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

Lower School Multisensory Instruction
Multi-sensory class exercise

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

Multisensory instruction was originally concepted in 1935 by researcher Dr. Samuel Orton and educator Anna Gillingham. They were among the first to theorize reading difficulties were sourced in the language processing center of the brain. Together, they pioneered a systematic reading program to teach students who were word blind, a common term used to describe the symptoms of dyslexia at that time. Their self-named program taught learners to read, write, and spell through multisensory activities that explicitly connected letters and sounds. This structured approach to literacy helped students break down the rules of phonics and build upon them step-by-step. Their students mastered one skill before moving to the next and strongly emphasized the how and why behind language. Their students learned to identify consistent rules and patterns and eventually were able to decode words independently.

As teachers all over the country found great success with Orton and Gillingham’s techniques, many well-known language curriculums were developed based on their philosophy: Wilson, Barton, Slingerland, Lindamood Bell, and even Lawrence’s CodeBreakers. A multisensory approach has even proven effective in the instruction of mathematics and other subjects. Today, curriculums featuring OG principles are considered the gold standard for teaching students with dyslexia and other learning differences.

OG-based multisensory learning is found in every Lawrence classroom, at every grade level. But what is it?


  • 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 School use multisensory learning techniques to teach kids to read?

CodeBreakers, our OG-based structured literacy curriculum, teaches students to read and read well! The curriculum was developed more than 25 years ago and uses multisensory learning activities to teach the rules of phonics in a step-by-step, explicit process. Each concept systematically builds upon another and phonetic segmentation is stressed. Our goal is to get struggling readers away from the guessing game. Learn more about CodeBreakers on the Lionshare Podcast.

Our multisensory approach to literacy instruction is based on the following tenets, which align with the Science of Reading and can be found in all CodeBreakers lessons:

Teaching begins with recognizing the differing needs of learners. While those with dyslexia share similarities, there are differences in their language needs. In addition, individuals with dyslexia may possess additional challenges that complicate learning, such as ADHD.

All the learning pathways—seeing, hearing, feeling, and awareness of motion—must be brought together. The instructor engages in multisensory activities to convey curricular content in the most understandable way.

Diagnostic and Prescriptive
Lessons are diagnostic in that the instructor continuously monitors the verbal, nonverbal, and written responses of the student to analyze their progress. This information is then used in planning the next lesson, which focuses on the areas of difficulty.

Direct Instruction
Lessons ensure the student approaches the learning experience understanding what is to be learned, why it is to be learned, and how it is to be learned.

Systematic Phonics
Lessons stress the alphabetic principle in the initial stages of reading development, enforcing sound/symbol relationships and that spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds.

Applied Linguistics
Teaching should draw upon applied linguistics, not only in the initial decoding and encoding stages of reading and writing, but in more advanced stages dealing with syllabic, morphemic, syntactic, semantic, and grammatical structures.

Linguistic Competence
Lessons increase linguistic competence by stressing language patterns that determine word order and sentence structure and the meaning of words and phrases.

Systematic and Structured
The teacher presents information in an ordered way that indicates the relationship between the material taught and past material taught. Curricular content unfolds in linguistically logical ways that facilitate student learning and progress.

Sequential, Incremental, and Cumulative
Step-by-step, learners move from the simple, well-learned material they have mastered to that which is more and more complex.

Continuous Feedback and Positive Reinforcement
The Approach provides for a close teacher-student relationship that builds self-confidence based on success.

Cognitive Approach
Students understand the reasons for what they are learning and for the learning strategies they are employing. Confidence grows as they gain in their ability to apply newly acquired knowledge about and knowledge of how to develop their skills with reading, spelling, and writing.

Emotionally Sound
Students’ feelings about themselves and about learning are vital. Teaching is directed toward providing the experience of success. With success comes increased self-confidence and motivation.

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