Preschool and kindergarten classrooms are full of worksheets with fun images to color, find, circle, count, etc. Students with vision are learning and practicing so many things from sitting still and attending, to following directions, working independently, building finger strength, building concepts, basic math literacy, following lines, figuring out mazes, colors, letters, and the list goes on. Is your student with visual impairments independently accessing the same type of worksheets? Is he/she building those concepts plus learning all those critical tactile graphics skills? Is he/she using these simple tactile graphics to access gen ed materials – along side his/her peers?
Worksheets are not “busy work”; these worksheets actually teach so many critical skills for our students. So, how do you quickly modify these daily worksheets?
Pick up that preschool workbook . . . and think about how you would modify the worksheets. The easy pages are ones that involve letters – pre-reading and basic reading concepts. For many of these pages, simply pull out your trusty Perkins brailler (or favorite braille software program) and you are good to go! But what about all those activities that involve images? What do you do for those activities? While I am all about hands-on activities for students with visual impairments, it is also important to remember ALL the goals of the worksheets. . . such as working independently, learning tactile graphics skills, critical thinking when figuring out mazes, and even simple things such as building finger coordination (required for reading braille) and finger strength (coloring).
For students who are visually impaired, there are two ways to create simple mazes:
These maze types highlight two different skills. Can the student “stay between the lines” and follow the path? The wider path makes it easier for students to use a pencil or crayon to show his route through the maze. Watch a 3 or 4 year old with vision complete one of these simple mazes – the student is learning to hold a crayon and probably struggles to draw within the line when going around a corner. This is a pre-cursor to being able to trace print letters. These young students are also practicing eye-hand coordination. What about the pre-braille student? Yes, learning to hold a crayon and draw that line while staying between the lines is an important skill! This student is learning how to use two hands together – one hand to finds the lines and either traces ahead of the crayon, guiding the crayon hand; or, that guiding hand finds a point and the student draws to that point (often the end point on simple designs). The student is learning to track the desired line and if there are options (more than one path) the student is figuring out which path is the correct one. In addition to the “maze” part of the activity, the student is also being exposed to tactile images of different objects, animals and characters – another important concept building skill.
Images: First image is the photo of the original dolphin maze from a preschool workbook. Second photo is the adapted maze with “stay-between the lines” type of maze with a dolphin at the end. Several fish and bubbles are outside of the maze path. This print image is made to be run through a tactile graphics machine which will raise the black ink in the image, making it fully accessible. Initially, the student may drag his finger through the maze, then draw a line with a crayon (which leaves a texture, so the student can feel the line and the teacher can see the line.) Some kids enjoy running a mini car or with this maze, a small dolphin!
Note: The tactile graphic image includes the dolphin, with identifying characteristics. There are also a couple small fish and bubbles, providing opportunities for the student to distinguish the dolphin from other objects. If possible, take the time to compare a 3-dimensional toy dolphin characteristics with the 2-dimensional dolphin tactile graphics. A subgoal of this activity is to be able to explore the tactile graphic dolphin and identify a dolphin’s identifying characteristics!
Dolphin Maze image for Tactile Graphics Machine download
The second way the maze can be created for a student with visual impairments, is a maze with the goal of tracing a line. There is one line and the student has to follow the line while maintaining contact with that line. For many students it is easier to follow a raised line. Keep in mind, that when following a raised line, the student’s finger tip is on the line. When “staying between the lines” the student starts with his fingertip to explore the maze, but then typically is required to draw using a crayon. Holding and using a crayon while following the maze is definitely a harder skill!
Images: First image is a photo of the original dog maze from the workbook. There are multiple path choices including a dead end at a cat. The second image is a photo of the adapted dog maze ready for a tactile graphics machine. The maze has the same paths but with raised line paths (not “stay between the lines”). Note: The cat image was modified from the full cat to a face of a cat with whiskers, for easier identification. Note: Mazes at this preschool level typically start in the top left corner. Some students might need a standard tactile clue for the start, such as a star foam sticker. In this dog maze, the goal is for the dog to find his bone, so the dog is the start of the maze.
Dog Maze Image for Tactile Graphic Machine download
The animals were included in the tactile images – making these worksheets more intersting for students who are visually impaired! The simple tactile graphics also provide the student opportunities to explore and identify the distinguishing characteristics of each tactile animal. Incidental learning is REAL and so often we (the TVI) are so caught up in teaching the main concept of the activity that we lose sight of all the other goals of the activity. After access to several mazes, a braille student should be able to independently complete these mazes – while practicing so many different skills!
Use your iPad or smart phone to snap a picture of the maze. Use the GoodNotes app (or other drawing app) on your iPad to trace the desired lines. (See Creating Digital Images for a Tactile Graphics Machine, Part 1 post for details.) Print the image on capsule paper and then run it through your tactile graphics machine. These images literally took 5 minutes to adapt and another five minutes to print and “toast”. We are building the Tactile Images section in the Paths to Technology Book Library. Check there for images and please share any images you create!
Are you creating tactile O&M maps for young students? As an O&M, I quickly learned that preschool and early elementary students were not very successful with maps with a raised line for the hallway. Why? They could follow the line, but they could not easily relate that line to a wide hallway with multiple doors/classrooms on both sides. When the hallways were represented by being lower than the walls/classrooms, enabling the student to run his/finger along the edge of the floor and wall on the map (just like a cane can follow the wall in the school), it conceptually made sense to the student. I created tactile maps using foam board as the floor and added foam sheets in blocks to represent the hallway walls. This type of map enabled the student to follow that raised wall edge – to follow the hallway, the student had to “stay between the walls”. In the image below, this kindergarten student has a finger on the cafeteria (destination) and is rolling a small toy car from her classroom to the cafeteria “staying between the walls” on her school map.
If you create a tactile school map (or other location) using a tactile graphic machine for young students, consider making the map where the student has to “stay between the lines” vs. following a raised line. Make sure that the student has a firm grasp of maps, tactile graphics, and O&M concepts, before moving to a raised line map.
Note: Raised line maps are better for larger detailed maps, such as a map of a town/city.
By Diane Brauner