulation activities into everyday life for children? Here are a few examples on how you can apply a multi-sensory learning approach when helping your child with homework or, even better, by adopting it as a way of life to experience learning.

Sight

Use beautiful and meaningful images - the bigger the better! Be colourful: colours stimulate mental activity, so don’t be shy when trying to engage in a difficult piece of homework. One of the exercises that often gets resistance is the famous “tracing numbers/letters worksheet”; honestly, who wants to engage with something as dull and boring as a seemingly endless black-and-white sheet of figures? It’s the pre-school equivalent of filling out a tax return. Why not try tracing in colourful sand or flour? It’s not only different and fun, but kids are also more confident and excited, as they can easily erase mistakes.

Children using Montessori sand trays for learning to write

Hearing

Hearing helps with learning by association, so read out loud and engage in more conversations with your children. Actively engaging in a discussion is a great opportunity to learn! If your kid has a question, don’t limit your answers to a simple straightforward response, but generate a discussion. Stimulate their curiosity and let them know that their opinion matters. This will not just reinforce their learning experience but build their confidence as well!

Taste and smell

As with hearing, taste and smell also help with learning by association. Have you ever been in a shop and suddenly you smell a perfume that takes you right back to your childhood? Or tried a certain dish that tasted exactly the way that your mum used to make it? Smells can trigger memories so effectively that it has been shown that scent can activate more parts of the brain than sight alone.

Why not try this simple exercise with your child to teach them the difference between sour, sweet, savoury and spicy? Prepare 8 little smelling jars as per the image below. Four labelled with a red star and four with a blue star. These two sets will be used for matching the senses.

Take eight pieces of cottonwool (one for each of the jars) and infuse two pieces of cottonwool with each of the following four scents: lemon essence, caramel essence, sea water and curry powder. Now you have four matched pairs of scents. Put one of each pair into a jar marked with a blue- and a red-star, respectively. Mix the jars up, and as you introduce the concepts of sour, sweet, savoury and spicy, let your child experience the relevant smell while they also taste a piece of lemon, salty water, curry powder and a piece of fudge. Finally, see if your child can match the pairs of jars together by identifying the scents!

montessori smelling bottles to stimulate the senses

Touch

Did you know that 30-40% of people are considered tactile learners? Touching and hands-on learning styles are key learning tools for these individuals and yet very little has been done in this regard. Struggling with teaching your child the geometric shapes? Here something that may help: The Mystery Bag!

Fill a cloth bag with the geometric figures that you are teaching your child about (I got mine from the Crazy Store for R40). Blindfold your child and let them reach into the bag and pick one object. Have them identify the object by feeling its parts and engage in discussion. Ask them: How many sides does this object have? Are all the sides the same or do some feel longer than others? Guide them and let them be aware of the main differences between the different shapes.

Montessori Mystery Bag with wooden shapes for abstract thinking

And there you have it! As you can see, incorporating multi-sensory learning into our everyday life is quite effortless. When we are bored, our mind shuts down and we don’t learn simply because we are not engaging. So by keeping it interesting and presenting concepts and ideas in different ways, we can inspire curious minds and cultivate a love for learning simply because is an enjoyable and enriching process rather than a painful task that must be accomplish in order to avoid bad consequences.

Give it a go and let me know how it goes! And we would love to hear from you – feel free to comment here if you would like some more tips or if there is any topic that you would like me to add to the discussion.

Go check out our Animal Farm Matching-Figurine card set - it uses many senses, including hearing with downloadable audio tracks in 7 different languages - English, Spanish, French, German, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans --> 

https://www.differentisgood.co.za/collections/frontpage/products/farm-animals-and-figurines-matching-set

Happy learning!

 

(image credits: www.countingcoconuts.blogspot.com)

 


4 comments


  • ceinwen

    I love this! And would have loved to have done it with my children when they were little. For me, the opportunity to introduce them to other languages so enjoyably, would be a huge incentive to use the system. With my grandchildren I have watched with awe, how easily they pick up and retain their second or even third language.


  • Lainz

    Love this ❤


  • Natalia

    Hi Annie!
    Thanks for your comment. In my opinion once students take an active role for their learning it becomes a much more interesting task, as they are in control and not just following instructions. Active learning is the key, so outdoor learning and projects could really help with this as kids progress and engage in a more holistic way.
    Now on a more specific note, a practical and straightforward example is the chemistry of acids and bases….what can be easier and appealing than to learn about these by making bath bombs?! They can taste the baking soda and the citric acid, smell it and add colouring, and even better… once it is done they can apply what they learned by using it! I think this is far more engaging than reading acids and bases chapter from a chemistry textbook 😊
    Hope this helps!


  • Annie

    Great post. Any ideas how to incorporate the senses into junior and senior primary. That’s quite a challenge


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