Week 3: July 14-20

Instructions : Participants are expected to respond to one of the questions posted in a manner that reflects an appropriate level of analysis and engagement in the discussion; applying the knowledge and insights from the readings to practical applications; drawing conclusions based on the content, raising new questions, presenting a counter argument, etc. Each response should include the question number, be stated in complete sentences, and apply the knowledge from the readings and sessions to practical applications.

In addition, each participant is expected to comment on at least two participants’ responses. The responses should be reflective and thoughtful, not simple short answers like “I agree” or “Me too.” A thoughtful response integrates readings, may provide examples, add new information, or present a counter argument.

Scarborough’s Reading Rope (Arizona Department of Education, ND)

  1. How can teachers adapt instruction to ensure that students with visual impairments are able to apply their understanding of language structure in a variety of reading contexts, considering the challenges they may face in accessing written syntax and text structure?

  2. In what ways can educators incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills, thus enhancing their reading comprehension abilities?

  3. Considering the interconnectedness of decoding and language comprehension highlighted in Scarborough’s Reading Rope, how might teachers identify and address specific areas of weakness or gaps in understanding for students with visual impairments, particularly in phonological awareness and decoding?

  4. How might collaborative planning and instruction between TVIs and general education teachers be structured to ensure alignment, particularly in terms of addressing the interconnectedness of language comprehension and word recognition?

Question 2:
One way educators can incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with Visual Impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills is as an activity I was introduced to this year called “surprise concept of the day”. This activity was brought up during a team in-service this school year and many of my colleagues and I have been incorporating it with our students. This can look different for different students based on their ages and needs. How I have incorporated it is by using mostly daily living skills items and introducing them to a student. I give the item to a student, let them tactually explore the item, and then we discuss what it may be used for and what it is used for. For example, I may bring in a whisk. I will give the students a whisk and let them explore it. Then I will ask the students what they think it is used for. Finally, I will tell them what we use it for and where we use it and may find it. This method is a way to target students’ vocabulary knowledge with meaningful and real-life examples. This can be incorporated as a part of a student’s routine and it does not have to be anything fancy! As it is shown in Scarborough’s Reading Rope, when we increase student’s understanding of vocabulary, it increases their language comprehension which propels them to more skilled reading!

  1. In what ways can educators incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills, thus enhancing their reading comprehension abilities?

Educators can incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills by:

  1. Providing material in the student’s reading medium. Students who are sighted see print all the time; therefore, students who read braille or large print should have the same opportunity to encounter the written word.
  2. Provide the student who is blind/visually impaired with a story bag. This bag could include tangible objects that follows the story being read aloud in class. Have the student explore the objects prior to reading the story so that they have knowledge of the objects beforehand.
  3. If taking a student who is blind/visually impaired to a museum, inquire as to whether or not the museum offers tactile tours or a way to have tangible items ahead of time so that the is able to follow along with what others may be seeing behind glass.
  4. Teachers should ask questions to inquire about a student’s background knowledge. Taking care of a pet may be familiar to a student who has a pet cat or dog at home.

These are all ways a teacher can build a student’s background knowledge and vocabulary skills, thus enhancing their reading comprehension abilities

Scarborough’s Reading Rope (Arizona Department of Education, ND)

  1. How can teachers adapt instruction to ensure that students with visual impairments are able to apply their understanding of language structure in a variety of reading contexts, considering the challenges they may face in accessing written syntax and text structure?

I believe in communicating to the BLV student and breaking down sentences, paragraphs, then pages into an understanding of their knowledge. I had a braille student reading the book, “Old Man and the Sea”. That is a very descriptive book when reading in print and background knowledge is helpful in understanding what the author is presenting. There was a section where the author was talking about the ripples beside the boat. My student was so confused over that and as much as we tried to verbally explain to her what ripples were, she was still confused. We finally demonstrated it to where she could actually feel ripples and make them herself and she was so happy to grasp that concept for a better understanding of that section in the book. We as BLV Teachers need to look at the “visual” context in the English language and make sure our students are at a comfortable place to be able to advocate for themselves to ask when they don’t understand a concept so further instruction can be demonstrated for them.

  1. In what ways can educators incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills, thus enhancing their reading comprehension abilities?

As the article says from Scarborough’s Reading Scope. When we increase student’s understanding of vocabulary, it increases their language and reading comprehension which progresses them into a more skilled level of reading. When I focus on that statement, it comes to mind of the many activities I use to build this reading skill:
Provide materials in the appropriate medium for the student. Make sure everything the sighted students have is accessible for the BLV students.
Use tactile story boxes for each book to identify vocabulary, order of events, character details, etc…
Discuss background knowledge with the student to use materials familiar with them so they can talk about it and they can expand the vocabulary and language around something they have familiarity with.
Use visualization techniques to start conversations

  1. Considering the interconnectedness of decoding and language comprehension highlighted in Scarborough’s Reading Rope, how might teachers identify and address specific areas of weakness or gaps in understanding for students with visual impairments, particularly in phonological awareness and decoding?

When working with students with visual impairments, I think it’s crucial for teachers to use a multi-sensory approach to address areas of weakness or gaps in understanding. For phonological awareness and decoding, we can incorporate tactile and auditory activities to help students grasp the relationship between sounds and letters. We can do this by using textured materials to represent letters and words, as well as including students in activities that focus on listening to and differentiating between sounds. Providing assistive technology such as screen readers or Braille materials, can further support students with visual impairments.

  1. How might collaborative planning and instruction between TVIs and general education teachers be structured to ensure alignment, particularly in terms of addressing the interconnectedness of language comprehension and word recognition?

It’s important for both TVIs and gen. ed. teachers to have communication and planning meetings to discuss students’ individual needs, progress, and challenges. This should involve collaborating about strategies that have proven effective in developing language comprehension and word recognition skills for students with visual impairments in the past so the teacher would have an understanding that yes, this is possible in the Gen. Ed. classroom.

Planning sessions can be organized so collaboration to integrate appropriate accommodations and modifications can be brought into the curriculum. We can contribute our expertise in adapting materials for students with visual impairments, while gen ed teachers can provide their thoughts on content.

I have also arranged professional development opportunities for teachers to strategize for students with visual impairments to have both organization and to further strengthen collaboration.

I believe when providing a collaborative environment that prioritizes communication, joint planning, co-teaching, and professional development, TVIs and gen ed teachers can effectively address the language comprehension and word recognition for students with visual impairments.

Hello Sharon,
You give great examples of how we can provide different concept-building opportunities for our students!

I especially like the idea you gave regarding tactile tours at museums. Whenever I accompany a student to the zoo or museum, if they do not offer tactile tours, I will bring small figurines or request 3D-printed renderings from our media center. I think this is an excellent way to translate concepts for our students.

All of these methods you listed are great ideas regarding how to build those foundations of comprehension for our students!

Hello Carla,
Great responses to the questions for this module!

I appreciate your approach with your students who did not understand the concept of ripples. A lot of the time I have noticed students would rather stay quiet if they do not recognize or understand a concept in reading than inquire what it is. So much of their understanding is lost when they are afraid to ask those questions. By providing opportunities to explore those more visual concepts you are targeting comprehension and advocacy. Have you found other methods to encourage your students to ask those questions? Sometimes if a word I may sense is unfamiliar to a student I may ask if they know what it means. If they do not I will suggest we look up a definition or video explaining the concept together. I have found it helps my students become more comfortable in a 1:1 setting, but still have found it hard for them to confidently ask questions in a larger group setting.

I have also found that gift shops may have tactile models that the student can explore prior to taking a tour. I wish our agency had a resource for requesting 3-D models; this would be awesome!

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  1. In what ways can educators incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills, thus enhancing their reading comprehension abilities?

In my situation as an itinerant TVI, working in multiple school districts, this can definitely be a challenge, as I am rarely able to work directly with students more than 2-3 times a week for a couple hours or less. This really takes a team approach, working closely with the classroom teacher, paraeducators, families, and anyone else involved in educating a student with a significant visual impairment.

I feel like the involvement of families is most critical when it comes to creating real life experiences and tactile learning activities as the student spends most of their time at home and where much of their experiences at home are routine and naturally occurring. I try to equip parents with materials, ideas, and strategies they can practice at home, using materials they already use or have on hand. For example, when giving a child a bath they talk about bubbles when giving a child a bath, and other concepts such as cold and hot, wet and dry, etc.

Pre-school and early level elementary school teachers use a multisensory approach to learning and use a lot of real objects and tactile experiences in their classroom activities. These can be easily adapted for students with visual impairments, provided that the class has enough staff support to afford the 1:1 assistance the student may need in order to ensure access.

As an itinerant teacher that may show up in the child’s life only a few times a week at most, I may bring tactile or other hands-on activities to do with the student. However, this is usually done out of context, apart from the rest of the class, and not a regular occurring activity. For students that have very limited vision and are very reliant on their auditory, tactile, and other senses in order to develop those foundational pre-literacy skills, it requires the active involvement of those who are most present in their lives. That is why I say, in my case, I can be most effective if I can help others in the educational team to be aware of these needs and empower them to be deliberate and effective in helping students with visual impairments have direct experiences with their environment in order to gain real life experiences, develop their vocabulary, and conceptual understanding.

I appreciate your response to question #2. I appreciate your reminder about using story boxes. I have made story boxes in the past. It definitely takes work and more time than I, or I daresay, most itinerant teachers have on hand in order to make these. Another approach would be to make experience books. You could take an experience that you know a student already has, such as eating, bath time, or recess time, and gather materials (real objects that the student actually uses) to create experience books. These also take time and effort. You could do a couple for a student and encourage the teacher or paraeducator to create more.

I also liked your response to question 3. The learning materials for this unit also mentioned songs and rhyming activities. I don’t think I fully appreciated the value in these activities. I used to think they were mostly for fun, but they definitely help teach important pre-literacy skills. Our students with visual impairments rely heavily on their auditory media and enjoy music and rhythms. These are great activities to help teach phonological awareness, especially songs that incorporate rhyming words. If the student is already a braille reader, you could have the student read books that contain a lot of rhyming words like Dr. Seuss books or other books with a lot repetition built-in.

I appreciate your response to question #2. I appreciate your reminder about using story boxes. I have made story boxes in the past. It definitely takes work and more time than I, or I daresay, most itinerant teachers have on hand in order to make these. Another approach would be to make experience books. You could take an experience that you know a student already has, such as eating, bath time, or recess time, and gather materials (real objects that the student actually uses) to create experience books. These also take time and effort. You could do a couple for a student and encourage the teacher or paraeducator to create more.

I also liked your response to question 3. The learning materials for this unit also mentioned songs and rhyming activities. I don’t think I fully appreciated the value in these activities. I used to think they were mostly for fun, but they definitely help teach important pre-literacy skills. Our students with visual impairments rely heavily on their auditory media and enjoy music and rhythms. These are great activities to help teach phonological awareness, especially songs that incorporate rhyming words. If the student is already a braille reader, you could have the student read books that contain a lot of rhyming words like Dr. Seuss books or other books with a lot repetition built-in.

I understand your perspective on being an itinerant in schools. I worked for a Special Needs Cooperative in rural Montana as an OT and covered many schools, some were one or two room schools to others that had the separate elementary, middle and high schools. Coming 1x week, sometimes more proved challenging at times, especially when trying to get other members of the team to implement strategies to help the student. I was always aware of those students with visual needs and did my best to incorporate what the TVI suggested. One of the challenges I found as an itinerant was the other team members sharing what other itinerant members planned for students. I don’t know as though all the team members realized that the OT can help implement what the TVI may be working on.

I became very aware of verbal language, especially when trying to describe items to these students. Due to my sensory background in OT I definitely enjoyed activities incorporating the tactile, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory senses. When I worked in a pediatric sensory integration clinic I quickly caught on to not wearing perfume or being aware of the smell of my clothes as the smell of fabric softener can be very irritating to some individuals. I enjoyed trying to add some type of sensory component to the lessons provided by the TVI when I worked with students with visual impairments. Again, much of what could be addressed by an OT relates to background knowledge.

  1. In what ways can educators incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills, thus enhancing their reading comprehension abilities?

I helped one of my legally blind braille students build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills by allowing the student to go through my class treasure box when she had a good week. Whatever she chose, we incorporated into the lessons. She would describe the item and come up with words to describe her thoughts and feelings. This also promoted tactile exploration. Also, we would view the objects using the magnifier or CCTV. We would come up with 3 words to braille and make a sentence for the words. It was interesting to see the words she would come up with. This student was a functional skills student so it also helped build her patience to braille the words.

@amydicampbell,
“Surprise concept of the day” is an easy way to incorporate ECC skills into any school day. ECC is not my strength, especially for middle school. I appreciate this idea and will use it beginning August.
Pamela Joyner
2024 Summer Cohort

I thought that was a great idea to have the student make and feel the ripples in water as a way of teaching the concept of ripples in the sea. I would have given anything to see the student’s light bulb or aha moment on their face.

  1. In what ways can educators incorporate real-life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments build their background knowledge and vocabulary skills, thus enhancing their reading comprehension abilities?

In Module 5.2 Language Comprehension instruction Malinda Bachelor states that one of the most important areas of language comprehension is background knowledge. Ways educators can incorporate real life experiences and tactile learning activities to help students with visual impairments would be to implement a variety of teaching strategies. Some strategies that I have found that work best for visually impaired students are: providing hands-on activities, using real life objects, assisting them in making connections (text to self/text to text/text to world), using collaborative learning, and using graphs and charts.

When beginning a new story or topic I like to begin with a KWL chart to see what the student knows and what they want to know. This can provide a lot of insight on where to begin. You can then gather materials or find activities to address confusing concepts. These materials can be real life objects or textures to help with understanding. Hands-on activities such as experiments can also help VI students understand different concepts. For example if you are learning about different kinds of rocks, have them available to tactually explore. Find an experiment using different rocks to help them understand the differences and similarities between each rock. Using charts such as a venn diagram can assist in organizing ideas and with concept development. If possible go on a field trip to provide real life experiences to help expand their knowledge ,vocabulary, and comprehension. Using a combination of teacher strategies can assist in the vocabulary development of VI students.

I am also an itinerant teacher for a preschool student. It can be a struggle making story boxes in advance without teacher cooperation especially when you are not there on a daily basis. It takes time and planning to prepare to allow for the greatest learning experiences for our students, I have tried to schedule these students in the beginning or end of the week so I can meet with the teacher to assist in planning and providing materials for my VI student. If my student has a paraprofessional I have also trained him/her to assist in this process so material adaptation can be carried out when I am not there. It is ideal to have our students learn along with the others in class but sometimes that is not possible if assistance in not given when we are not there.

I like your idea of the “surprise concept of the day” This is a great way to encourage tactual exploration, I have many students who have sensory issues and do not like to touch or explore many objects. By making this a game or activity the whole class is participating in may assist my student in increasing their willingness to step out of their comfort zone and explore different objects. I also like how this incorporates vocabulary development and background experiences. Thank you for sharing.

Claire
I enjoyed your description of the activity you use in your daily work with students with visual impairments. I can identify with everything you say. For about 20 years, I have a similar activity I do “What is in the Braille Box”? I have a wooden box, with velcro on the top to simulate the keys on a Braille Device. (really just a fun way to explore and then emmulate the letters of the items in the box. The student opens the box and I use it as a concept of the week. This can be anything, from something in a daily routine, to something I know they may not have had exposure to simply due to the fact that they may have never had the opportunity to be presented with it. For example, I recently introduced brush (hairbrush), make-up brush, and a brush used for basting on the grill to a student. He is 7 years old, and obviously was familiar with a hairbrush, but not he others. We explored and then practiced using each in a variety of ways. We then, incorporated it into a silly story that he wrote on his Braille Writer and then read as well. ALl of this, increased his comprehension, and his confidence. I agree it never has to be anything fancy, and it is an activity all the students look forward to. I appreciate your input and how important you believe this to be as well.