Guest Author - Heidi Shelton Jenck
What senses do you use to read? People often think of using the eyes, of course, and the mouth when you read aloud. If you are a beginning reader you might use touch to follow along under words as you blend them.
Children who have difficulty learning to read often learn best when multisensory reading strategies are used. Programs specifically created for students with dyslexia typically include many multisensory techniques in their lessons, using what is often referred to as V-A-K, or the visual-auditory-kinesthetic method of teaching reading.
One example of an activity that would include all three modalities is teaching the letter a. The child would look at a card with the letter Aa on it, say the sound Aa makes, and draw the shape of the letter Aa in the air with their finger. Another example would be teaching a young child how to say and blend the three sounds in the word "cat". The child could push a penny into a box drawn onto paper for each sound (/c/-/a/-/t/) while saying each sound out loud, and looking at a picture of a cat. Each exercise uses all three senses. Incorporating these three senses repeatedly and continuously during reading lessons is powerful, and helps the child remember what they are learning.
Reading programs that use multisensory instruction will include hands-on activities such as touching and moving around plastic and sandpaper letters, drawing letters and words with a finger in shallow trays of rice or sand, underlining sounds or syllables in words, tracing letters, and coding words.
Auditory reading activities may include singing a rhyming song, listening to a book on CD, giving a speech, reciting a poem, or saying letter sounds out loud.
Visual instructional activities includes reading text, saying words on flash cards, and using posters with reading strategies printed on them. A student using visual instructional strategies might create a graphic organizer, complete a diagram or chart, fill in a graph, or write a list.
Often reading instruction is done using only visual or auditory senses. For some students with disabilities these are the two weakest senses. Some students may have eye-tracking problems, visual or auditory processing weaknesses, or the words may appear fuzzy or move around on the paper. For the kinesthetic learner it is critical to include opportunities to use the sense of touch throughout reading lessons.
Incorporating all three senses during reading lessons is good for all students. They are more likely to remember what you have taught them. Using Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic activities in reading lessons doesn't have to be complex or expensive.
This tub of tiles from Amazon.com is an example of an inexpensive but effective kinesthetic learning tool you can purchase cheaply, or even create yourself using materials at home. These would be used for forming words, practicing alphabet letters, or learning sounds in words.