6 colorful shapes with text

Creating Tactile Graphics Images Part 5: Shapes

Build beginning math skills with simple to create - and share - shape-related graphics worksheets!

In the previous Maze post (Creating Tactile Graphics Images Part 4), we discussed that worksheets are not “busy work”; rather, these worksheets are used to teach many critical skills for our students. In this post, we are going to continue with simple preschool and early elementary worksheets focusing on shapes. These basic shape worksheets are the foundation for math literacy and transition right into grouping, counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and more. In addition (no pun intended!), shape-type worksheets with tactile graphics are not only fun, but provide opportunities for students to practice tactile graphics skills and can be expanded to include object and animal shapes through the exploration of the tactile graphic. It’s important that your young student has all these opportunities that are provided through simple worksheets.


Probably the easiest tactile graphics for a preschooler to identify are simple shapes such as circles, squares and triangles. Shapes are a big part of the preschool classroom and curriculum, and these shapes are often incorporated into preschool toys. Visually impaired preschoolers are regularly exposed to a variety of shape manipulatives in their environment. This makes it is easy for preschoolers to transfer shape skills from 3-dimensional manipulatives to two-dimensional manipulatives (such as going from the shape sorter toy to wooden cut-out shape puzzles) and finally to classic tactile graphics shapes such as foam stickers. As TVIs, we have all used the foam sticker shapes to teach shapes and to recreate simple shape-related worksheets. The next step – which is often missing – is creating tactile graphic shapes using a tactile graphics machine and/or embosser. For these early activities, I suggest using the tactile graphics machine with it’s ability to create smooth lines and solid shapes versus dots in the form of a line or shape.

Individual Shapes (and Positions)

Initially, start with one shape per page. Tactile Graphics standards indicate that the size of the graphic image should be small enough to fit under the student’s two hands –  in this case, bigger is not better! Preschoolers have small hands and keep in mind that some preschoolers are only exploring the graphic with one hand. The goal here is for the student to be able to feel all of the shape at one time versus having to trace along the edge of a shape that is too large. (By the time the young student has traced all four sides of a large square, the student has forgotten what his/her fingers have found!) It is easier to determine the shape when the shape is filled in, so start with solid shapes (and later transition to outline shapes). Figuring out what is inside and what is outside an outlined shape is certainly more challenging. You may want to try different smaller sizes with your student to see what works best!

As you choose available shapes or create your own shapes, think about where you place the shapes. You can use this activity as an opportunity to practice positional terms (top, bottom, left, right, center, etc.) by placing each shape on it’s individual page in a different location. 

Example: The first image is a square in the top left corner. The second image is a circle in the center of the page. The third image is a triangle in the bottom left corner, etc. 

Small solid black square in top left corner of the page.  Small solid circle in the center of the page.

Placing shapes in different areas on the page also provides opportunities to teach the student how to systematically search the page (with both hands!) to find the shape. When exploring tactile graphics, the student should quickly search to get an overview of what is on the page. (In this case, there is only one image on the page, but in the next activity, there might be more images!) After the quick overview look, then the student should explore for details and find the distinguishing characteristics. In this case, distinguishing shape characteristics might be four corners and equal length lines (square), rounded lines – no corners (circle) or three corners (triangle). Some young students might recognize the shape but not be able to describe the shape in these terms. For pre-readers, I like the student to systematically search the page starting in the top left corner – with fingers spread wide to cover a larger area – and to move left to right across the page, similar to reading a line of braille, before dropping down to the next section of the page. If you are working on left to right scanning, you might choose to place the shape at the top of the page in various positions (left, center, right).

Note: As students progress with their tactile graphics skills, the tactile graphic should have a title that provides information about what kind of graphic it is and if appropriate, directions. Example: Bar Chart, Pie Chart, Shapes, Counting Shapes, etc. With tactile graphics, this information is provided in braille. With digital graphics, the screen reader will announce this information. For very young students, this information is typically provided verbally by the teacher.

How to Create the Basic Shape Worksheets

These shapes were quickly created using the GoodNotes app on an iPad.

Note: I recommend creating additional pages in the same document for the multiple shapes. With your finger off the document, swipe left to create a new page. Adding extra pages to the document versus creating multiple documents makes it easy to copy the document and create additional tactile graphic worksheets using the Lasso Tool (see below).


Download and print these shapes on capsule paper for the tactile graphic machine.

First Palette has multiple free downloadable printouts of various shapes in black-and-white and in color. Note: The pages with colorful shapes have the printed shape words (circle, oval, etc.) below the corresponding shape. The black-and-white images do not have the print words.

worksheet with 6 colorful shapes with the printed name below the shape: circle, oval, triangle, rectangle, square, and diamond (rhombus).

I chose to use the colorful shape page and exported as a .png image to the GoodNotes app on my iPad. I then traced the outline of the shapes with “fill color” selected in order to make a solid shape. Each shape now has a a black outline and is filled in with grey. (I made this a solid black shape by using the Pen tool and coloring in the shape.) When printed on capsule paper and run through the tactile graphics machine, the shape will have a solid raised outline and a smaller raised texture inside each shape (if grey fill was used) or a solid shape (if colored black), making it easier for students to understand what is inside the shape and what is outside the shape.

If you choose to use the colorful shapes, print the original document (but cover the words with masking tape or the words will also raise!) Note: As discussed in previous posts, some tactile graphics machines have issues when colored ink is printed from a jet ink printer. Laser printers, which most schools use, do not have create issues with color ink running through the tactile graphics machine.

You can choose to add sim braille, if desired.


Multiple Shapes on One Page (Lasso Tool)

Most students will move from identifying individual shapes (one shape per page) to identifying multiple shapes on a page. Keep in mind that some students may learn best if they can compare two shapes in order to differentiate and identify the shapes.

To quickly modify the exist worksheets above, open the image (i.e. the 6- page document or just the square image) in GoodNotes. If you already have your shape in GoodNotes, be sure to copy the original document and rename the copied page.

Note: If you create multiple pages of images and share that document via AirDrop or email (without having the GoodNotes app on your computer), the pages will be separated into individual documents. 

Ask the student to use a crayon to circle or underline a specific shape instead of simply pointing to the correct shape. Being able to mark his/her own work is an important skill and leads to independently completing classroom assignments! (The student needs to press firmly when using a crayon so that he/she can later go back and review his work by feeling the crayon marks.)

Big and Little Shapes

Another wonderful preschool concept that frequently uses shapes is the concept of Big/Large and Small/Little. The following images used the original shape images and the Lasso Tool in the GoodNotes app. Use the images below or modify/create your own images!

Note: The shapes are placed in random areas in the document to support positional terms and concepts.

These shape pages are available for free download and are also intended to be used as examples. It is quick and easy to re-create or modify a classroom worksheet using GoodNotes (or your favorite drawing/art app) and a tactile graphics machine. These shape pages and other images created for tactile graphics machines are available in the Paths to Technology Book Library (scroll down to the bottom of the Book Library for Tactile Graphics).

Note: Are you working with CVI students? You can easily create uncluttered, high contrast shape worksheets using your student’s preferred colors using the same techniques (minus the tactile graphics machine!)

If you create your own tactile graphics, please share them with us! You can email [email protected]


Shape Pinterest pin

Attached File(s)

https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202-1.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202-2.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202-3.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202-4.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202-5.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202-6.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/shapes-basic-color_1.pdf https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/shapes-basic.pdf https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/shapes-geom-color.pdf https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/shapes-geom.pdf https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/shapes-fun-color.pdf https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/shapes-fun.pdf https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202a.docx https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Shapes%20Big%20and%20Small-01.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Shapes%20Big%20and%20Small-03.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Shapes%20Big%20and%20Small-04.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Basic%20Shapes%202-5_0.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Shapes%20Big%20and%20Small-06.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Shapes%20Big%20and%20Small-07.jpg https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Shapes%20Big%20and%20Small-08.jpg
By Diane Brauner

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