Using an Annotation App in the Classroom: Low Vision Students

How to use SAS Gloss, an annotation app, to complete kindergarten coloring worksheets and fill-in-the blank assignments for students with low vision.

Annotation apps are apps that enable a low vision student to write, type or color on top of a picture or PDF document.  Does your low vision kindergarten student have trouble coloring a print worksheet?  Does your low vision middle school student need to quickly access and answer a print document and give it back (email the assignment) to his/her teacher?  Try using an annotation app! 

Annotation apps work well for students with low vision; these apps do not work with a screen reader.  There are many different annotation apps available.  Using the free SAS Gloss app, this post will discuss how low vision students can functionally use an annotation app in the classroom.

To take a picture and open the picture in SAS Gloss

  1. Simply use your iPad to take a picture of a print document or teachers can email the assignment (document or picture).   Documents can also be shared through Dropbox or Google Drive.
  2. Open SAS Gloss and select the “new” button (plus sign in the top left corner).
  3. Open Photos by selecting the photo image in the bottom left corner.
  4. In the popup, select Choose from Library.  (Note:  You can Open SAS Gloss and take the picture directly in SAS Gloss by selecting the Take Photo option.  This does eliminate some steps; however, I usually prefer to have a copy of the photo in the Photo App in case I want the original photo later.)
  5. Find and select the desired image (probably the last photo taken).

Or, if the emails the assignment (PDF document or picture) or shares the assignment through Dropbox, the student can open the assignment directly in SAS Gloss:

  1. Select Share
  2. In the popup menu, select Open In SAS Gloss; if you do not have that option, select Open In.
  3. In the next popup menu, select Open in SAS Gloss option.
  4. Once the document/picture is in SAS Gloss, select the picture.  If the picture is not full screen, use the “grabber” circles (located in the corners of the picture) and drag to the bottom right corner making the picture full screen and tap the Done button in the top left corner.

Note: Teach your student to explore the Tool bar located at both the top and the bottom of the screen.  Be sure to take a look at the Help Button, as this will show an annotated screen that labels/describes each of the Tool bar buttons!

Coloring assignment

  1. Select a color by tapping on the color button located at the bottom of the screen in the middle.
  2. In the popup, select the desired color.  (I chose bright green.)

Worksheet: Color the long vowel fish orange and the short vowel fish green.


  1. Select the opacity by moving the slider.  Note: 100% opacity will mask any written or image underneath the annotation.  Using a lighter opacity will allow the text/image underneath to show thru.  However, the lighter the opacity, the less the contrast. (In the picture above, the high opacity bright orange masks the original text “Whale”.  I manually typed in the word “Whale”.  The green fish were colored with the lower opacity green, allowing the original text to be seen.)
  2. When finished making your color and opacity choices, tap outside the popup to close the popup.
  3. Select the drawing pen.
  4. In the popup, select the type of shape that you want to make.  For coloring the fish, I chose the Smooth Path and turned Fill On.  I can now trace the outside line of the fish; when I complete the “circle” everything inside that “circle” is colored.  If I choose Line, a straight line will be drawn.  If I chose Rectangle or Ellipse, a perfect rectangle or ellipse will be drawn.  Path will create an uneven shape; while Smooth Path will create a smooth line in the desired shape.  
  5. In the popup, select the size or width of your line using the slider.  The right side of the slider will create the widest line.
  6. Tap outside of the box to close the popup.

To easily color the fish

  1. Select your desired color, opacity, Smooth Path and Fill On.  Then, Zoom the screen.  For many students with low vision, coloring inside a line is tough; however, when the image is enlarged, it is easier to stay within the lines!  (If Triple Click Home has Zoom activated, use three fingers double tap and slide up to the desired size of the screen.)
  2. Now, trace the outside of the fish’s main body.
  3. If desired, trace the details, such as the fish’s fins, separately.

If you want to add the fish eye

  1. Go back to the normal size screen (three fingers, double tap). 
  2. Select the desired color and select the size of the line.  (Recommend a larger size.) 
  3. Zoom the screen (three fingers, double tap).
  4. Tap the screen where you want to add the eye.

If you make a mistake

Simply tap the Undo Button at the top of the page. You can also use the Eraser button at the bottom of the page and manually erase the desired area.  Erasing is an option if the student has colored outside of the desired line.

Add text to the fish    

  1. Select the Aa button located in the left side of the bottom Tool bar.
  2. In the popup, type the long or short vowel word in the Enter Text Here box.
  3. Select the desired contrasting color.  Note: You can also change the font if desired.
  4. When finished, tap outside of the popup box.
  5. Move the text to the desired location – in this case, on top of the corresponding fish. Tap the text and the grabber circles will appear in the corners of the text box.  Then, touch inside the box to drag the large text to the desired location.  NOTE: Be sure that the grabber circles are displayed or you will move the BACKGROUND image instead of the text box!
  6. Make the text the desired size.  Tap the text and the grabber circles will appear.  Starting at the edge of the text box, drag your finger out to make the text larger and drag in to make the text smaller.  NOTE: It is easier to drag the text box when it is larger, so be sure to move the text box first before making the text smaller.
  7. Repeat until all the fish are labeled.

When you have finished annotating each step, tap on the Done button in the top left corner. This will bring up the bottom Tool bar again, allowing you to choose the next color or annotation options.

When you are finished annotating the fish, tap the Gloss button (top left corner) to go back to the SAS Gloss Home screen.

Note:  Using the higher opacity and then manually typing in the text works best for students who use the Zoom feature, as the text remains crisp and clear while zoomed.  The original text on the image/document will often become blurry when Zoomed.  Try zooming in on the fish assignment to compare the clearness/usability of the original text and the manually typed text.

To Annotate a fill-in-the blank assignment

Follow the Add Text to the Fish directions above.  The image below demonstrates how a low vision student, who was given a last minute print assignment, was able to access the assignment and write her name and the first two answers in blue text.  If needed, use Zoom to view the chart.

Screenshot of annotated Baseball Bar Graph Worksheet.

To email the annotated map

  1. From the SAS Gloss Home screen, tap the Share button located in to the top right corner.
  2. Select the desired picture (fish coloring assignment). The picture will be checked.  You can select multiple pictures to email at one time.
  3. Select Share in the top left corner.
  4. Select Email.
  5. Type in the desired email address.  You can add a message if desired.
  6. Select the Send button in the top right corner.

Do you want to practice using an annotation app?  The two sample worksheets are attached below:

Fish Coloring worksheet

Baseball Graph worksheet

There are two annotation app videos below: one video demonstrates the app SAS Gloss and the second video demonstrates the app Smart Forms.


Editor’s Note: SAS Gloss is no longer available; however there are numerous other annotation apps that can be used to do the same things!

Be sure to check out these posts about other annotation apps!

Creating Low Vision Maps: SAS Gloss

Smart Forms: An annotation App for the iPad

Scanning a Print Document and Filling Out on the iPad


Pinterest collage for annotation app


Attached File(s)
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