Multisensory Approaches to Learning Sight Words

Posted by Big Universe on Mar 26, 2013 8:00:12 PM


Multisensory approaches to early literacy creates active learning opportunities. It involves using our senses of sight, sound, touch, and kinesthetic action – and learning by doing is the most effective way to reinforce and retain learning. It also taps into a special needs child’s particular strengths and is a way of adjusting material for a child’s learning style. This approach also helps typical students who are beginning readers or those struggle with reading comprehension difficulties.

Why take a multisensory approach to sight words? By paring the visual word to the image, sight words becomes more than just seemingly arbitrary letters that represents sounds, it provides a context. A free resource from provides a ABC: Dolch Nouns PDF that is easy to print and use immediately.

Store-bought sight-word flash cards and Popcorn words (words that are written on popcorn shapes) and Bingo games are fun ways to practice.




Reading Rockets suggests using “manipulatives” such as sound boxes or magnetic letters help teach letter-sound relationships. Susan Jones of Resource Room/Team Prairie, LLC, has compiled a list of multisensory ways to learn sight words, using combinations of auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic modes that include Rhythmic Recitation; Air Writing; Closed-Eye Visualization; Blind Writing; Velvet Board; and Double Board.

Sound boxes are a visual way of isolating the phonemes in a word. It can be made with just pennies, paper and a pencil. Scholastic provides easy-to-follow instructions here. If creating your own sound box seems daunting, there are great kits, ready-to-use:

And there are many hands-on ways to learn and reinforce sight word recognition. Julie Van Alst of Make, Take & Teach, LLC packages a hands-on kit that teachers or parents can use appropriate tools to reinforce Dolch sight words.


Included is a free sight word assessment for the Dolch 220 sight words to sight words flashcards (with categories such as “Words I Know,” “Words I Am Learning” to “Words I Will Learn”). Then providing multisensory activities, such as using Bendaroos and Play-Doh, children can “write” the sight words.









Whether you buy your materials or make your own, teachers and parents have many tools to teach sight words...and make reading fun.

ABC Image courtesy of Maggie Smith at

Topics: Classroom Ideas, Special Education, Literacy

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