Schools are obsessed with teaching and learning to read through phonics. This is great, fun, interactive, multi-sensory and helps lots of children learn to read-
However, it isn’t always an appropriate teaching method for our sensory kids. Often they just don’t learn in this way. They do not need to break down a word into sounds to read or spell, they have incredible memories and can just remember the words to read or spell them as a whole word.
Also classes, like mine, just are not ready to learn to read or spell yet. That does not mean we can’t expose them to phonics, letters and sounds through fun sensory games though! It just means we need to start from phase 1.
That is exactly what I set out to achieve. If I was to have a phonics session for 15 minutes everyday then I wanted to make it a fun and meaningful learning experience for the kids.
We follow the ‘Jolly Phonics’ scheme of work in our school. They have lovely songs and beginnings of stories to go alongside each letter. I used these songs as the base for my sessions.
Below I have listed the Jolly Phonics sounds in order and the activities I used to teach them. I decided to leave out the digraph for now as it just wasn’t appropriate for my class. All songs and story pages are found on YouTube if you type ‘Jolly phonics songs’ into the search bar. Each song is no longer than 15 seconds long.
- explore inside shredded paper grass to find items beginning with ‘s’ including a snake.
- explore grass like materials (fluffy cushions, spikey mats, astro turf) as you pretend to be the snake
- Have an ‘a’ themed picnic with foods to taste all beginning with the letter A. We also had raisin ants at our picnic.
- use massage oils and brushes to run up and down your children’s arms in dots or light brush strokes like little ants
- Children to drop tennis balls onto a racket that you hold. When the ball hits the racket it makes a ‘t’ sound.
- roll the tennis ball (or larger ball if needed) to our friends in turn, as our heads track the ball we are performing the Jolly Phonics action
- Use water spray bottles to make an inky mess over white paper in a tuff tray. A lovely mark making activity.
- Ikea sell fabulously soft and cheap mouse soft toys to feel and explore
- use a range of ‘blow out’ resources including; electric candles, wind instruments, balloons, whoopie cushions.
- use magic light up thumbs (found on Amazon) to create a mysterious and awesome light disappearing act as each child blows on your thumb
- have a ‘p’ related picnic party, everything you eat begins with ‘p’.
- Lay face down on a peanut or gym ball with your arms out wide like a plane. Teacher to roll you forward and back whilst singing the song.
- use casinets to sing along to the song, then adults to float materials or parachute over the circle.
- use a hairdryer to blow light materials over their heads
- Squirt shaving foam into the tuff tray and put a yolk yellow circle on it to create your fried egg. Sing the song, then when it’s finished use a fly swatter to splat the shaving foam egg.
- use easter egg hunt egg halves to put sensory items or lights inside. Allow children to explore these as you sing.
- Use a peanut or gym ball to hop. We used the ‘sleep little bunnies’ song.
- Use dog pull toy to tug-o-war style play with each child in turn as you sing.
- use a thera-band to pull against each child in turn. If they are unable to grip sufficiently, you could put it around their back and pull or in front of their legs on their chair to feel feedback when they swing their legs.
- An excuse to eat! Make toast with a choice of ‘m’ toppings (marmalade, marmite, marshmallow.. etc)
- explore wool spaghetti and brown pom pom meatballs with hands and feet
- pour glitter or sequins onto a giant drum and each child used their beater to bounce the glitter on their turn.
- use a little hand drum to sing complete this activity ‘bang the drum, make a sound, bang the drum and pass it round’.
- use a drain pipe to pour glitter and water mix through into our tuff tray. We then swirled the water with our hands and feet.
- we poured bouncy balls down our pipe into the water below to create a splash and bounced all over the room.
- explore switch and light up toys. Can they turn them on and off?
- use magic thumb lights to create awe and mystery as you turn the light on and off in different ways. (you can buy these on Amazon)
- each child to hold up the umbrella over their heads, an adult could help them spin it. As you use a spray bottle to spray the top of the umbrella.
- Sprinkle blue glitter on their hands as you sing ‘Uh Uh, its raining on you, rain gin on you , raining on you, Uh Uh its raining on you, Uh Uh Uh.’ (to the wheels on the bus tune)
- Draw an umbrella into flour on a back tuff tray. Spray water onto the umbrella as you sing the song above. We also used other weather sensory items such as shaving foam snow, coloured feathers for rainbow, yellow bouncy balls for sunny and cotton wool balls for cloudy, changing the lyrics to suit as we sang.
- lick lollies or ice lollies as you sing the song.
- Sprinkle white sand onto your lightbox. Draw a lollipop with your finger. ‘white lollipop’ Children choose other colours. Draw again ‘white and red lollipop’….etc
- deflate an air bed all together as you sing the song.
- Explore a variety of ‘air’ toys e.g. Hairdryer, Air Zooka, Whoopie Cushion, Party Blower, Blowing feathers or glitter…etc.
- use a variety of sensory balls to explore and pass around the circle as you sing.
- Roll a large ball to a friend in turn
- children to hold the bat and adults to bounce the ball off of the bat, allowing children to feel the vibration on impact
- sit on a peanut or gym ball as an adult wobbles you and sings.
- make, decorate and eat jelly (obvious, but why not!?)
- ‘oh what will I eat with it… J J J J J’ well what are you going to eat? Can your children find or choose between other J foods to have on their own plate?
- Explore vibrating toys as you sing the song.
- sit on the peanut ball and flap your hands as we sing
- explore wind resources such as wind machines, fans and hair dryers.
- We also blew tissue paper into the air out of a small plastic cup pointing a hairdryer directly into it. It’s ever so simple but also ever so effective!
- use kite (material or parachute), tree (branches), leaves to explore as you sing the song.
- Use go karts and cars outside as you sing the song.
- use a steering wheel (or circular ring sensory toy) to each have a turn at driving as the song plays
- use car mats and toy cars to drive around the village as you sing
- roll toy cars down a ramp, each to have a turn
- flavour your own yoghurt using a smoothie blender and taste as you sing the song.
- try and make your own yoghurt and banana snack
- try other banana foods (custard, moose, milkshake, sweets)
- Use the X-ray iPad app on camera mode to explore our body parts as we sing the song. It really looks like a live X-ray!
- use cameras or iPads to take pictures of their friends
I hope you enjoy recreating these ideas!
Please share your ideas on how you interpret the songs and sounds for your sensory kids by using the hashtag #oursensorykids.