Multisensory storytelling is often used in special educational needs settings as a way of providing individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities, the opportunity to connect with literature, culture and topic and to participate in storytelling.
Storytelling in a SEN setting builds a bond between the storyteller and the story explorer, nurturing well-being and enriching experiences. It builds trust and aids understanding and communication, social emotional development.
The combination of sensory stimuli, rhyme and the repetitive structure of the stories, forms an excellent base on which to scaffold learning, enabling the individual to work towards learning goals and personal targets that can easily be built into the stories.
Exposure to stimuli allows the story explorer to engage with new experiences to calm and alert the sensory system, in a safe, therapeutic and fun environment and to use their senses to understand and make sense of the world around them in a way that is meaningful to the individual.
Sensory stories are an excellent motivating tool for encouraging alternative communication systems. non-verbal, early communication skills, Makaton, BSL, body sign, choose boards, and to facilitate PECS exchanges. The story props back up the spoken word so can help build the confidence of speakers with speech impediments.
Additional learning is enhanced through the development of turn taking skills, building tolerance, attention skills and sharing. Other learning outcomes are the skills of shared attention, increased engagement, achievement of learning targets, reduction in unwanted behaviours, social interaction and helping individuals to overcome any personal barriers through a safe environment.
We use sequences in our daily life from brushing our teeth to making a sandwich or following a recipe. Story sequencing is recognising the order of events with a beginning a middle and an end. Teaching these skills of organising information and ideas develops the students' ability to comprehend a story they have listened to and helps with problem solving skills. It teaches also transition words first, second, last.
Building Comprehension Skills
At the end of the story, label 3 boxes or trays ‘Beginning’, ‘Middle’ and ‘End’, '1st, ‘2nd, ‘3rd, '1st' 'Next' 'Last' or ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’.
This will break the story into more manageable components. You could break this down further by having two labelled boxes, 'Beginning' and 'End'.
Can the story explorer identify the prop that represented the first encounter in the story?
Can the story explorer pick out the key elements to the story and sort the props into their correct boxes?
Can the story explorer tell or show you what happened at the end of the story?
Can the story explorer tell or show you what happened after a specific event (i.e if presented a prop can they select the prop that followed?)
Can the story explorer use gestures or body language to help convey the words? (Provide clues by describing the item they are looking for, or presenting them with the smell or feel of the item)
It is interesting the see the story explorer's interpretation of the story!
Some individuals may recall the ending of the story as that is the part they heard most recently or they may focus on sections they enjoyed the most!
Here are some ideas of how to teach phonics in a fun and engaging way through the senses, focusing on the letter 'S'.
Place a variety of items starting with the letter(s) you wish to teach into a non-see through bag or a pillowcase.
When choosing items think of engaging all the senses: Add items that stimulate the vision, tactile items that feel nice to the touch, items to smell and taste.
The learner selects items (one at a time) from the bag then uses their sense of smell, touch and taste to guess what the item is.
(If the learner is unsure then provide plenty of clues.)
Letter S items
(Look through a toy chest for items: snail, spaceman, spinner, spider etc)
Build functional language skills
Ask the learner to tell you or show you what you might do with the item and where you might find it.
(If the learner is unsure, model what to do with the item and encourage them to copy your action)
Keep language simple
Focus on phrases such as 'Choose' or 'Take one' when presenting the bag to the learner.
Focus on the name of the object e.g. 'starfish', 'sponge', 'snake' and two-word phrases e.g. 'long snake', 'yellow sponge'.
Click Here to learn more about Sensory Bags
Phonics Sensory Bin
A sensory bin/tray is a container filled with themed items that provide a calming activity and the opportunity to learn through exploration whilst engaging the senses and meeting sensory needs.
Layer your tray/bin/box with sand, straw, sawdust, spaghetti or soil.
Scatter with items starting with the letter 'S'
Add fine motor tools :
Cups, spoons, forks, measuring jugs, colander, whisk, sieve, funnel, pipette, food tongs, wooden utensils, scoops, paintbrushes, chopsticks, moon dust (see recipe below)
Add items to encourage scientific investigation:
Torch, magnifying glass, magnets, pen/paper, egg carton/ice cube/cake baking tray for sorting items, plastic tweezers and a mirror.
Encourage mark making the letter 'S'
Phonics Listening Game
Listening games teach sound discrimination, promoting the development of language, communication and comprehension skills and increasing attention span.
A quick search on the internet will provide you with access to a library of free audio clips and sound effects that can be played via your phone, iPad, Kindle or recorded on a Dictaphone.
There are also sound effect apps available.
Can the listener imitate the sound using their voice?
Can the listener correctly identify the sound?
(Provide plenty of clues!)
Letter S Sounds
Reinforce learning with craft activities:
Stuffed Sensory Sock Snakes
This is an excellent activity for encouraging hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and gives you the opportunity to model language as well as providing a wonderful sensory experience.
You will need:
Old Socks or Tights
A Filler: Straw/Sponges/Sand/Sawdust/Soil/Spaghetti (dried)
Stuff the socks with items from the list above then tie a knot in the end to secure.
Allow supervised free exploration of the snakes, they will differ in weight, length, smell and texture.
(Tip! Adding a few drops of essential oil to the fillers will enrich the experience)
Explore the letters 's' 'a' t' 'p' individually then progress onto mixing the letters together adding props starting with all those letters into your bag.
Tip! Check understanding my add an item to the bag that does NOT begin with the letters 's' 'a' 't' 'p'
Teach the Words
Use a Range of Letter Resources
Use tactile props, it is fun and allows the learner to manipulate and explore the letters and make words without having to write them down.
Here are a few ideas:
Wooden letter tiles
Scrabble Board and tiles
Magnetic Letters on a baking tray.
Paint pebbles and write letters on them.
Use stickers with letters on.
Write in chalks on the patio/fence.
Write letters on recycled plastic milk bottle tops.
Mould letters using clay/plasticine or Play-Doh
Look around the home or classroom for items starting with the letter you are learning.
Give plenty of clues!