Studies have shown that we rely heavily on our senses to process information when learning and engaging more than one sense when teaching can help information processing. Using multiple senses allows more cognitive connections and associations to be made with a concept. This means it is more easily accessible to your students as there are more ways the information can be triggered and retrieved from their cognitive learning centre. We all have different learning styles and as a teacher it is crucial to make lessons beneficial to all your students. Here are handy tips on how to make learning a fun, multisensory experience to help children remember and retain information more effectively.
Although it might seem obvious, sight is a crucial sense when it comes to learning, especially for visual learners who use this sense the most. It can be taken for granted as most activities involve ‘seeing’. To make lessons more memorable, engage your students with eye catching resources; black and white sheets are not motivating or stimulating and become easily boring to children. There is a fine balance between making a resource, for example a work sheet, interesting to children yet not too distracting away from the task. Use resources that incorporate colours and characters into the work itself. Actual ‘looking tasks’ are beneficial to children’s cognitive development for example word searches, spot the difference and ‘Where is …?’ as they make them pay attention to, and register small details, more. Sight tasks can be incredibly memorable tools when used in an effective way- so make sure they are utilized.
Sound plays a crucial role for everyone in the learning path but particularly for auditory learners. It helps children understand the world around them better and provides another layer of comprehension that sight alone can’t offer. Incorporate tasks that use hearing into the classroom; it has been found that playing soft, calming music when working can help concentration so put on a classical CD during quiet time as background music. Additionally, there are aural tasks that offer a different type of activity which makes the everyday learning fun for children. Playing tapes that involve’ identifying and labelling’ gives children the chance to develop a holistic concept; for example they may know what an animal looks like but by hearing their sound they can begin to understand more aspects of the species. Nature is just one example of where sound can aid comprehension; it is also a useful tool in PE, geography and science. In fact, it is hard to find a subject where it will not aid learning so incorporating hearing tasks into lessons will only be beneficial.
Everyone loves food- and it can be educational! Aside from Food technology taste can play a large part in the curriculum, for example in history and geography. Tasting and making dishes from around the world or a famous historical food are fun activities for your students and will certainly make for a memorable lesson. If you can associate a fact with a fun memory it helps you to retain more information. For example if you were doing yeast reactions in science actually making bread from yeast will provide a vivid image for your students to relate the scientific facts to which is reinforced further by tasting the bread. Or, irreversible reactions can use food such as boiling eggs and making jelly. So, although baking might not seem all that relevant to science by engaging multiple senses it will increase fact memory. Additionally, baking is a group activity so will reinforce team spirit and cooperation in your students.
The sense of smell is a very powerful tool to have at our disposal. We subconsciously associate smells with different things, for example family members, happy memories or places. This can be used in the classroom by building associations with different smells and linking them to the lesson. If you are teaching about flowers get some particularly pungent plants for the children to sniff. The same can be applied to most subjects. Additionally, having a fresh smelling classroom makes for a successful learning environment so open the windows and invest in an air freshener to let the motivational breeze in! Don’t forget about smell; this strong sense can be easily overlooked and under used.
Children learn better if they have something in front of them that they can feel and physically touch, and even better if they made it themselves. Get your students expressing themselves using play dough, plasticine, paint, bubble wrap, paper-mache…the list is endless! This is a chance to get creative with your students and let them experiment themselves through making and touching. Textures are an important tool and creativity needs to be developed at school. Lessons incorporating touch and movement will be particularly beneficial to kinesthetic learners and it will be fun for everyone.
So, to have a happy classroom and successful students ensure that learning is multi-sensory and include activities that stimulate all the senses into your lessons.
Anna Pitts is an Online Researcher at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau