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Best in Class #1 Multisensory Instruction

Categories: Best in Class, Blog

We are proud to introduce a new monthly blog, Best in Class. This blog shares simple-to-do best practices straight from early learning educators. We hope these tips are useful for educators and parents who want to use best teaching practices with their children. 

Early Childhood and Multisensory Instruction

Our expert this month is Enrique Puig, Director of the Morgridge International Reading Center at the College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida. Enrique is a veteran educator and a former first grade teacher. He chose to share his knowledge of multisensory instruction with us this month in hopes of providing easy-to-use tips for parents and teachers.

At a Glance

  • Multisensory instruction means teaching to multiple senses—sight, sound, touch, movement, smell, and taste—to help different kinds of learners.
  • Using many senses in teaching is helpful for all children, but it can be an especially great way to help children with learning and attention issues.
  • There are many inexpensive and easy ways to incorporate multisensory learning into your lesson plan or into your playtime at home.

First, a bit of history

Multisensory instruction has received a lot of renewed interest in early childhood educator circles in recent years, but the concept is not new. I first learned about multisensory instruction in my undergraduate studies, four decades ago. Grace Fernald (1943) wrote about multisensory instruction over 75 years ago in her book Remedial techniques in basic school subjects. While there is no empirical research to support multisensory instruction across the board for all students, my personal teaching experiences and current literature, like Yong Zhao’s What works may hurt: Side effects in education, show that its effects can be very positive for students of all kinds.

In the Classroom or at Home

As a first grade teacher, I found it was relatively easy to incorporate multisensory instruction into my class plan. I hope this blog can help you bring a VAKT approach into your classroom as well!

VAKT Approach:

Visual: Learning by seeing images and visual representations

Auditory: Learning through language, hearing, reading

Kinesthetic: Learning through moving and doing

Tactile: Learning through hands-on experience and touch

Multisensory Spelling Three Ways


One exercise I love to use to teach and reinforce letters or sounds and essential sight words is multisensory spelling.

What You Need

  • Crayon
  • Blank Paper
  • Small piece of window screen or sandpaper
  • List of letters/sounds or essential sight words

How to get started

  1. Place the piece of window screen or sandpaper under your paper.
  2. Using the crayons, write the letters or words you want your students to practice on the paper with the piece of window screen under it.
  3. The final product will be a flash card that spells out your sight word with a pebble effect that the children can see, say, feel, and touch to help them remember.



Another fun approach I love to use to facilitate VAKT instruction is shaving cream spelling. An added bonus is that after you or the children have wiped off the shaving cream the tables are glistening and clean!

What you need:

  • Cheap shaving cream in a can (I like to go to the dollar store)
  • Paper towel
  • A table at child’s height

How to get started

  1. Spray shaving cream over a clean table.
  2. Let the children spread or flatten the foam
  3. Show the children how to practice their letters and numbers on their foam canvas
  4. Rinse and repeat!


Another inexpensive VAKT instruction approach I like to use is grain writing.

What you need:

  • A cookie sheet or tray
  • Sugar, sand, salt, rice, or another grain

How to get started

  1. Fill the cookie sheet or tray with the grain you’ve chosen to use
  2. Let the children spread or flatten their grain ‘canvas’
  3. Show the children how to practice their letters and numbers on their grain canvas


There are so many other practices that incorporate VAKT instruction. Safety and your imagination is the only limit

If you want more classroom tips, Understood.org has some great articles on how to teach reading, handwriting, and math using multisensory instruction.

The Benefits of Multisensory Instruction

If you work with children, you probably know the importance of engaging all of a child’s senses to help them to learn. But did you know that we humans find it challenging to remember information that is spoken?

In A Teacher’s Guide to Multisensory Learning: Improving Literacy by Engaging the Senses, the author explains that many people find it hard to retain information they only heard (Baines, 2008). It’s a shame that most of our education, even for sometimes young children, is set up to heavily favor auditory instruction.

What can we do, as teachers, to help our student learn? How about incorporating VAKT instruction techniques into our lesson plans? According to Fernald, when learners were exposed to visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile input, they were more likely to internalize the concepts and information being taught.

A Word of Caution

Applying multisensory instruction across the board may sound good on the surface and may be useful for most students, but not all students need the extra sensory input to learn. In some cases, it may be counterproductive. In A Teacher’s Guide to Multisensory Learning, the author explains that many students prefer visual learning to auditory or kinesthetic (Baines, 2008).

This is where our professional knowledge comes into play. It’s up to us to know our students’ strengths and needs and deliver instruction accordingly. Caution is the watchword, because willy-nilly application of multisensory instruction or any instructional practice may prove counterproductive to student learning.

I’d like to end my brief pedagogical ramblings with the idea that multisensory instruction a great mode of instruction if it builds on a student’s strengths and serves their learning needs.


Baines, L. (2008). A Teacher’s Guide to Multisensory Learning: Improving Literacy by Engaging the Senses. Alexandria, VA.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fernald, G. M. (1943). Remedial techniques in basic school subjects. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Zhao, Y. (2018). What works may hurt: Side effects in education. Columbia University: Teachers College Press.

Want to read more?

About the Author

Enrique A. Puig, Ed.D
Morgridge International Reading Center
College of Community Innovation and Education
University of Central Florida Chair, 2018-19
Florida Literacy Association (formerly Florida Reading Association)

Enrique A. Puig is a certified teacher in Florida with 40 years of experiences varying from K-12 classroom teaching, literacy coaching, to Reading Recovery®. He has been recognized as a Title I Distinguished Educator by the Florida Department of Education and worked as an education consultant for numerous school districts from Washington to the U.S. Virgin Islands and major publishing companies. He has presented on various aspects of K-12 literacy acquisition and instruction at state, regional, national and international conferences. Currently, Enrique is the director of the UCF Morgridge International Reading Center and 2018-19 Chair of the Florida Literacy Association. He teaches undergraduate and graduate K-12 Content Area Reading and Diagnostic Reading courses, in addition to supervising interns as a Professor in Residence, in the College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida. He is co-author of The Literacy Coach: Guiding in the Right Direction, 2 ed. (Allyn & Bacon/ Pearson), The Literacy Leadership Team: Sustaining and Expanding Success (Allyn & Bacon/ Pearson) and author of Guided Reading and Spanish-speaking Children (Scholastic).


This website provides information of a general nature and is designed for information and educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice.