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Multi-sensory learning with Frances Adlam

Best practice teaching revolves around multi-sensory learning, teacher knowledge, intelligences, and more. Explore what multi-sensory learning is with Frances Adlam.
Sensory Learning

When I take workshops for teachers I state that best practice teaching revolves around the following processes:

  • Multi – sensory learning.
  • Multiple Intelligences.
  • A sequential programme.
  • Teacher knowledge.

Let’s think about Multi-sensory learning for a moment. The obvious question is: what is it?

Educational jargon would have multi-sensory learning as being, at the very least, a programme that is offered in a VAK way: Visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Children need to see what they are learning: diagrams, models, displays. It needs to be visually enticing: colour, shapes and  images. Children need to hear what they are learning about: instructions, explanations, questions and answers.

Sorry, I just have to have a wee diversion here on auditory learning. At some level this will mean teachers talking and children listening. I implore teachers to talk LESS. As a child, if I have to listen to the instructions, that in itself is enough of a task (especially if auditory learning is not my most effective learning  process). If the instructions are lost in between five minutes of rants about something that happened earlier in the day, the odd “be quiet” to a sprinkling of children and then a random reminder about something else that is happening tomorrow, it is no wonder many children in the class still have no idea what to do when, you as the teacher, feel you have given the instructions. The instructions, in such an offering, are not differentiated from all the other talking “stuff”. Time is wasted as many children are wandering around or staring out the window; many without a clue that any instructions were given.

How to talk so children listen:

Grab their attention.
How? Not by talking!

  • Hold up a YELLOW piece of A4 (laminated – you will need it a lot!) that has LISTEN in bold black letters written on it.
  • Write on the whiteboard: LISTENING and DEAD SILENCE NEEDED in 1 minute.
  • Put the 1 minute timer on.

(Have fun with the class – see if the next day you can all get ready in 50 seconds, 40 seconds….)

Tell children: I am going to give the instructions. I am going to give them twice. After that you need to get on with what I have asked you to do. If you do not understand the instructions come and see me straight away.

Only give the instructions. Do not use this time to inform, tell off or do a million other things.

Put the main points of the instructions on the whiteboard with bright coloured whiteboard pens.

If you talk less, as a teacher (adult, friend…) children will listen.

OK Back to Multi-sensory learning.

So we know what the jargon means.

We know we have five senses: seeing (visual), hearing (auditory), touching (partly kinaesthetic – as kinaesthetic* also means using the whole body) and we have taste and smell. Taste and smell, on a regular basis are pretty tricky to introduce into the classroom – but hey, when they can enter the learning process they are a hit aren’t they?

(*I am going to give special attention to kinaesthetic learning later. It is the most powerful of ways for children to learn. It is the least used of the learning processes and the least understood. Hmmm!!!)

But, if you really want to know what multi-sensory learning is, this is my favourite way of putting it:

It is taking learning off the page.

It is making learning come alive by doing, being and getting stuck in with the whole of your being. It is singing our spellings, acting out our storyboards and walking out our numbers. It involves getting up from the desk and getting away from the 2 dimensional piece of paper with its squiggles on (or computer for that matter) and making learning a 3 dimensional active process that will enable children to learn faster and to remember things for longer.  

Try it – your class will thank-you! And remember, a thankful class is an easy class.

Thanks for that Frances. A really inspiring blog, look forward to more updates.

To view Multi-sensory Learning by Frances Adlam, visit our website.

About the author

Frances Adlam, a highly experienced and creative educator and therapist, has 20 years of teaching experience, is considered a “gifted teacher” by many, and for over 15 years has been involved in teaching the arts, creativity, multiple intelligences and working with creatively gifted children. She has lectured in New Zealand and been an adviser for teachers in the aforementioned areas. She is also a published children’s author, a dancer and a playwright. She currently works as an educator and therapist for children in her private practice, Out of the Box, where she specialises in working with children who are on the spectra of dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome and autism. Frances has written many resources for Essential Resources, some of which are under her former name, Frances Reed.

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