Introduction to Multisensory Learning

Module 1 in the All Things Multisensory Series

In this module, you will explore multisensory learning.

Time to complete: 25 minutes

Read, Listen, Watch

Find out more about multisensory learning by clicking on each Tab below. Read the information. Click on the audio to listen to the text read aloud.

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What is multisensory learning?

We all experience the world through our senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. We also experience the world through kinesthesis (perception of body movement).

The connection between our senses and our brain is how we learn.

Think about your own magnificent brain. As you explore your physical environment in various ways through your senses and through movement, imagine electrochemical signals traveling through neural pathways to your brain where the information is processed and integrated. Your brain then generates an immediate response and stores the information as memory.

The more senses you engage during any given experience, the more neural pathways are activated, connected and strengthened in the brain. More neural pathways give you more ways to make sense of the information you have learned, more ways to remember that information and more ways to later retrieve the information you have learned. 

In a nutshell, the more ways we give input to our brains through our senses, the more connections we make and the more likely it is that the information will “stick”. 

Try out the activity below to see how neural connections are strengthened by using all your senses. Select activities that use each of the senses to observe how the pathways activate!

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Five facts about multisensory learning

  1. Our most dominant style of teaching tends to be an auditory style (lecture, verbal explanations, discussions). Studies have shown that despite having preferred learning styles, most people learn best through multi-modal styles of learning (a combination of auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic) and we are not well-served by a purely auditory approach. As one-on-one tutors, we can easily adjust our approach to a multi-mode approach to better meet the needs of our learners!
  1. A multisensory learning approach helps learners to explore their preferred learning styles and the techniques that work best for them in different scenarios. It’s an important part of active learning!
  1. A multisensory approach is effective for everyone but is particularly helpful for learners with dyslexia, auditory processing difficulties or visual processing difficulties because it gives them more varied ways to learn. It’s a must-have approach in your tutor toolbox!
  1. Using a multisensory approach increases the fun factor in a lesson – bringing in variety and interest – which helps to improve motivation and enjoyment. Enjoyment and fun have been scientifically proven to enhance learning!
  1. A general belief is that multisensory techniques are only useful for children and not for adult learners, but recent findings from neuro-scientific studies have shown that adult learners benefit in the same ways when a multisensory approach is used. As tutors of adult learners, let’s capitalize on this!

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How does this apply to tutoring?

As tutors, we can incorporate multisensory approaches into our lessons, which means bringing in as many senses as possible to the learning activity in order to enhance awareness, attention and memory. 

We want to light up our learners’ brains and give them lots of pathways to connect and retrieve the information they have learned! An effective way to do this is to engage many senses during each activity – creating opportunities for your learner to see the material, hear about or discuss the material and interact with the material through touch and movement. 

Doing this will create a light show in your learner’s brain and give them multiple ways to learn a new skill, remember the skill and recall it later.

It’s a turbo boost for learning, remembering and making things “stick!”

Download this PDF to get lots of practical activities that you can use in a session as part of a Multisensory Approach.

A Multisensory Approach

Let’s Try Things Out

A practical exercise for you to try!

Light up your learner’s brain!

For each spelling, reading and writing activity listed below, choose five strategies (one for each of the senses) to see how various tutoring strategies activate different parts of the brain.

Click on the box containing your strategy in this order:

  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Tactile-kinesthetic
  • Smell
  • Taste
spell out loud
write a word in the air
colour code parts of the word
write the word with scented markers
use flash cards
construct the word with food and eat
build the word with letter tiles
focus on sound patterns
Discuss passage and vocabulary words
Make a chart to gather info as you read
Look at photos or illustrations before you read
Imagine smells related to the story and describe them
Pause to visualize story events
Imagine tastes related to the story and describe them
Act out what you read
Read with tutor out loud
Record story before writing
Write ideas on cards and shift them to create a logical sequence
Use a graphic organizer to organize ideas
Describe any smells that will be part of your story
Make a visual mind map before writing
Describe any tastes that will be part of your story
Make a magazine collage as inspiration for your story
Brainstorm verbally before writing

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Quiz Time

Test your knowledge with a fun interactive quiz.


Summary

Here’s a quick summary of what you covered in this module.

You can now describe what multisensory learning looks like in a tutoring context. You have learned five benefits of using a multisensory approach in a tutoring session. And, hopefully, you can think of several examples of a multisensory approach in common tutoring activities.

We hope you enjoyed the module and have found some new multisensory activities to try in your next tutoring session.

Why not try this challenge!

Tutor Challenge

Go to the next level!

Plan a multisensory approach for your next session! 

Download this Plan a Multisensory Tutoring Approach worksheet and use it as a guide and inspiration to plan a multisensory approach for one activity of your choice that your learner will enjoy.

If you are looking for more ideas, why not review the handout below:

A Multisensory Approach

Use your new approach in your next tutoring session!

Next Steps

Here are some ideas for what to do next!

Congratulations!

You have completed Module 1 in this course. You are ready to try Module 2. Click on the link below:

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