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Our commitment to this style of teaching is rooted in decades of research on how students with learning differences best retain information.

Lower School Multisensory Instruction
Multi-sensory class exercise

Through engaging activities, Lawrence students collect information, make connections between new information and things they already know, learn to work through problems, and use nonverbal problem-solving skills.

Multisensory instruction was originally designed in 1935 by leading psychologists and researchers Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham. They pioneered a program to help struggling readers by using multisensory activities to explicitly teach connections between letters and sounds along with the rules of phonics. This structured approach to literacy helped students break reading and spelling down into small lessons and then build upon their knowledge step by step. Learners mastered one skill before moving to the next and the philosophy strongly emphasized the how and why behind our language. Their students learned to identify consistent rules and patterns and eventually were able to decode words independently.

As schools around the globe found great success with Orton and Gillingham's techniques, many well-known language curriculums were developed based on their philosophy. A multisensory approach has even been proven effective in the instruction of mathematics and other subjects. Today, multisensory instruction is considered the gold standard for students with learning differences.

Multisensory learning is found in every Lawrence classroom, at every grade level. Here's just a few examples of what it looks like:


  • Sand, Shaving Cream, Sandpaper, and More
    Students use touch to connect the shapes of letters with their sounds.
  • Visual Word Building
    Students build words with color-coded magnetic letters, using color coding to connect sounds with letters and the order in which they appear.
  • Manipulatives
    Students use small shapes to represent numbers as they illustrate mathematical principles.


  • If studying fractions, a tower will be constructed out of blocks. Students will divide the blocks evenly into sections so they can visually see the whole, as well as the fraction (i.e. ⅕, ⅖, ⅗, ⅘). Students will then draw the tower on paper, looking for different fraction patterns within the structure. And finally, once the concept is understood both concretely and representationally, students will interact with number problems, applying the information already learned in the two previous phases. 
  • While learning new vocabulary, instead of using the dictionary to spell and define the words, a class might be given index cards with the definitions listed. Students will then hand sort the words into categories, increasing comprehension and understanding.
  • Students engage in comprehension exercises that ask them to build a model of an important event in a story, or create a mock news report to summarize important details in their reading materials.

How does Lawrence teach kids to read?

Our OG-based structured literacy approach Codebreakers, teaches students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disorders to read and read well. CodeBreakers was developed more than 25 years ago and uses multisensory activities to teach the rules of phonics in a step-by-step, explicit process. Each concept systematically builds upon another. Phonetic segmentation is stressed throughout each lesson, giving students exposure to a “part to whole” strategy. Our goal is to get struggling readers away from the guessing game.

Learn more about Codebreakers on the Lionshare Podcast.

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