Sensory classroom strategies are commonplace for SEND pupils. I’d argue, however, they might benefit all children. After all, many pupils find it difficult to express the sensory details that make a piece of work come to life. Can we engage all children’s sensory systems to help them write (and learn) at their best? Good writing activates all senses. Sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Incorporate these into your lesson to spark the children’s imaginations. After all, writing is easier if you have an actual, real-life experience to build on.
To get you going, we’ve outlined a few ways you can create a sensory writing environment. With these, your class will be producing writing that jumps off the page!
Set the scene – Lights, sounds and smells can create an immersive experience, regardless of the topic of your lesson. Setting the scene in this way helps the children describe specific details in their writing. A quick search for sounds on Youtube brings up a wealth of inspiration: thunderstorms, jungle animals or planes flying overhead, to name a few. Also, think about the lighting: what can you achieve with dimmed lighting, a different colour bulb or even disco lights? Finally, consider the imagery to support your scene. Can you have photographs or videos running in the background whilst they write or something to pull them back to their focal point?
Musical interlude – Music makes for a magical lesson. In a recent post I discussed ways to incorporate music into your classroom. Playing it during topic work was one of those ways. Music can be used to evoke feelings, but also to help articulate thoughts. Can you play music from a different culture, time in history or something more futuristic to spur their imaginations? If constant music playing is too distracting, try supplying a few sets of headphones.
Perfect props – A selection of props can open a whole new perspective for young minds. Objects they can touch, or simply sit in front of, whilst they write unlock inspiration. Sometimes you might bring something they can smell; something reminiscent of the era or subject you’re writing about. Can you give them a taste of something based on your theme? Let them then describe in their work how they feel whilst they eat.
Physical sensations – Get your class moving around the room. Can they act like dinosaurs or act out what it would be like to jump from a plane? Maybe minimal movement is the crux: lying down or sitting very still in silence. Relaxed and left alone with their thoughts they can imagine they are the protagonist in their story. Allow students to work in various positions, some kids produce their best work when they’re on the floor or a bean bag.