Triveni Goswami Vernal
Registered Special Educator (A64010)

Reading involves the process of decoding—of being able to break down sounds in words and produce them in speech. It involves the skill of establishing a relationship between letter and sound. Recognizing that each letter and letter combinations have a sound, can help the child be able to memorize the letter-sound relationship, better.

According to the article, “The importance of Word Decoding in Reading

There are different skills involved in word decoding:
• Alphabet knowledge is the first building block of literacy in the English language. Once students know individual letters and the sounds of letters, they can move on to more advanced concepts.
• Phonemic and phonological skills help students with word decoding since these skills give children the ability to recognize how different sounds make up words.
• Learning to sound out and blend letters and phonemes prepares children for independent reading. In order to be successful, they must be able to isolate phonemes from complex words.”

Phonemes are the smallest unit of sound that cannot be divided further (sound of ‘t’, ‘b’), whereas Syllable is a group of sounds (‘ma’, ‘book’) that can be spoken with a single push of breath.

The Orton Gillingham approach is a multisensory approach that helps individuals experiencing difficulties with Reading. It teaches the connections between letters and sounds. The Orton Gillingham approach. focuses on the process of decoding through multi-sensorial techniques.

Some of the important characteristics of the Orton Gillingham approach are as follows—It is language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible (

A Multisensory approach to reading will encompass the various sensory systems—vision, tactile/kinaesthetic, auditory and movement. In the Orton Gillingham approach, when teaching the alphabet, for example, letter “c”, the individual will be taught to first ‘see’ it (vision), then ‘say’ it (auditory), ‘air write it’ (movement) and ‘trace it on a sand paper /shaving foam’(tactile/kinaesthetic). The idea is that when all the sensory channels are involved in learning something new, a “muscle memory” will be created for it, which will subsequently help the individual memorize and recall, much better. Multisensory activities provide scaffolding/ support that helps the individual to learn better. It need not continue forever.


1) Tracing letters on a sand tray or shaving foam.
2) Using bendy straws to make letters.
3) Use play dough to roll shapes into letters.
4) Make sight words (high frequency words) using yarn or any other very tactile material.
5) ‘Air writing’ to help build muscle memory.
6) Use sandpaper letters or even sandpaper to trace the letters.
7) Plastic letters to make words.

RIC Publications has listed down 12 multisensory phonics activities (,

Kinesthetic activities

A way to get students moving and doing; using their body in some form or fashion as they learn to read.

1. Twist it
Take a TwisterTM mat and write different sounds students are learning in place of the mat colours and spinner with dry-erase marker (making it easy to change the sounds for later games). Now students can play a game of TwisterTM where they place their respective body part on the sound the spinner lands on.

2. Roll it
Set up several pocket dice with the sounds your class is currently learning. Students take turns rolling the dice and saying the sounds out loud.

3. Mould it
Using playdough, students recreate the shapes of letters that form the sounds they are learning in class.

4. Swat it
Write relevant sounds onto cards and place them on the floor. Give one student a flyswat and call out a sound. The student then finds that sound and hits it with the flyswat.
Auditory activities

5. Sort it
Collect 6–8 objects that include the phonics students are learning and put them in small tubs. For example, you might include a ball for ‘b’, ‘a’ and ‘ll’ or a toy cat for ‘c’, ‘a’ and ‘t’, depending on which sound you choose to focus on. Students take out one object at a time and identify the sounds of each word. Ask them to group together the objects that share sounds.

6. Match it
Present students with several pictures that share sounds (e.g. cat, camel, cap; or dog, rug, mug). Students state each word aloud and then identify the sound that the words have in common.

7. Guess it
Use sticky notes to place sounds over ‘Guess Who?TM’ character faces. Split students into pairs and give each one a word spelled from the sounds. Students take turns asking about their partner’s word until they can guess it. For example, ‘Does the word have a ‘sh’ sound? Is there a ‘k’ in it?’

8. Sing it
There are many catchy songs online that can either introduce or revise letter sounds. Here’s a simple one that goes through the alphabet. The tune can easily be adapted to cover more difficult sounds, including digraphs. Alternatively, you can encourage students to invent their own phonics songs.

Visual activities

9. Remember it
Create a deck of image cards, with pairs that represent the same sound but have different pictures (for example, a shark and a fish for the ‘sh’ sound). Lay the cards out facedown. Students take turns flipping over two cards and saying the name of each image. If no sounds match, they turn the cards back over and the next player takes their turn. If the student can match the sounds, they keep the pair and have another turn.

10. Flash it
As a whole class or with individuals, show students flashcards of a sound and ask them to identify it. Add an image for students who need extra help (for example, a snake for ‘ss’). This quick activity can be done throughout the day to give students more exposure to the sounds—especially those you wish to target. Change the difficulty by flashing the cards at different speeds.

11. Peg it
Create a set of cards that include a sound and a choice of pictures; for example, animals. Provide your students with clothes pegs and the cards. Students need to identify the sound and pictures on the card and peg the picture which includes the identified sound.

12. Erase it
Draw a scene or picture on a whiteboard or chalkboard. For every letter you state, have students erase one item from the picture that starts with the letter. For example, if you draw a snowman, students may erase the hat for ‘h’, the buttons for ‘b’ and the carrot for ‘c’. As an extension activity, reverse the roles of artist and eraser. “

Multisensory approaches to teach reading are often used for Dyslexia, but it is important to remember that it need not be limited to Dyslexia alone, but can be used with anyone who has learning differences and who requires additional help and support, with reading.

In my next blog, I will be writing about Multisensory approaches, Phonics and Spelling.



Author Triveni Goswami Vernal

Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal

Wildflower Meadow
Acrylic Painting on Canvas Board
Size: 6 inch x 6 inch

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