Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Keep Pupils in Touch with Tactile Models

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Keep Pupils in Touch with Tactile Models

Article excerpt

Visually impaired children can struggle with scientific diagrams, so put the solution in their own hands

As a science teacher, I have always used models in my teaching. The representation of a 3D object with a 2D diagram is something that most students will understand, and they should also be able to scan and track an animation on a screen.

But when I started working at a school for visually impaired students, I suddenly found that my PowerPoints and animations were redundant for most of the children I was teaching. I was forced to rethink and found a solution that may be useful for teachers in any type of school: a more tactile approach to modelling in science.

Substituting an animation or diagram for a tactile model requires a certain level of creativity and quick thinking, but they can be made very easily and they have a big impact.

For example, when teaching the digestive system I use a knitted version, which can be complemented by a tactile graphic pointing out all the different elements.

When we discuss the small intestine, I use another model made from a bath mat to demonstrate the finger-like projections called villi.

Students are likely to have learned that villi increase the surface area of the intestine enabling maximum absorption to take place. At this point, teachers often talk about the mathematical principles of surface area. However, as the principle of absorption is the most important point here, I take two square swatches of the bath mat fabric, cut off the projections from one and leave the other intact. …

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