Tactile Practice in a Multisensory Lesson

Rough boards add a multisensory aspect to both the phonogram drill and sight word practice in an Orton Gillingham type lesson.

My standard rough board is a sheet of plastic canvas. It is easy to find, inexpensive and versatile. I have enough sheets so that all students in my small groups can have one. I also give one to each new private student to use for practicing at home. One clever student found that you can hole punch a sheet so that it fits in the reading notebook binder and is easy to store, carry and find.

I like to mix it up during lessons though and have a number of other rough boards to use. A rough board is any textured surface that the student uses to “write” the letter or word being studied.

My students write using two fingers. I emphasize using the pads of the fingers, not the nails. This takes some prompting and at first, they regularly revert to using one finger or their fingernails.


Using plastic canvas for sight word practice

Rough boards can be made from many things. Some of my favorites are:

  • plastic canvas
  • bubble wrap
  • velvet or other material
  • carpet square
  • flocked or textured wallpaper
  • a placemat with a nice texture
  • a square of rolled cane
  • a gel bag
  • sandpaper (use a sheet of tracing paper over it to protect fingers!)
  • a sushi mat
  • corkboard
  • mermaid- sequined fabric
  • a yoga mat cut into placemat sized rectangles (makes a lot of rough boards for a group!)

For the sound drill, I hold up the card and the student responds with the sound and then writes it on the rough board with the pads of two fingers while saying it.  If they hesitate or it is a new card I’ll have them rough board it once while looking at their hand and board and then turn away and rough board it again without looking. The second time allows them to really focus on the feel of the letter(s).

texture boards
A selection of rough boards used for the sound drill.

One of my students’ favorite projects is making gel bags to use at home. I let them add hair gel, food coloring, and glitter. Then we make sure there are no air bubbles and double tape the zip bag closed. It works best if the entire bag is then taped to a piece of sturdy cardboard.

gel bag for multisensory practice
A glitter gel bag

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