According to Preventing Academic Failure (PAF), a program that promotes reading success, a multi-sensory approach is necessary in order to ensure success with those students struggling with reading, spelling, and handwriting. When working with your child at home, it is effective to use auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modalities simultaneously. PAF supports that all connections between these modalities need to be made in order for a child to be able to read fluently.
These three main modalities can be used in many ways that mimic the PAF program, and that will entice your child to enjoy learning to read, write, and spell new and unfamiliar words. If your child is reading a book to you and approaches a word he or she pronounces incorrectly, the first thing you as the parent can do is stop your child and say the word for him or her. This way your child can hear the correct pronunciation of the word. Then, you should ask your child to repeat how you just said the word or even say the word along with your child. These routines help your child to build an auditory understanding of the new word.
Next, you can help your child build a visual understanding of the word by perhaps writing the word on an index card and highlighting the word parts. For instance, in the word “cat” you can highlight the “c” for the /k/ sound and “at.” Even more simply, you can put your finger over the word parts in the book to illustrate this to your child.
The last modality to incorporate is the kinesthetic approach. As your child has an auditory and visual understanding of the word, it is also helpful to use ‘skywriting’ as a tool to physically interact with the word. ‘Skywriting’ involves using your finger in the air to physically write and spell the word. When modeling the spelling of this new word for your child, it is important to ‘skywrite’ the word backwards in front of your child, so that your child sees the spelling of the word in the correct orientation. In addition, when modeling this feature, you should sound out the word as you are ‘skywriting.’ Then, ask your child to ‘skywrite with you,’ and follow with your child ‘skywriting independently.
Finally, you can assess your child’s ability to read and write this word by asking him/her to write the word in a sentence and read the sentence to you. Of course, you should give a “kid-friendly definition” of the word if your child is unaware of its meaning before asking to do this task. If your child is having trouble understanding your definition, sometimes it is helpful to show a picture by drawing it or finding an image on the web.
While using the three modalities simultaneously when reading with your child may seem complex, it allows your child to take ownership of the reading process and learn new words that will help him/her to become a more fluent reader.
Written by Brittany Rumeld Cogan, Learning Specialist