Photo of 3 rows of toys and photo of iPad Home Screen with tactile row overlay. Text

Spatial Tech Standards 2: Rows

Spatial Tech Standards are unique to students who are blind or low vision; learn how to teach these foundational skills to young students!

In the first Spatial Tech Standards post, we learned various hands-on activities and apps that can be used to teach spatial terms. This post will focus on the importance of and activities to teach the spatial concept of rows.

Row is defined as, “Things arranged next to each other, typically in a straight line”. Educators know that the concept of rows and columns is important for math, grids, and spreadsheets; however, the term “row” is also frequently used much earlier in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Teachers often tell students to “line up in a row” before walking down the hallway. When learning to read, students track from left to right across a line or row of words. Tablets and smart phones organize app icons in rows on the Home screen and many apps have a row of options in the Tool bar located at the top or bottom of the screen.

Early understanding the concept of a row is a critical skill for young students who are visually impaired – and this foundation concept is often overlooked! As always when working with young students, start with manipulatives and hands-on activities. Incorporate the concept of rows into whatever you are teaching. Here are a few examples:

row of 6 rocks above a guide line  3 rows on a desktop: row of 6 rocks above a guide line, row of 5 toy model cars, and row of 4 Lego blocks.

Multiple Rows

Once the student understands what a row is, teach the concept of multiple rows. Again, using manipulatives or tactile materials laid out in several rows, ask the student to find the beginning of the first row (top left) and track across the row. Now, ask the student to go back to the beginning (top left) and drag a finger down to the next (second) row. Continue the activity (tracking across Row 2) after the student says the name, “Row 2”. Repeat for any additional rows.

Ask the student to find the third row. To do this, start at the top left and say, “Row 1” out loud. Drag down the left side to find Row 2 – and say, “Row 2”. Drag down again and say, “Row 3”. Remind the student that rows go from left to right (or ‘side-to-side’ or ‘across’ if the student does not fully understand the terms, ‘right’ and ‘left’).

When initially introducing multiple rows, try using different objects in each row. Row 1 might be the colored rocks. Row 2, directly below Row 1, might be a row of toy trucks. Row 3, directly below Row 2, might be a row of Legos. (To eliminate potential confusion, the rows should be the same length.)

Note: Do NOT introduce the concept of columns until the student fully understands the concept of rows! When rows and columns are introduced together young students become confused due to the spatial nature of the concept. If a student is asked to find the second row, most young students will find the first row and move to the right once (Row 1, Column 2) instead of finding the first row and moving down to find Row 2. This confusion can be eliminated by solidifying the concept of a row before introducing columns. 

Digital Rows

Now that blind and low vision students are being introduced to smart phones and tablets as preschoolers, it is critical to introduce the concept of rows early on as this is a foundational tech concept. The home screen on a touch screen device has app icons organized in rows. Just like the student learned to drag a finger across a tactile row or across a row of braille letters, the student should first learn the drag gesture – before learning the swipe gesture. When dragging across the screen, encourage the student to pay attention to where things are located spatially on the screen. Rows are used to help organize the apps on the screen. Is the desired app icon in the first row? Is it on the left, middle or right side of the screen? Is it in a corner? The power of a touch screen device is that a visually impaired student knows exactly where his/her finger is located spatially on the screen. The student can use this information to develop a mental map of the screen layout, making him/her a more efficient tech user. Mentally organizing the screen by rows helps the student remember the spatial location of specific apps, recall the locations, and discuss the locations. If the student uses a swipe gesture to move across the screen, he/she does not know where he/she is on the screen and loses all the spatial information. Not to mention, the drag gesture is physically easier to do than the swipe gesture!

Note: Students can swipe right or left to move across the Home screen row; however, they cannot swipe up or down to move from one row to another. Students can drag right, left, up or down!

Dragging in a Straight Line

It can be challenging for some students with visual impairments to drag in a straight line on a touch screen device. It is recommended to create a simple tactile row overlay to initially guide the student across the row. (See Tactile to Digital Part 3: Creating a Tactile Overlay on the Go! post for ideas on how to make simple and quick overlays. See other posts in this series to make embossed or PIAF/Swell graphic machine images.) Be sure to encourage the student to carefully listen to the app names as he/she drags his finger across the row. 

Photo of iPad Home screen with tactile row overlay made from a sheet of plain paper with 3 red lines (graphic tape) on the 3 rows of apps, and a shorter line on the apps in the doc. Masking tape or painter's tape holds the paper on the iPad.  Same tactile row overlay on the iPad's Home Screen but right edge is folded back to see the right side of the three rows of app icons and apps in the dock.

Note: The first post in this series discusses several apps for young students which provide opportunities to drag in a straight line across the page.

Spatial Tech Standards 2: Rows Pinterest tag

By Diane Brauner