Research corner

19th June 2015 at 01:00

Each week, we highlight education research conducted by teachers. This week, Mike Mainwaring and Victoria Wood, from St John Bosco Catholic Primary School in Merseyside, explain how they used a multisensory approach to writing to initiate reluctant pupils into the world of words.


Multisensory writing is a technique that encourages pupils to draw on the sights, sounds and smells of their environment to improve their learning experience. Activities including group work, visual stimuli and role-playing are used to help pupils broaden their linguistic capabilities.

Victoria Wood, who teaches Year 2 (aged 6-7) and Mike Mainwaring, who teaches Year 6 (aged 10-11), explored the impact of a multisensory approach on their classes between January and May this year. Their aim was to discover if multisensory writing could increase the attainment of a sample group of eight boys across key stages 1 and 2.


Research suggests that boys tend to be more reluctant readers and writers than girls. Indeed, during a preliminary series of lesson observations, Mainwaring and Wood noticed that male pupils were more likely to disengage from the writing process and struggle creatively. Some 38 per cent of key stage 2 boys achieved a level 4 and only 12 per cent achieved a level 5. For girls, these figures were reversed.


The pupils were asked to produce a piece of independent writing without external stimuli and fill out a self-assessment questionnaire.

Mainwaring and Wood then employed a two-phase teaching process. In the first phase, pupils completed a series of activities around the school. They went on a treasure hunt, solved riddles to find secret objects and later researched what they found to give them ideas about what to write.

The second phase was designed to help children plan their next stories. The pupils were taken to a nearby wood to make "journey sticks" by attaching items of interest to a twig as they explored.

Both Mainwaring and Wood encouraged pupils to read a variety of books throughout the process and used interactive role play to inspire original thinking. Finally, pupils wrote their stories and completed another self-assessment.

The results

The attainment of all the children in the study improved. In the Year 6 class, every child increased by two sub-levels - progressing from high level 3s to low- and mid-level 4s. In the Year 2 class, half the pupils improved by two sub-levels and the rest improved by one.

The impact

Both teachers found the increase in engagement to be the most interesting aspect of the research. The self-assessments revealed a huge surge in confidence among the pupils, who were encouraged by the quality of writing they were able to produce.

Having seen the positive impact on the sample group, Mainwaring and Wood have started to incorporate further multisensory teaching methods into their lessons, and hope to utilise them in other subjects in the future.

To find out more about the project, email Mike Mainwaring and Victoria Wood at

To share your research findings, email


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now