SLOOM! M is for multi-sensory

SLOOM! M is for Multisensory

There is no shortage of multi-sensory teaching advice. An online search for the phrase “multi-sensory teaching” (MT) will yield tens of millions of results (including plenty of play-dough and a few strange pictures of tongues). This approach was first pioneered by Orton-Gillingham in the 1930s (by name at least) and promotes giving kids more than one method to learn new skills: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. MT keeps in mind that children learn differently and allows them to tap into their strengths.

Here are a few ideas:


Make learning phonics and letter sounds memorable by creating actions for each of the sounds. Pretend to be a blob of jelly when teaching the /j/ sound, or act out licking a lollipop to memorise the /l/ sound (see Jolly Phonics).

Handwriting & Spelling

For handwriting, why not use different sized and coloured writing utensils and paper (including sandpaper, sandbox trays, shaving foam, chalkboards, and much more). Textured materials such as sandpaper and chalkboards create a sensory experience, and larger paper and writing utensils can help with muscle memory (think overlearning). Use a tennis ball as a pencil grip or for grasping larger writing utensils by poking holes in the ball and sliding the pen through the ball.

Sand trays are great for teaching spelling and handwriting. The grains of the sand can reinforce letter formation and sensory stimulation, and the larger muscle movements can support learning.

The word cat is a "regular" word we teach early on because all the letters say the correct sounds -

/c/ /a/ /t/). Writing in sand can also support the spelling of irregular words like where, the, what.

Say and stretch

Before writing out a word, slowly say the word you want to spell while stretching out your arms for each sound in the word. For example, if a student wants to write the word “cat” and asks you to help them, have them stretch out the word with their hands while simultaneously saying it slowly so they can hear each individual sound. You may need to first model this for them, but eventually they can begin using this strategy on their own, thus developing their own metacognition.


Using counters (including shapes or small figures) can make early counting skills fun for kids. Along with addition and subtraction, dienes and Numicon are useful for teaching multiplication and division. Last week I taught double digit by double-digit multiplication to a small group of kids who never successfully did it before… all through the use of dienes. I showed them how to set them up multiplication problems arrays, and once they could do that they enjoyed the challenge of solving the problem and coming up with their answer.

(Click here to download my “Concrete Multiplication Guide” for arrays. If that doesn’t take your fancy, check out my traditional concrete column multiplication guide HERE.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed the SLOOM! Series. Remember to SLOOM your teaching!

S- Scaffolding

LO- Little and Often

O- Overlearning

M- Multi-sensory

(click each to view)