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Ideas for Multisensory Encoding and Decoding

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

Take a moment to think about how you teach spelling and reading? What strategies do you use and suggest to students when teaching them how to read and spell? Do these strategies involve looking at the pictures? Using context clues to guess the words?

If you answered yes to the last two questions above, consider the following:

When looking at a picture are you actually reading a word or are you identifying an object in a picture? These are two different processes in our brains. Our brains were wired to identify objects; however, we were not born knowing how to read. Reading is something that needs to be learned and taught. Reading needs to be taught directly and explicitly.

What does that mean?

We must teach individual concepts by using multisensory, tactile strategies while following a scope & sequence when teaching encoding (spelling) and decoding (reading). This helps to improve working memory which in turn helps to store information in our long term memory. Using a scope & sequence helps build on previously taught concepts.

Multisensory ideas starting small:

Use rice, sand, or shaving cream to write letters using two fingers during the phonogram drill/ three-part drill (card drill practicing letters and sounds using keywords).

Skywriting (writing letters or words in the air using the whole arm) is a great way to practice with using gross motor skills.

Use different sprinkles, colored sand, dye rice, or add some food coloring to shaving cream for added fun!

I use red sand for red (nonphonetic, irregular words) also called heart words. View the photo below.

Be sure to use two fingers when tracing letters. This strategy is more tactile than just using a pencil, pen, or other writing tool. We want to make sure we are using as many senses as we can to really make the concepts stick for our students.

Want to avoid the mess? Use textured foam squares, carpet squares, or sand paper!

Pictured above is my small group area where I taught my Orton-Gillingham lessons. Those blue and green squares are textured foam pieces for two finger tracing (avoiding the mess). I have writing paper and my dictation sheet all ready to go. Student work is kept in 3 ring binders (we filled these up through out the year. These sessions were held for 45 minutes every morning).

Alright, lets get to the direct and explicit part!

Take a look at the posters displayed. They focus on spelling rules, syllable division, and red words (heart words) on the bulletin board. We didn't have a word wall. Word walls group words by the beginning letter.

In our classroom, we focused on sounds, spelling patterns, morphology, irregular words, and more.

Notecards are one of my must have resources in my small group area! If I find that students are struggling on a concept, I can quickly create an intervention using notecards.

Say a student is having a difficult time decoding a multisyllabic word. We can use notecards to code the word and cut it into syllables! Having trouble spelling a word with a suffix? Ask the student what the base word is. Have them sound it out using S.O.S Spelling (find posters for this here), write it on the card and then add the suffix.

Games, games, games! I love incorporating games into my lessons. Phonics games that focus on certain concepts are a great way to end a lesson, add in a review lesson, or if your students loved them as much as mine did... they were able to play them during free time every Friday! Phonics games or legos? Which would you choose? Go Fish was a popular one!

Do you see it yet? We are teaching word parts, not whole words! If you teach a child a word, they'll read that word, but if you teach a child a part of a word...they'll be able to read many, many words!

Using task boxes to review concepts is another loved resource by my students! They are also a great way to informally access student knowledge after the concept has been taught by you, the teacher.

Alright now lets talk about books! What books should we be using when teaching our phonics lessons?

Decodables!! Not leveled readers, why? Because they don't focus on specific concepts. Choose decodables that fit in with your lesson. This helps to avoid the use of unknown concepts in words.

You can incorporate decodables at the sentence level with my decodable fluency strips.

View some of my favorite decodable books below:

Once Upon a Phonogram Series is a great resource for planning your lessons! I love her decodable stories!

Read my blog post --> Must Have Resources for the OG Teacher for more of my favorite resources!

I hope you found some ideas to use with your students in your classroom! Thank you for reading and for all that you do for your students! - Colby, Special Inspirations

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