Sensory Phonics

Updated: Feb 10

My first teacher at primary school in the 1970's was a very kind but strict lady!

Everyday the class would recite the alphabet parrot fashion until it was ingrained in our brains!

By the time we left her class that summer we could all recite the alphabet backwards!

Thankfully things have moved on!

In this blog I am going to explore how to teach phonics in a fun and engaging way through the senses.

For the purposes of this blog I will focus on the letter 'S' using the Letters & Sounds model.

Phonics Sensory Bag

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












Sunflower Seeds






(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.

Click Here to learn more about Sensory Bins

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.

Click Here to learn more about Sound Effects

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














Get Crafty!

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)

Building learning

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.

I like to teach using 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

(I bought these from ebay approx £.2.30)

Scrabble Board and tiles

(I bought mine secondhand from a charity shop)

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

Treasure Hunt

Look around the house for items starting with the letter you are learning.

Give plenty of clues!

Get in Touch!

Your questions, comments, ideas and feedback are always welcome!


Facebook: storytellingthroughthesenses

Twitter: @RhymingStories


Visit the Story Library on the website for your free, fully resourced multisensory stories and poems.

If you enjoyed this check out my other blogs:


Sound Effects

Lockdown Haircuts

Washing Hands

Health and Safety

The author has used their best efforts in preparing this blog and makes no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness to the contents.

The activities are ideas and you are responsible for any activities you decide to carry out.

The activities are designed to be led and supervised by a responsible adult at all times.

If you are concerned or have doubts regarding any activity or prop used, then seek advice before starting.​

Be aware of choking hazards.

Check the ingredients in any items you may be using for any potential food or skin allergies or respiratory reactions. If you see any signs of redness, swelling or other symptoms of a suspected reaction seek immediate medical advice.

Most importantly....Have Fun!

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