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Ten Activities for
Teaching About the
Five Senses

Our senses allow us to enjoy our food, the sound of music, the beauty of a sunny day, the softness of a child's hair -- in short, our lives! With the aid of the Internet, you can teach your students about the special gift of the senses and how they work. They will encounter sound by making instruments, guess what is inside a feely bag by using touch, or rub a homemade scratch 'n' sniff gingerbread boy! Experimenting with the senses is fun for everyone! Included: Web links to additional "senses" resources!

We rely on our five senses to provide information about the world around us. Just the thought of a special holiday dinner brings to mind many observations made through the senses -- the smell of dinner cooking, the sound of holiday music, the taste of freshly baked cookies, and more. Children may recognize the importance of their senses, but they don't often focus on them individually. With the help of Web resources, you can teach your students to identify their senses and put them to use in the classroom.

To begin or end your study of the senses, bring them together in a simple language arts activity called the sensory poem. Your students may choose their themes, but they must involve all the senses. Holidays, seasons, and other broad concepts make nice topics. List the five senses -- sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch -- for the students. Tell them that they must address one sense in each line of the poem. The first line should include a color, and the last may include touch or emotion. You may allow students to put the other lines in any order they choose.

Here is an example:


[Color] Spring is green with bright yellow buds,
[Sight] New shoots emerge from the dark brown earth,
[Smell] The scent of rain mixes with blossoms in the air,
[Hearing] Birds chirp with newfound vibrato in the trees,
[Taste] Succulent strawberries ripen in the sun,
[Emotion] All is fresh, warm, and beautiful in the world.



Five Senses

My Five Senses
A WebQuest for grades K-2.

Using the Senses to Write Descriptively
Students learn how including sensory impressions can improve their writing.

Best Books for Teaching About... The Senses
Five "editors' choice" books for young learners.

Trust Your Senses
Three books from children's author Vicki Cobb.

Your Five Senses
Fourth-graders discover the use of all their five senses and learn about the nervous system.

Our Five Senses and the Holidays
Activities and resources for an early childhood/primary grade unit on the five senses.

The five senses lend themselves to science activities that require students to make observations with their eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. That isn't all, though! Ten great activities will have your students investigating with and thinking about their senses.

What's in the box? Making sound boxes is a fun experiment that requires students to concentrate on their sense of hearing. All you need for this simple activity is a variety of small objects and empty boxes, cans, or other containers. Place one or more like objects (for example, pennies, marbles, rice, paper clips...) inside the container without showing your students, and ask them to identify the objects inside by their sound as you move the container. To simplify the experiment or to have your students work with each other in pairs, give the students identical sets of objects. They may then take turns placing an object inside the container for a partner, and the partner may examine the objects while listening to guess which one might be inside. The Sense Testing Game Craft has a few brief ideas for using this concept with the senses of hearing and smell.

Scent of gingerbread. What is more inviting than the smell of gingerbread? Put your students' olfactory sense to work via the traditional story of The Gingerbread Man. Read this short online version of the tale and have your students color and cut out their own gingerbread men with the Gingerbread Man Coloring Page. Then allow them to place glue on the tummies of their gingerbread men and sprinkle spices such as ginger and cinnamon onto it. When dry, these papers make delightful scratch 'n' sniff cards. Annie's Gingerbread Page has other gingerbread ideas, including recipes.

Colorblindness. Colorblindness is an inherited condition caused by a defect in the cone receptors of the retinas of the eyes. Very few women are colorblind, but approximately one in ten men has some degree of colorblindness. You have probably already encountered a test for colorblindness, but your students might not have had such an opportunity. A good example can be found on the Web at Color Vision Testing Made Easy. After your students have examined the tests, talk about what impact colorblindness might have on a person's daily life. How could being colorblind influence a person's choice of career?

Feely bags. What's in the bag? Kids have to guess by using their sense of touch in this activity. Gather objects that are soft, smooth, rough, bumpy, etc. and put them into paper bags. Pass them around the classroom so students can investigate with their hands to "see" the objects. When all the students have had the opportunity to feel the objects, instruct them to share their ideas. List the suggestions for each bag on the board, and then open the bags to reveal their contents. How accurate is the sense of touch as shown through this experiment?

Optical illusions. Is seeing really believing? Optical illusions can deceive the eyes. These visual tricks amaze students. Because our eyes work in specific ways, they can also give us false impressions when presented with optical illusions. Have your students try the illusions at SandlotScience Optical Illusions and Optical Illusions. Your students will also enjoy creating their own optical illusions, such as a picture that people interpret in different ways or an image made of lines.

Original instruments. Playing instruments they make is one of the most creative and unique ways your students can experiment with the sense of hearing. Have kids organize "bands" and design their own musical instruments. They should prepare songs to share with other class members. Will they have guitars, drums, or kazoos? Your students may choose, as long as they make the instruments themselves. For inspiration, send the class to the Virtual Museum of Music Inventions. You might even consider sending pictures of the students' instruments to this online museum for display.

Fun with your eyes. VSP® Vision Care offers some eye fun plus an activity guide. To access the activity guide, go to VSP Teacher's Lounge and scroll down to the Eyecare Discovery Activity Guide. The activities in this 57-page activity booklet are created by the folks at the Exploratorium. Activities fall under four headings: Eye Innards, Seeing Stuff, Looking Through Lenses, and Fooling Your Eyes & Brain. Note: The booklet, in PDF format, might take a few moments to upload.

Braille. Blind people use the system of dots called Braille to communicate, and your students are sure to find an investigation of it enlightening. The International Braille Research Center explains how blind people use Braille. The History of Reading Codes for the Blind shares the background of this system. For an explanation of the system itself, see The Six Magic Dots of Braille. When you finish reading these online materials, invite your students to design their own communication system for blind people. How would they make it work? How would it differ from Braille?



Five Senses
Here you will find a four-part lesson that teaches students in grades 2 through 5 about the five senses. Written by educator Heather Hirst, this collection of activities makes use of books and poems and includes writing assignments.

Five Senses
Take advantage of the background information provided by this page, and then incorporate it into the many related activities you will find on the site. A list of classroom activities that address each of the five senses is provided.

Cara Bafile
Education World®
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