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Research & Classroom Statistics

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!

Multisensory Brain mappingSimultaneous 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!

Multi-sensory Learning graph

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.

Rote Rehearsal vs. Elaborative Rehearsal

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

A Child’s Brain Develops Faster with Exposure to Music Education
By Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) at the University of Southern California

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

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class
Donna De La Cruz, New York Times Online

Rhythm and Music Help Math Students
Sophie Bushwick, www.scientific american.com/podcast

How Music Affects Developing Brains & Why it’s Important to Teach!
Sophie Bushwick, www.scientific american.com/podcast

Research Specific to HeidiSongs

Music and Movement: Effect on Kindergarten Sight Word Recognition for Struggling Readers  Kathy Hoyt, 2014

Kindergarten Sight Word Acquisition Abstract
Angelle N. Baladad, July 2007

The Impact of Music and Movement on Kindergarten Sight Word Achievement
Laura K. Brown 2013

Using Multisensory Methods in Reading and Literacy Instruction
Sara Ureno 2012

Other Links:

Learning Letters the Sensory Way -
Mommy with Selective Memory Blog - Feb. 8, 2012

Informal Classroom Statistics

I have received numerous accounts from teachers and parents around the nation telling me about their specific successes with the program. But lacking time and resources to do formal research, (I’m still in the classroom full-time with a growing family of my own), I can only report some specific findings from my own experience.

HeidiSongs in action

The Test:
A spelling test was given to all of my students at the end of the year. I tested them on the list of words that was required for them to know how to read by the end of the year. This list of words was generated by our district Kindergarten team of teachers. The list is the same as my CD for Sing and Spell the Sight Words (Vol. 1). It included the following words:

and, are, can ,for, go, have, he, here, is, like, me, of, on, my, play, said, see, she, that, the, they, to, was, with, you.

In my class, there were 21 students. (Our school is a Title One school with more than 43% of the children on a free lunch.) One student left for Mexico three weeks before school got out, and two were absent on the day we did this test. I never had a chance to give a make-up test, so only 18 students' scores were counted. Only about 8 children showed that they already knew the alphabet on the entry level tests given at the beginning of the school year. Of the 18 that were tested:

35% of my students got 100% of the words spelled correctly. (7 students missed 0 out of 25).

5% of my students got 94% correct. (1 student missed 1 word out of 25.)

10% of my students got 88% correct. (2 students missed 3 words out of 25.)

10% of my students got 80% correct. (2 students missed 5 words out of 25.)

5% of my students got 72% correct. (1 student missed 7 words out of 25.) (He is repeating K next year.)

10% of my students got 60% correct. (2 students missed 10 words out of 25.) (One of these girls is repeating K next year. The other has a family history of learning disabilities, and is grieving for her late father who passed away this year.)

10% of my students got 56% correct. (2 students missed 11 words out of 25.) (One boy is repeating K next year; the other boy moved to our school too late in the year to learn all of the songs.)

5% of my students got 20% correct. (1 student missed 15 words out of 25.) (She is repeating K next year.)

(10% of my students were absent, plus one moved to Mexico a month before school let out, for a total of 21 students..

The children who sang these songs in my class all year did significantly better than the child who joined us too late in the year to learn all of the songs. This child was working on grade level and could read 23/25 words on his reading test at the end of the school year. However, his spelling and writing ability lagged far behind his peers in my class who had been there all year long, singing and learning with me from the beginning. The child reports that his teacher did not sing songs with the Kindergarten students at his previous school in Corona, CA.
Of the children who were to be promoted to first grade in the fall, all of these got at least 80% correct, except for one, who has history of learning disabilities in the family. She was also grieving most of the year for her father who passed away of cancer just before Christmas during this school year. All of the other children who were able to spell less than 80% of the words are repeating Kindergarten next year. 60% of my class got 80% percent correct or better. 10% were not tested.

My class also learned all of the songs from the other Sing and Spell CD’s. I had the idea of testing them on all of the words too late in the school year to complete all of the tests. I did test five students in my highest group on spelling the words from the hardest spelling CD, Sing and Spell the Homonyms and More Sight Words. Those words include: again, away, come, could, help, house, how, jump, little, look, make, one, run, should, their, there, they're, three, to, too, two, want, we're, were, when, where, who, why, because, and would. (The other children were very unlikely to be able to attempt such a hard test, so I chose to spare them this particular test, since it was clearly inappropriate for them.) The children that were tested received the following scores:

1 boy received 100% correct out of 30 words. (He was an older Kindergartner, having turned 7 in Dec.)

1 boy missed only one out of 30 words. (He was an older Kindergartner, having turned 7 in Dec.)

2 boys missed five out of 30 words. (One boy was a younger Kindergartner, having turned 6 in June. The other boy was an older Kindergartner, having turned 7 in June, who was given the gift of an extra year in preschool.)

1 girls missed 9 out of 30 words.
(She was a much younger Kindergartner, having turned 5 in October. Despite her age the only words she missed were: again, little, their, they're, were, where, because, why, and would. These are not words that a Kindergartner of any age would be expected to spell.)
(These children were easily able to differentiate between the homonyms when I told them cues such as, "This is the "too" that means "also" or "too much.") I was surprised that they were able to do this at such a young age.

I thought also that it was interesting that my very wiggly and extremely active (but smart) boys did better than the one little girl in the group who was able to sit still nicely. Apparently the “get up and move” nature of the lessons reached the boys better than it did the girls, at least in this case. But she started out the year not even knowing all of the letters, so she actually came farther than the boys did in her group.

All songs are fun and catchy, and are teacher tested and kid approved. Every child can easily memorize the spellings of these words and begin writing as soon as they are able to write the alphabet and can read a few words. The final song on the CD is a song that reminds children to put a period at the end of each sentence.

Reading Tests:
I also tested my 8 highest students on the first 100 of the sight words that are taught in first grade. I perceived the he other students to be incapable of attempting this test, and I didn’t want to put them through the trauma of attempting to read so many unknown words out of context.

Of the 8 students tested, these were the results:

1 boy got 98% correct.
1 boy got 96% correct.
1 girl got 88% correct.
2 boys got 82% correct.
1 girls got 73% correct.
1 boy got 43% correct.
1 girl got 41% correct.

Again, the boys outscored the girls.

Writing applications:
The children as a whole did much better with the words that we practiced writing in sentences throughout the year. They did more poorly on the words that I never asked them to include in a sentence. We focused mostly on the list of required words from the district.

The children who appeared to enjoy singing more, and who were actively participating more, tended to do better on all writing tasks, both in writing sentences and in the spelling tests given at the end of the year. However, all children seemed to benefit equally from singing about the words, strictly from a reading point of view. They all did better in learning to read the words faster when songs were sung about the words, with the teacher showing the word frequently to the children as they sang.