Introduction: Sensory Stencils

About: NBCT Teacher, Maker, Grower, Gamer - School Librarian and Coordinator for "Make It...Awesome!" GMS Makerspace and Gardenspace, Seaperch Coach, Girls Who Code Mentor

Looking for a way to enhance the accessibility of your multisensory literacy instruction? With a 3D printer, you can create your own Sensory Stencils!

Step 1: The Purpose of the Tool

Sensory Stencils were designed as a way to provide inclusive multisensory experiences to children who may require accommodations due to physical, sensory or cognitive delays while learning the alphabet and learning to read. Designed by educators with degrees in Human Development, Special Education, English and Secondary Education, Sensory Stencils can be used to enhance the learning experiences for all learners. Sensory Stencils work great because they provide a visual and kinesthetic experience; use the textured side to provide tactile reinforcement of the letter’s shape. Flip the letter over, and the student is provided an errorless track to form the letter using the writing tool of their need or preference. The three-dimensional design accommodates children who may benefit from physically holding a letter and practicing how to properly orientate the letter on a surface. Sensory Stencils can also be used in reading stations to build words in a more concrete manner than 2-D flashcards allow.

Step 2: Making Sensory Stencils

These initials letters are our first draft for this project. We are honing them based on our design skill and also how they are being used by teachers and students. More letters, including lower-case letters, will be coming shortly. We’re also developing a prototype for non-symmetrical letters (exp. “G”, “F” and “J”) with a stacking stencil design. Our current design theory is that letters should be about 20mm in height with some kind of texture (2mm) on the top as shown in the pictures above. These letters were designed in Tinkercad and printed on an Imade 3D Jellybox printer. Length and width average about 120mm by 85mm depending on the letter with a recessed “track” on the bottom of about 10mm in width and 12 in depth. This is meant to allow for a pencil, marker or chunky crayon to fit into the track. Included in this step are the .STL files for A, T and E.

Step 3: Using Sensory Stencils With Students

Part of a multisensory literacy experience when introducing new letters and their sounds is to encourage children to trace and form the letters as many times as they can. In this portion of the lesson, we are reviewing the letter formation of previously taught letters.

Cue student to look and listen to you. State a letter sound and ask the student to repeat the sound.Ask student to trace the letter that matches the sound using a multisensory technique. In this case, I used a small tray with rice and lentils initially but if this is too difficult, move directly to the errorless option of the Sensory Stencils.Ask student to trace the letter using the Sensory Stencil provided using the index finger. We begin on the sensory side first to reinforce the proper formation with a physical task that is less demanding than holding a writing utensil. As the student traces the letter, he or she says the name of the letter and the sound it makes. Example, "C says /k/."Ask the student to flip the sensory stencil to the stencil side. Ensure student has orientated the letter correctly. Here the student can trace the letter using a variety of preferred writing utensils that meet the needs of the student. Student can say the name of the letter and the sounds it makes.

Step 4: Just Getting Started...

This project is due to a collaboration with Meaghan Sekinger, M.S. for her work in identifying the need for a tool to increase accessibility of multisensory literacy techniques for children with disabilities. Additionally, she also developed the methodology for how to use Sensory Stencils effectively.

We will continue to post additional files here and on Thingiverse:

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