Accessibility in the Elementary Classroom: Multisensory Teaching

Accessibility in the Elementary Classroom: Multisensory Teaching

Multi-colored toy blocks on a white backgroundAs educators, we understand that students come to class with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and learning styles. Sometimes their strengths and weaknesses are obvious, while other times they are less apparent. How can you differentiate your instruction to meet your students’ varying needs?

Building an elementary curriculum that is accessible to all students, including those with disabilities and other learning challenges, starts with good teaching strategies. Multisensory instruction is one approach to teaching that supports a range of learning styles by encouraging students to use multiple senses at once. This method is especially useful for children with learning difficulties but helps teachers create rich educational experiences that benefit the entire class.

To get started with multisensory teaching in your classroom, design assignments that prompt your students to smell, touch, taste, or move, in addition to simply watching and listening. Consider creating interactive centers. For example, a study of fruit might include the following activities:

  • Comparing the scents of two fruits and recording findings on a Venn diagram.
  • Observing and drawing a variety of fruits.
  • Feeling the textures of hidden fruits in closed “mystery” boxes.
  • Compiling a list of adjectives to describe a particular fruit, using as many senses as possible.
  • Singing songs or reciting poems about fruit.
  • Tasting a variety of fruits (if permitted by parents and school policy).

 

Hands-on, multisensory activities encourage children to stay curious about the world and actively engaged in learning. You can employ multisensory instruction in many subject areas. For example, in social studies, you might teach a traditional dance from a culture you are studying. In math, you might use shape blocks to help children feel and count the number of corners and edges. You might use colored counters for adding, subtracting, patterns, or fractions. In reading, you might try rhyming chants or word cards and sorting mats. The goal is to give children diverse ways to interact with content and show what they know.

Multisensory instruction is in line with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework for teaching that provides all students with the same chance for success through flexible learning opportunities. By offering multiple ways to connect with new information, you can help make content more accessible to students with disabilities and English language learners while further supporting the rest of the class. Emergent Learning can guide you in creating accessible digital materials to accompany your multisensory curriculum. Contact us at [email protected].