Classroom Materials

Every student must have classroom materials transferred into his or her appropriate reading medium such as Braille, large print, necessary contrast in a timely manner (Illinois State Advisory Committee [ISAC], 1999). Often for high school and possibly middle school students, teachers might need to transfer class notes and copies of overhead slides into the correct medium before class.

Experiential Learning

Hands-on learning is beneficial to all students. Use real objects as much as possible. Never assume that a student with vision impairment already has learned the necessary background experiences and concepts. When exploring new objects or in helping direct the student’s attention, use the hand-under-hand technique, in which the teacher places his/her hand under the student’s and guides their hand (Sewell, 2005). Refer to for more information on the hand-under-hand technique.

Providing Information

  • Read aloud anything that is written on the board (ADE, 1996).
  • Verbal descriptions and directions should be clear and specific (Van Wagner, 1994). Visual Information needs to be described auditorily for students with severe vision loss (Jordan, 1998).

  • Tactile graphics and raised line drawings are also helpful for conveying information that is normally in illustrations, graphs, and drawings. For more information on tactile graphics and guidelines for designing your own tactile graphics, see the following webpages: Tactile graphics, an overview and resource guide at Guidelines for design of tactile graphics at Oregon State University has a site listing for various organizations that provide products related to tactile graphics at Outline diagrams, graphs, and pictures with liquid glue in order to make simple raised line drawings (Kumar, Ramasamy & Stefanich, 2001). It is important to remember to not solely rely on tactile graphics in your teaching. Understanding and using tactile graphics is a special skill that most blind and low vision students are not generally taught. It is a skill best taught by VI specialists, and tactile graphics can only be adequate when produced by people familiar with methods for making them useable by blind and low vision students. 

Participating in Class

  •  During group discussions, have each person identify him or herself before speaking (Keller, 2004).

  • It may also help for older students to allow presentations to be audiotaped (Kumar et. al, 2001). However, some students may find reviewing presentation tapes time consuming and boring. It is more effective for the students' learning in the long run, to encourage the students to learn to and practice taking notes in Braille with a slate and stylus, or in large print with the appropriate pen. In the upper grades it may also be appropriate to encourage students to take notes with an electronic note taker if they have mastered using this adaptive equipment. These strategies allow for notes to be taken more quickly and easily reviewed.

Developing Concepts

  • “Students with visual impairments need assistance in making the connection between vocabulary, and real objects, body movements and abstract ideas” (ADE, 1996, p. 12).

  • Important vocabulary and concepts should be pre-taught using concrete, multi-sensory experiences combined with verbal explanations. Review material by asking the student to describe what s/he understands about the term or concept (ADE, 1996).

  • New vocabulary should be spelled out verbally (Keller, 2004).

Note-Taking for Students Who are Blind

  • Consider having all students share their notes with peers. Anything written on the board or overhead should be verbalized (ADE, 1996).
  • In advance of the class, work together with the specialist teacher to provide copies of notes, handouts, and overhead materials in Braille or another preferred medium (ADE, 1996).

  • Provide assistance to the student in learning how to take notes independently through technology training with the specialist teacher.

Note Taking for Students with Low Vision

  • Use chalk or markers that contrast well with the blackboard or dry erase board (ADE, 1996, Montgomery, 2005). For older students, ask which color combinations they prefer.
  • Be aware of glare on the board (ADE, 1996).  Allow the student to move flexibly in order to gain the best view of the board.

  • It may be necessary to confirm whether or not students can see the material. Ask what they see, rather than if they can see (ADE, 1996). Remember to ask the student privately and not in front of other students.

  • From time to time, check the student’s notes for accuracy (ADE, 1996).

  • “Felt pens, primary pencils, raised and bold lined paper” can help make students’ handwriting more legible and easier to produce (ADE, 1996, p. 14).

  • If writing is too difficult or laborious for the student, introduce computers at an early age (ADE, 1996).