Division on Visual Impairments

VIDBEQ 62(2) Spring 2017

A quarterly newsletter from the Council for Exceptional Children's Division on Visual Impairments containing practitioner tips for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and other professionals.

Issue link: http://dvi.uberflip.com/i/827904

Contents of this Issue


Page 26 of 39

with visual impairments. This creates a conundrum, as what are known to be the best practices for each subgroup of students does not work well for ELLs with visual impairments. Subsequently, we looked for other approaches to support student learning and vocabulary development, with as many concrete activities as possible. This article focuses specifically on strategies to teach academic vocabulary and abstract concepts to ELLs who are visually impaired. It is important to strengthen students' underlying vocabulary and teach them unfamiliar words. With students who are ELLs with visual impairments, sometimes it is difficult to determine the gaps in language development. An example of this occurred quite by chance. Maria, an ELL with a visual impairment in a 4 th grade classroom, answered the question "Who was Benjamin Franklin?" She replied, "Benjamin Franklin invented a lot of things. His picture is on money. He signed the declaration of independence. He discovered electricity by flying a kite in the rain with a key." Maria had answered the question quickly and correctly, but her teacher had a feeling it was a rote response. "What is a kite?" her teacher asked. "I don't know," Maria replied. "Why would there be electricity in a thunderstorm?" her teacher asked. Maria replied "I don't know," again. "Why was there a key on the kite, and where did he put it on the kite?" Maria shook her head. "I don't know." This example demonstrates how crucial it is to predetermine the essential vocabulary students must know to understand the lesson. Miller (2006) explains it is important to avoid making assumptions about what a student knows or about what experiences they have had. She asserts "Assessing prior knowledge is essential to tailoring instruction to individual students' needs" (p. 63). Simply administering a K-W-L chart (K - Know: what does the student know, W - What: what does the student want to know, and L - Learn: what has the student learned) can be a valuable assessment prior to instruction that helps to tailor lessons to students' needs. While Miller's work focuses on students with learning disabilities, it is easily applicable to students with visual impairments. The following strategies can help teachers when planning instruction for building background knowledge. 27

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