October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and what better than to share some stories about making learning engaging and worthwhile for all learners? Multisensory instruction is critical for a child who struggles to read. Encouraging collaboration between students can add an even deeper dimension to learning. In today’s blog, I’ve outlined some of my personal experiences learning and teaching using multisensory strategies for various subject material.
A little lady born a long time ago, with only an eighth-grade education, taught me multiplication using the playground game called, “Jacks.” I remember bouncing the ball and picking up three Jacks, then bouncing the ball again and picking up three more, while she said, “two times three.” To make it even more visual, we used several Jack sets and several different colors of bouncing balls. I still remember the beauty of the metallic jacks and achieving the speed and muscle memory of picking up the jacks while saying the multiplication problem. Several cousins and neighborhood friends also learned along with me, so we could play together, practice our speed, challenge one another to harder multiplication problems, and encourage one another when we missed a problem. It raised a strong awareness in me of really grasping the knowledge and awareness of multiplication. It also helped me retain the facts of multiplication, along with the sweet memories of childhood, such as laughing and playing with friends.
Making Science Multisensory
For many years, I had my elementary science students learn about averages, bar graphs, and predictions by engaging in a well-known multisensory activity using bags of colored candies such as M&M’s. By predicting the colors, counting them, and making bar graphs, the students gained an understanding of possible pre-selection of colors. When the students collaborated and made larger bar graphs, the students noticed patterns, and randomness turned into accurate predictions. Students began to realize possible marketing strategies and the possibility that companies planned the color patterns for popularity purposes.
Teaching using a collaborative and engaging approach such as this, lead to some terrific findings:
- Students began to brainstorm about other companies, color patterns, marketing strategies, or ways they could do market research on their own.
- They began to come up with theories and ideas that they wanted to test, as a group.
- The collaboration gave birth to a unified topic, in which to brainstorm about, rather than an isolated lesson, completed alone.
An anecdotal observation of fourth-grade students engaged in an engineering project, completed in collaboration with engineers from an automotive manufacturer, showed:
- Stronger retention of facts based on test scores compared to traditional book/paper/lecture scores.
- Engagement of memory, based on students’ scores and verbal responses.
- The collaboration of more than one student and adults showed teamwork and “real-life” skills (as several students called it).
- It revealed more brainstorming and elicited laughter while doing a multi-sensory collaboration than when reading a book, completing a worksheet, or listening to a lecture.
- It caused the students to look within their team for answers, to learn from each other. If there was a failure, there was always one person to encourage the others. Less discouragement than working alone.
Most companies find that multisensory collaboration:
- Speeds up solutions.
- Encourages efficiency.
- Divides the work up.
- Enhances employee retention.
- Encourages job satisfaction.
- Shows team spirit
If progressive organizations are realizing the value of multi-sensory collaborations, and looking for answers within their teams, then we should be encouraging this with students. First, to help them with the learning process, second, to equip them for the job skills they will need, such as collaborating with others.
Written by Loraine S. Hodgson
Loraine is a tutor at Brainspring Learning Center, Plymouth