Realistic 3D model of a snowy owl with his head turned to the side.

Tactile descriptions: Building language and concepts

Building student vocabulary and concepts through exploring and describing tactile models and tactile graphics.

This is the fifth video post on providing tactile graphic rich environments for preschool and elementary students. This post will focus on descriptions: building language and concepts.

Our students need plenty of time for guided exploration and building a shared vocabulary. We need to know what our students are noticing as they explore 3D and 2D tactile materials. Through discussion, we can help build concepts. For young children this needs to happen with enthusiasm, story and play.

Concrete to manipulatives to abstract

Children learn about their world with real objects, soon dolls and toys represent people and things they know. Then children make meaning from pictures and move on to reading letters and words. This progression in understanding abstract symbols happens for the visual learner and tactile learner. But tactile imagery doesn’t just exist in our environments, so we need to be more deliberate about providing those experiences for our students.

Curious and collaborative learning – it goes both ways

Nurture this process of exploring, discussing, and guiding. Especially as sighted teachers, we have so much to learn about what our students with visual impairments are experiencing and how they are thinking. This communication will be vital as you move to more complex tactile materials. Provide the young student with information up front and share what you notice. This can be a way to gently provide corrections and new information. We don’t want the student to be worried about getting things right or wrong. Their understanding of concepts and the world will build over time as they layer on new experiences. Explore, tell stories, and have fun!

Tactile Description: Building language and concepts video:

Video transcript


The Tactile Graphic Rich Environments series will cover:

Additional Logan resources

by Jessica McDowell

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