Updated: Nov 29, 2019
I was taken aback by the response to my blog post about sensory issues. This has been a new battle for me as a parent, and of course, I'm applying it to my teaching as well. As I've learned more about how children input sensory information and the challenges they might face, I'm constantly thinking about how to adjust my practice. Due to the response to my previous post, I think many of us our navigating this sensory landscape.
When I first began teaching, it was popular to adjust our teaching practices based on the way kids learn. You may have auditory learners, visual learners or even kinesthetic learners. I began to think of activities that students could do that would appeal to the way they learn.
Now we know students learn in a variety of ways and VARIETY is key. It's important to expose students to auditory instruction with visual input. And don't even get me started on the research that is overwhelming my social media feed about movement. Bottom line: Kids need to move and engage in free play to be open to learning.
With all that on our plate, what do we do with the learners who need that input but may have sensitivities? When thinking about sensory challenges, I've been shocked by how many people assume autism tendencies and think of the student who can't stand change or loud noises. While this fits some of our kids, my latest experiences have been with the students who need MORE input. The student who LITERALLY has to move and get large muscle movement until he's overwhelmed, and then he needs to free his brain in a quiet place. And I'm not talking ADHD, which has now been found to be misdiagnosed for some of our sensory friends. You can read more about sensory challenges on my blog post here.
All of this has been on my mind while teaching a unique learners the basic alphabet and the matching sounds. Previous students would respond with a craft of the day, a quick video with song and some practice. Not my sensory student. He just wasn't interested. So, I started to get creative.
Jan Richardson mentions in her book, The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading about using a finger-tracing letter book to help students process the formation of letters while learning the symbol and the sound. She has overwhelming data about how effective this strategy can be. Students trace the letter with their finger and say, "A, /a/, apple". I found this great printable tracing book at the Measured Mom Blog that has great pictures to use.
The key was to make it sensory approved for my seeker. Using fabric paint, I created different patterns of dots on each letter. Now, as he traces, he sees a new pattern and tries to follow it with his finger. I did an experiment and went through his letters with another format. He remembered 10/26 letters. When he used the bumpy finger tracing book, he remembered 22/26 letters when he placed his finger on it.
Another great resource is a kinesethic sound book. One side of the card has the lower case letter. The other side of the card has an action that relates to the sound of the letter. We look at the letter and say the letter, sound and the action. "H, /h/, hop!" You can find a copy of this at the Measured Mom Blog, as well.
This is just the beginning, but I know it can be helpful for a variety of ages, especially students learning English as a second language. When learning letters the typical way may not work for some students, give this a try and see if a sensory approach might work! I hope that you find these activities useful and help to you!