Creating links between ‘letters’ and ‘sounds’
The core principle of the multisensory approach is to create multisensory links between ‘letters’ (graphemes) and ‘sounds’ (phonemes).
More precisely, you work to bind four elements firmly together, namely, the ‘sound’, the name of the letter, the letter in printed style (both upper and lower case), and the letter in cursive script written style, using as many sensory modalities as possible.
Remember! It is essential to train yourself to produce pure sounds, and to teach pupils, especially those with dyslexia, to do the same and not add a vowel. This also applies to the parents or the ‘home’ of the child: they need to be made aware of the importance of pronouncing pure sounds, for example if they are asked to review the reading card with the child (see below)
For example, for the ‘letter’ < f > the ‘sound’ is [ f ], which in this case can be stretched fairly easily and is [ fffff ], but not [ feuh ].
We advise teaching these first because they can be ‘stretched’ easily:
[ f ], [ v ], [ m ], [ j ], [ l ], [ n ], [ r ], [ s ]
before the following, which cannot be stretched
[ b ], [ d ], [ g ], [ p ], [ t ], [ k ]
(It is more difficult to prevent yourself from adding a vowel and saying, for example, [ teuh ] )
You use the four modalities to teach the correspondences:
Pupils are invited to discover for themselves the ‘sound’ on which they are going to work. The principle of ‘direct discovery’ is important because it helps memory. This discovery can be prompted in various ways. In the following examples [ d ] is the ‘sound’.
You give a series of words which includes the ‘sound’:
‘Look carefully at my lips, listen carefully, and repeat each of these words after me:
[ dragon ], [ grid ], [ dug ], [ undo ], [ drag ]
What sound do you find in all of them?’
- Visual discovery. You give a series of pictures of objects whose names include the ‘sound’ and say: ‘Look at each picture and say the word for it. What is the sound which you can hear in all of these words?’
- Semantic discovery. You give a definition of something, the name of which includes the ‘sound’, for example: ‘I am thinking of a monster with wings that breathes out fire. What is it?’ Answer [ dragon ]
In all these exercises, the children should be asked to detect where the sound occurs in each word: beginning, middle or end. This promotes phonological analysis.
You present the written words corresponding to the spoken words you have said out loud. Then ask the children to find the ‘letter’ or grapheme, corresponding to the ‘sound’. You could also ask them to circle or underline this ‘letter’ and say where it is in the word.
The stimulation of this modality is carried out in this order of increasing difficulty:
- You ask the children to write the ‘letter’ on a rough surface, in a sand-tray, or in the air with the arm stretched and the other arm grasping the elbow of the first.
- Next ask them to write the ‘letter’ in cursive script several times following a model, preferably on lined paper, making sure the lines are respected, whilst saying the ‘sound’ and then the name of the letter. For example, ‘[ s ] is [ esss ]’.
- Then they write the ‘letter’ two or three times with their eyes closed, concentrating on the movement of the hand and arm, possibly resting one hand on the other if it helps awareness of the movement, again repeating the ‘sound’ and then the name of the letter.
This activity promotes the ‘muscular memory’ which will help memorize the representation of the grapheme in long-term memory.
On pressing the throat you do not feel the vibration for [ p ] because the vocal chords do not move but for [ b ] the throat trembles because the chords are vibrating. The same for the pairs [ t ]-[ d ], [ k ]-[ g ], [ f ]-[ v ], [ s ]-[ z ], and [ ch ]-[ j ]. Putting a hand on your mouth, you will notice that the lips are closed and the tongue is still when saying [ m ] but the lips open and the tongue is placed behind the top teeth for [ n ].
In practice, you teach the children to feel what their mouth and throat are doing when they produce different sounds. They put one hand on the mouth and the other on the throat, or use a mirror.
Discuss position of mouth, teeth, lips and tongue, and the vibration of the throat.
Making children with dyslexia more sensitive to what is happening in the throat and the movements of lips and tongue will help them to distinguish the sounds, as well as to memorize and produce them properly.
Other exercises can be used for reinforcing the connections between these four modalities, such as:
Tracking: You give the children a sheet with printed graphemes, words or sentences in various fonts. You ask them to circle the grapheme asked for every time they meet it, each time saying the sound and name of the grapheme, for example ‘[ p ] (the short pure sound) is [ pêh ]’ (the name of the ‘letter’).
This exercise trains the movement for reading from left to right as well as fine motor skills which helps the formation of letters, and strengthens the multisensory associations.
Auditory discrimination: the pupils have to say if the target ‘sound’ is present in a series of words presented either verbally or on picture cards, and if possible to say where the ‘sound’ is.
This exercise trains phonological analysis.
Please find below the materials and worksheets which have been presented to Joshua during the multisensory learning of the ‘letter’-‘sound’ or grapheme-phoneme correspondence < -igh > ↔ [ î ], as well as excerpts from the lesson.
We suggest you print the sheets before watching the video clips to see which activities have been completed during the lesson.
- The first sheet shows the series of pictures whose names contained the target ‘sound’ taught to Joshua – on this sheet, Joshua was asked to identify each picture and to find the ‘sound’ that was common to all the words presented, i.e. [ î ].
- The second sheet shows the names corresponding to the pictures of the first worksheet – on this sheet Joshua was asked to circle the ‘letter’ corresponding to the target ‘sound’
- The third sheet is a tracking worksheet which shows a mixture of target ‘letters’ and other ‘letters’ – on this sheet, Joshua was asked to track for the target ‘letter’.
With your course partner, make a plan containing the list of ‘steps’, i.e. modalities and/or activities, the beginning and end time for each ‘step’, and a brief description of the activity or activities involved in each of the ‘steps’. Try to find which modality was not used, and imagine (at least) two activities that could have been done with this modality, based on the description above.
Multisensory teaching of the correspondence < -igh > ↔ [ î ]
Outline of the sequence
1) Auditory modality: 00 min:00 sec. – 02 min:28 sec.
– visual discovery with five pictures whose names contain the ‘sound’ [ î ] (spelled < -igh >) (first worksheet)
– ‘direct discovery’ of the ‘sound’ [ î ] (Note : Joshua could not identify each word easily so he was helped to find the names of some pictures; however, the target ‘sound’ had never been mentioned to him in isolation.)
– auditory analysis of the position of the ‘sound’ within each word, to reinforce phonological analysis
2) Visual modality: 02:28 – 03:30
– identification of the ‘letter’ or grapheme < -igh > corresponding to the ‘sound’ [ î ] in each of the words (second worksheet)
– recapitulation of the sound of the ‘letter’, the name of the ‘letter’ and its visual form in order to reinforce the multisensory links between these three elements
– Visual analysis of the position of the ‘letter’ within each word, to reinforce visual and phonological analyses
3) Manual-kinaesthetic modality: 03:30 – 08:38
– following a model of the ‘letter’ ‘written in big’ on the board, with the finger
– writing of the ‘letter’ ‘in the air’
– writing of the ‘letter’ ‘in the air’ with eyes closed (with the other hand resting on the elbow of the tracing hand)
– writing the ‘letter’ on the basis of a model, following the lines on a sheet of paper
– writing the ‘letter’ on the worksheet, with eyes closed
4) Tracking activity: 08:38 – 09:20
– identification of the visual shape of the ‘letter’ in printed sequences (Joshua had to ‘catch’ each ‘letter’), pronunciation of the corresponding ‘sound’ and naming of its constitutive letters in order to reinforce the links between those three elements (third worksheet)
5) Auditory discrimination activity: 09:20 – 09:55
– listening to words and determining whether each word contains the ‘sound’ [ î ], represented by the ‘letter’ < igh >
6) Addition of the reading card to the ‘reading pack’ (see below): 09:55 – 10:30
– Introduction of the card and of the clue word corresponding to < -igh >, and drawing of a picture corresponding to that clue word ( < right > )
7) Addition of the reading card to the ‘spelling pack’ (see below): 10:30 – 13:02
– Addition of the spelling < igh > to the card containing the spellings already taught for the long vowel [ î ] ( < i > as in < ivy > in an open syllable, < i e > as in < time > in the middle of words, and < -y > as in < cry > at the end of words)
The oral-kinaesthetic modality was not used in this lesson. The two following activities could have been carried out:
– asking Joshua to put his hands on his mouth and throat and to pronounce the ‘sound’, in order to give him a feel of the position of the articulators (mouth, tongue, teeth, lips) associated with this ‘sound’
– asking Joshua to pronounce this vowel and unvoiced consonants, i.e. consonants known as voiceless which do not induce the vocal chords to vibrate ( [ p ], [ t ], [ k ], [ f ], [ s ], [ sh ] ) in order to make him aware of the voiced nature of the vowel [ ai ]