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What is Multisensory Structured Language Education?
Simultaneously using multiple pathways in the brain to reach your student. See it, say it, hear it, and do it - all at the same time!
Simultaneous multi-sensory teaching is the engagement of multiple pathways in the brain at the same time in the teaching process. This is different from what many people tend to think of as multi-sensory teaching, because the children use multiple senses simultaneously to practice the material, rather than using one of their senses at a time. In our teacher preparation courses, many of us (including myself!) were taught that multi-sensory teaching referred to the practice of using lecture to teach on one day, music the next day, art the following day, and movement on the next, etc. This, unfortunately, does not have the same affect on acheivement as having children simultaneously respond physically and orally to visual stimuli. Research shows us that in order to get the best learning outcomes possible, children need to simultaneously use as many of their senses as they can when they practice. For example, if you are trying to teach a child a new word, the child should ideally see it, say it, hear it, and do it- all at the same time. This begs the question: how would you 'do' a word with movements? HeidiSongs gives you a way to have children see, hear, say, and act out a word and its spelling in a fun and motivational way. This method takes advantage of most children's natural love of music, rhythm, and movement, as well as the mnemonic mediator for which music is famous!
Probably all of us have experienced a time when a favorite song or jingle came on the radio, and we instantly found ourselves singing along to lyrics that we had not heard for years! Simply listening to music can bring back memories so vivid that they can move a person to tears in just a few moments. When we combine lyrics, music, and movements we can be transported far beyond time and place to help us remember situations and conversations long since forgotten. This is the power of multisensory education! And this is why the International Dyslexia Association recommends multisensory teaching methods for children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. But I have found that using these methods in the primary classroom speeds learning comprehension and memorization for all levels of students. And the most amazing thing happens when simultaneous mult-sensory teaching occurs: the struggling students begin to progress, and the more advanced students start to soar! And once they start to soar and enjoy reading and writing, there is no stopping these children. Therefore, this is where the magic lies: all of your students can learn and progress at the same time, even if their acheivement levels span from students that barely know more than a few letters to those that can read fluently.
Why does this work, and furthermore, how does it work? When a child is taught using simultaneous multisensory techniques, multiple messages are sent out to the brain at the same time. This means that you are using multiple pathways in the brain to reach your students. If one pathway to the brain is blocked (as in a learning disability), there are other alternatives. If a child cannot learn auditorially (by just listening), he can still learn through another available pathway. Researchers tell us that the brain has 100 billion connectors (neurons) that shoot out in many directions as we learn. Each neuron has an axon and many dendrites. To stay healthy, neurons must communicate with each other, carry out metabolism, and repair themselves. The child that has sustained brain damage from a complicated birth, head trauma, or malnutrition, etc., must try to learn 'by going around' these damaged neurons. If the teacher tends to instruct through lecture only, and the child has auditory processing issues, then that child probably won't learn much from this type of instruction. You can insure that all learners continue to benefit from instruction by including as many simultaneous multi-sensory lessons as you possibly can in your instructional time.
Interestingly enough, the functional MRI's of efficient readers show a very different type of activity in the brain from those that struggle with reading. Brain imaging of struggling readers show "diffused activity scattered throughout the brain," since some of these connections work inefficiently or not at all. (Scattered activity is an inefficient use of brain power.) However, good readers "use specific portions of the left brain, with brain activity highly focused in very specific areas." The real magic of multi-sensory teaching is this: multisensory learning experiences can actually remap the brain over time, training it to use the less preferred areas in future learning. An MIT study published in Aug., 2008 of the journal Neuropsychologia showed that remedial instruction resulted in an increase in brain activity in several regions of the brain associated with reading. The neural gains became further solidified during the year following the remediation! After 100 hours of intense remediation, the brain scans of the slow readers showed that their brains had been significantly "rewired" in comparison to the control group. There was almost no discernible difference in their brain scans when compared to the good readers. Here is the reason why: when you exercise a muscle, it gets stronger. And in a similar fashion, when you train the brain to learn, it also improves its own capacity to learn. The brain is an amazing organ; it can adapt and change over time as needed. So you really do have the ability to help children change how they use the pathways in their brains, simply by using simultaneous multi-sensory techniques.
When I teach children a new word using HeidiSongs, this is my general method. I show them the word, and have them spell it aloud with me several times as I point to the letters. We say the letters slowly, and then try to pick up speed, saying the letters faster, so that they are saying the letters at the same rate of speed as they will hear them in the song. Then, I show the children the motions to the song, and we sing it without the CD at least once. After that, I put on the music and we all sing the song through. I always hold the word card in my hand while we sing, pointing to the letters as we go. As soon as the song is finished, I ask the children what the word is, and wait for them to shout it out. If they say nothing, I ask them again until they respond. I try to remind them that we are singing the song so that they can learn to read and write the word that I am showing them. Once the song has been introduced, I play it as frequently as possible, especially during transitional times and whenever the kids need a break from sitting. Then later, we try to write the word while the music plays. We try to do this about once a week, either while watching the DVD or listening to the CD. I also have the children sing the spellings of the songs as the words come up in our writing lessons. I often also hear them singing to themselves while they write, or while playing sight word bingo, or even just while playing school. I always try to have the children write sentences that include the words we are learning as well, so that they are forced to apply the skills that they are learning in a meaningful way.
Additional Research Links:
The Power of Movement in Teaching and Learning
Susan Griss - Education Week - Published Online: March 20, 2013
The Benefits of Music on Child Development
By Jovanka Ciares and Paul Borgese - Paul Borgese.com
How Does Integrating Music and Movement in a Kindergarten Classroom Effect Student Achievement in Math.
Janet K. Evans Wayne State College, Wayne Nebraska
Singing to children may help development of language skills
Amelia Hill - guardian.co.uk, Sunday 8 May 2011 14.44 EDT
Rhymes 'boost child development'
Beverley Hughes, British Minister for Families and Children
Music And Child Development: The Importance Of Music To Your Developing Child
Daniel Dwase, editor of the online Child Development Guide
Rhythm and Music Help Math Students
Sophie Bushwick, www.scientific american.com/podcast
Learning Letters the Sensory Way -
Mommy with Selective Memory Blog - Feb. 8, 2012