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Multisensory tasks for teaching vocabulary

Multisensory tasks for teaching vocabulary
My name is Gabriella Doczi-Vamos. I’m an English teacher. I work in Hungary. I teach primary and secondary school dyslexic learners. I take part in research focusing on dyslexia and give workshops and teacher trainings to teachers teaching English or other languages to dyslexic learners.
The activity, “Listen to the Words,” is a multi-sensory version of the traditional gap-filling activity. It’s age and language level independent, and can be very different ways. The aims of the activity are to develop listening skills with a special focus on recognising individual words, to develop attention and concentration, as well as to practise and revise vocabulary, but not to learn new vocabulary. This activity takes approximately 15 minutes. But it depends on which variation you choose, how long the text is, and on the number of words you want to work with. And it can be carried out as an individual task and as a paired work, as well. As for preparation, you have to prepare a text.
But you can work with an already existing text. You have to prepare a simple task sheet for the individual students for the individual work. And you have to prepare small word cards like this that can fit in the different gaps. You also have to prepare large work cards from the very same words. You can use paper that is a light colour. For example, mind is light green. Write with big letters. To refresh the words, you can choose the following task. Hold the word card in front of you so that you don’t see them and the student can see them. The student already knows these words.
Tell them to tell you hints, to give you hints, to circumscribe or paraphrase the words in order to help you to guess the word. When you guess the word, give the word card to the student. At the end, the aim is that at the end, each student has at least one word card. Give the envelopes with the word cards to each student. Tell them to get familiar with the words to spread them out on their tables in front of them. And give a text to each student, and tell them to read through it and get familiar with the text. Then read the text aloud three times and tell the students to put the individual words into the suitable gaps.
If it is difficult for them to put the word immediately to the gap, tell them just to put it in order in front of them on the table. Now read the text aloud.
“Queen of crime. In a writing career lasting more than 55 years, Agatha Christie wrote 72 novels, 66 mystery novels, 6 romance novels, and 15 short story collections. Her magnificence lies in her characters, her simple language, and intriguing plots, and subplots that challenge readers to figure out who done it.” When you can see that all the words are at their place, you can check the answers in the following way. Tell the students to take the large word cards to listen to the text one more time. And when they hear the word they have, just raise it up.
“In a writing career lasting more than 55 years, Agatha Christie wrote 72 novels, 66 mystery novels, 6 romance novels, and 15 short story collections. Her magnificence lies in her characters, her simple language, and the intriguing subplots and plots that challenge readers to figure out who done it.” This activity is beneficial for dyslexic learners, because at the traditional gap-filling activity, it’s very difficult for a dyslexic person to listen to the text, to recognise the word visually, to write it appropriately to the suitable gap at the same time. With this variation, they do not have to concentrate in all this at the very moment.
Other variations– for example, if you don’t have much time for a preparation, or you have more than 20 students in your class, you can design it as a paired work. When it is a paired work. one student gets the text. The other gets the word cards. One student reads it aloud. The other puts the words into the suitable gaps. And when they are finished, they can change roles.
So the title of this task is “Your Home” or “My Home.” It depends on the perspective. And the main aim is to teach or practise vocabulary. In this case, I am teaching the rooms in the house. So this is mainly aimed at elementary students who are learning these words now. But the techniques that you will see can be easily adapted to other groups of vocabulary, especially to those which are also related to places like airports. Or a very easy to tie-in task would be to teach the names of the furniture in the rooms in the same way. So this task takes about 45 minutes– so the whole class basically.
The students will learn the names of the rooms in the house. And then they will also learn how to incorporate those words into a short text and how to talk about their own homes. Before you go to class, prepare some pictures of the rooms that you would like to teach. And also prepare a short description of your own home preferably, because it makes it more personal, and it’s more natural for the students, perhaps even a bit interesting for them. And before the class starts, you should make two drawings– house and the flat on the board. As you can see, they don’t have to be exceptionally great drawings.
Also, you should prepare a floor plan of your house, the house or your home that you’re going to speak about. And put up the pictures onto the appropriate rooms, and also label each of them. So when you begin the activity, at first, ask the students who lives in the house while pointing to the picture of a house. And the students raise their hands, those who live in the house. Then you should do the same with the block of flats. Who lives in a flat? The students raise their hands.
Next, you tell the students that we are going to play a memory game and that they should do their best to remember who in the group lives in a house and who lives in a flat. So you ask the questions again. The students put up their hands. But this time, they have a few seconds or half a minute to look around and to memorise who lives where. After that, the students can come to the centre, or here, in front of the board and ask a student to volunteer who wants to try and sort the students according to where they live.
And so the students tries to sort the group into the people who live in a house and the people who live in a flat. Tell them that they should say the sentence, like Peter lives in a house, or Mary lives in a flat. To help the students, you can also write the sentence on the board. After you have done this activity, the students have hopefully memorised these two basic words. Then you can move on to the drawing of your house and simply tell the students about it. And as you tell them, point out the pictures, or each of the rooms. So for example, I’m going to do my description. I live in a flat in Budapest.
And as you enter the house, you can see the hall first. Then if you walk on, you arrive into the living room. And there is also the dining room and the kitchen. The living room, the dining area and the kitchen are in the same room. To the right, you can find the toilet. And to the left, you can find the bathroom. Next to the bathroom, we have the bedroom. Finally, outside we have a garden. So just a simple description like this. You can prepare a gap text version of this description or just some sample sentences that the students will later use to build their own little texts or to talk about their own houses.
After you have pointed out the rooms, then do it again. Talk about your flat again. But this time, when you mention each room, do a little mime. So for example, I can say, there is the bathroom. And then I mime showering or bathing. Or next to the bathroom, there is the bedroom. And then I can mime sleeping. For the garden, it can be digging or something else. Then after this step, when you do the description again, you should not mention the name of the rooms. You just do the mime, and the students say the name. You can do this several times.
You can do this part in different variations until the students you think remember or are more confident with the names of the rooms. If you think you have reached this stage, then again, you can remove the pictures.
So remove all of them one by one. Put them face down. And then you hold them up to the students so that the students can see it, but you can’t. The students mime, and you say the name of the room. Or you can do it the other way around. It depends on how well you think the students have mastered the words. After this stage, the pictures are again up. However, this time, you can erase the names one by one. So for example, I have erased hall say hall, toilet, bathroom, bedroom. The students repeat after me, or one by one. And then in each round, I erase another label so that by the end, only the pictures remain.
And the students can tell me all of the rooms without the labels. When you are done with this stage, then you can give the students this gapped text that I mentioned, which has sample sentences on them. And they can work individually or in pairs to create their own descriptions. If you have any time remaining during the lesson, then the students can use it to practise speaking about their houses or flats based on these descriptions. And for homework, they have to practise more or write a longer description. And then the next lesson, they have to present this little text about their house. So basically, this is how the activity goes.
It is very beneficial for dyslexic students because of the pictures, the miming. So this all makes it multisensory. And also, it’s very advantageous that they can use it in context right after learning them so they will be more likely to remember them.

In this video Borbála Kálmos and Gabriella Dóczi Vámos present two tasks that they find particularly useful in teaching vocabulary to dyslexic students.

As you watch think about how you could apply or adapt these tasks for your teaching context.

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Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching

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