Here are 23 simple sensory strategies for the classroom! These ideas will help you move toward creating a sensory-friendly classroom.
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Here at The Inspired Treehouse, we are huge advocates of giving kids exposure to movement and other sensory experiences to promote healthy development. One of the best ways to ensure that kids are getting what they need is by giving them plenty of opportunities for free play. Check out our Free Play Toolkit here!
But what about when kids are at school? Recess is great (more about that in an upcoming post), but for most of the day, kids are learning in their classrooms. This doesn’t mean that they have to go without sensory input all day though! Those of us who understand sensory processing know how important it is to engage all of kids’ sensory systems to help them learn and function at their best.
There are many creative ways to embed sensory input into typical learning activities to make learning accessible to all students. Some kids need an extra dose of movement for concepts to really sink in. Others respond best when material is introduced through music. Still others need a hands-on approach – they need to manipulate objects, build things, and take things apart. And some kids may need less sensory input to stay focused and attentive.
Today, we’ll take several common classroom activities and give examples of how to turn them on their heads with a little extra dose of sensory input that can help kids attend, engage, participate, and truly show us what they know!
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Journals and Handwriting
-Draw a picture in a journal/notebook and write about what you drew.
-Handwriting or tracing pages
1 || Add some vestibular input: Break into small groups or partners, act out a story or idea, and then write about it in journal.
2 || Add some vestibular input: Allow children to complete their writing in different positions around the room – sitting or lying on the floor or sitting in a beanbag chair with a clipboard, in standing with work taped to the wall, even lying under a table with their work taped to the underside of the table!
3 || Add some auditory input: Listen to a story on headphones and draw a picture while listening.
4 || Add some tactile input: Practice letter formation in a sand or salt tray with colored paper at the bottom or try tracing/writing using a Squiggle Wiggle Writer.
5 || Add some visual input: Allow kids to use different pens, markers, and colored pencils for writing and drawing.
6 || Add some olfactory input: Color/draw in journals using Scented Markers.
-One-on-one drills for sight words, math facts, or other concepts – showing one flashcard at a time and having the child answer
7 || Add some vestibular input: Place flashcards out on the floor and let kids ride a scooter to grab a card and give the answer as they ride the scooter back to you to deliver the card. Or try running to retrieve each card or animal walks.
8 || Add some proprioceptive input: Place flashcards out on the floor and have kids stomp or jump on each one as they give you the answer. Place them out on the table and have kids slap or pound them with a fist as they give you the answer.
9 || Add some tactile input: Hide flashcards in a tactile bin and have kids dig for each one and give an answer.
-Reading quietly at a desk
10 || Add some visual input: Turn off the lights and give each child a mini flashlight to use as they read.
11 || Add some auditory input: Try quiet music or white noise either on a speaker for the whole room or on headphones for the kids who prefer it.
12 || Add some tactile input: Provide fidget toys for kids who need to do something with their hands while they read.
13 || Add some vestibular input: Allow kids to read in various positions around the room: lying or sitting on the floor, pillows, or bean bag chairs.
14 || Add some oral sensory input: Try allowing kids to chew gum or have an alerting or calming snack while they read.
-Teacher speaks to class in the front of the room using Smart Board, projector, or marker board
-Teacher leads circle time with kids sitting on carpet
15 || Add some vestibular input: Embed whole body movements as you move through circle time (e.g. stomp out the days of the week with your feet, jump out the months of the year, use different movements to accompany letter sounds).
16 || Add some auditory input: Introduce concepts using music, rhymes, and rhythms.
17 || Add some visual input: Try using video and other multimedia platforms to introduce material.
18 || Add some tactile input: Introduce manipulatives and/or materials or objects related to the lesson that can be passed around.
-Pencil and paper worksheet completed at the student’s desk
19 || Add some vestibular input: Allow students to work in various positions (see above).
20 || Add some tactile input: Adapt worksheets to make them more hands-on. Here are a few ideas for adapting worksheets to incorporate manipulatives. Or create laminated worksheets with velcro pieces to target the concepts you’re teaching.
21 || Add some visual input: Laminate worksheets and let kids work with brightly colored dry erase markers.
The more we know about sensory processing, the better we can meet all students’ needs in the classroom, whether it’s by using a variety of sensory-based activities like the ones above, by introducing calming sensory strategies in the classroom, or by employing sensory strategies to increase attention and alertness. Knowledge about sensory processing helps us tap into the sensory systems to optimize attention, engagement, and participation.
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