Sensory Phonics

Updated: Jun 20

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 student 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 student 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 student to tell you or show you what you might do with the item and where you might find it.

(If the student 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 student.

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.

Sensory Bins

A sensory bin is a container filled with themed items that provide a calming activity and the opportunity to learn whilst Engaging the Senses and Meeting Sensory Needs.

Sensory bins provide the opportunity for the individual to Explore their Likes Dislikes & Sensory Preferences. You can use this information to identify motivators or to calm an individual when stressed, or to identify triggers, some you may seek to avoid, others to gradually desensitise in a safe and therapeutic environment.

This sensory play Promotes Fine Motor Skills as the sensory explorer manipulates the objects, Problem Solving Through Experimentation, Creativity & Imagination Through Exploration and Promotes Language & Communication Skills

How to make a Letter 'S' Sensory Bin

Find a Container

A basket, box, bucket, cardboard Box, cement mixing/Tuff Tray, plastic storage Box or lay a sheet on the floor.

Create a Base Layer

Add sand, straw, sawdust, soil, spaghetti, soil, spinach leaves, sunflower seeds.

Scatter Items Starting with the Letter 'S'

Satsuma, (toy) snake, (a bar of) soap, strawberries, sticks, sponges, (raw) sprouts.

Add Items to Promote Fine Motor Tools

Cups, spoons, forks, measuring jugs, colander, whisk, sieve, funnel, pipette, food tongs, wooden utensils, scoops, jumbo grip tweezers, paintbrushes, chopsticks.

Add Items to Encourage Scientific Investigation