Multisensory Structured Language Teaching

Posted by Brainspring on 3rd Sep 2014

Hi everyone,

I hope you all enjoyed a long, relaxing Labor Day weekend!  Since almost everyone has started their school year, I want to remind you that I am here to help however I can.  Don’t hesitate to comment here or email me any questions you have as you begin teaching new reading skills to a new group of students.


Multisensory Structured Language

In last week’s post I mentioned that I hoped my student would continue receiving multisensory structured language teaching in her school this year.  After writing that post, I thought it would be beneficial to expand on what characterizes multisensory structured language teaching.  Phonics First is a multisensory structured language program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.  There are also many other programs and other ways for teachers to provide multisensory structured language teaching.

Comment here with what multisensory structured language programs, other than Phonics First, you’re using in your classroom or are familiar with. 


Why Use Multisensory Structured Language Teaching?

Multisensory structured language teaching for students with dyslexia or reading difficulties is essential because it helps develop the brain areas used for reading and spelling.  Students with dyslexia have a weakness in phonological processing.  The pathways that connect speech with print need to be developed to work more quickly and accurately.  Using multisensory structured language engages all the ways students can receive information, creating multiple pathways to link and store information.

In this quote, Margret Rawson, a former IDA president, states simply and directly why this kind of teaching is important:

“Dyslexic students need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught, slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language—the sounds and the letters which represent them—and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for conscious organization and retention of their learning.”


Principles of Multisensory Structured Language Teaching

I just wanted to give a quick overview of the principles in this post.  Please comment below if there are areas you would like me to go through more in depth in another post!

  1. Simultaneous, Multisensory
    1. Teaching uses all the learning pathways in the brain simultaneously or sequentially.  These learning pathways are visual, auditory, kinesthetic-tactile.  Hence, this is often referred to as VAKT.
  2. Systematic and Cumulative
    1. Teaching of material is organized to follow the logical order of language.  The most basic concepts are taught first, followed by sequentially more difficult skills.  Previously taught concepts are continually reviewed and each new skill builds on what was already taught.
  3. Direct Instruction
    1.  All concepts are directly taught through teacher-student interaction.  It is not assumed that the student will infer skills.
  4. Diagnostic Teaching
    1. Teaching progresses according to a student’s individual progress and needs.  The teacher is flexible and constantly monitoring the student’s progress in mastering the material.
  5. Synthetic and Analytic Instruction
    1. Both types of instruction are used in teaching the material.  Synthetic instruction presents the parts of language and then shows how they come together to form the whole, like blending sounds to read a word.  Analytic instruction presents the whole and shows how it can be broken down into parts, like segmenting the sounds in a word.
  6. Comprehensive and Inclusive
    1. Teaching occurs at all levels of language.

i.      Sounds (phonemes)

ii.      Symbols (graphemes)

iii.      Word parts that have meaning (morphemes)

iv.      Meaning of words and phrases (semantics)

v.      How sentences are formed (syntax)

vi.      Longer passages (discourse)

vii.      How language is used (semantics)


For more information check out these quick resources:


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