Multi-sensory words

Some kids struggle to learn and remember sight words. The Talking Matters team along with some educators from schools and preschools around Adelaide spent two days this week with Diana Rigg of PLD resources learning about developing early literacy skills.

PLD combines the skills of education, speech pathology and occupational therapy to support children learning literacy skills. One of the ideas Diana discussed was using a multi sensory approach to teaching children to learn and retain sight words.

Children who are struggling to automatically recognise commonly used words (sight words) may benefit from using a multi-sensory approach. The term “multi-sensory” means using different senses, such as sight, touch movement and listening, simultaneously. They are ‘hands on’ activities. A multi-sensory approach to teaching sight words increases the likelihood that the student will remember the word.

Below is a list of ideas that can be used to teach sight words using a multi-sensory approach:

  • Play-Dough: have the student roll a tube of Play-Dough over the letters of the word.

  • Plasticine tray: spread plasticine or Play-Dough out onto a tray and have the students use their fingers or a pop-stick to write the word in the plasticine.

  • Sand: place the word card on the bottom of a foam meat tray and put craft sand over the word. Have the student trace over the letters. You may also place the word next to the tray and have the student form the letters in the sand.

  • Wool: Have the student trace over the letters of the word with glue and place the wool in the glue.

  • Glitter Glue: Have the students trace over the letters with glitter glue.

  • Pipe cleaners: Have the student place/glue the pipe cleaners over the letters of the words.

  • Shaving Cream: Squirt shaving cream on the table and spread it out. Have the student write the words in the shaving cream.

  • Finger Painting: Spread the paint on a piece of paper, table or on a foam meat tray. Have the student write the letters of the word in the paint.

  • Watercolour Paint: get the student paint the letters of the word.

  • Hair Gel/shaving foam in a resealable bag: Squirt hair gel in a large resealable bag. You’ll want to reinforce the top by placing a strip of duct tape along the top. Have the student write the letters of the word in the gel.

After practicing writing or forming the word, encourage the student to write the word ‘blind’. Ask the student to shut their eyes (or use a blindfold) and write the word. ‘Blind’ writing assists the student to learn what it feels like to form the word, rather than just what it looks like. This will help the student to memorize the word, as well as help their handwriting fluency. Alternatively, ask the student to trace the wool, play-Dough or other material used with their finger whilst their eyes are closed or blindfolded.

PLD resources are available through Our website.

To help parents and teachers support children to develop literacy skills Talking Matters has developed a starting school pack which can be downloaded for free from the front page of our website.

There is also a large amount of information about language and literacy in the download section of the website.

Talking Matters provides speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology services to kids of all ages in Adelaide, South Australia. To find out more about our team and what we do browse our website and see how we can help your family.

There is also more information on our Facebook page, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Becky Tentye

Speech Pathologist

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