Adapting Warm-Up Activities in Science for Students with Visual Impairment

I remember a conversation with my mother years ago when I first began teaching.  As a school psychologist for many years, she had observed many classroom environments.  As we spoke about effective (and ineffective) teaching practices, she remarked that the teachers who regularly had an intro type activity (warm-up) usually engaged the class more quickly in the lesson, had fewer discipline issues,  and were able to maintain the attention of the class more effectively.  Now, as a more seasoned teacher (and in agreement with research in the field), I have found this to be true.  However, when a general ed teacher designs a warm-up activity, he/she will look to the TVI for  the adaptations necessary for the student with visual impairment.  This blog will focus not only on ideas for warm-up activities in science class, but also on how to adapt these activities as an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired.

Warm-up Ideas

Look Back or Ahead

Warm-up activities are a very effective manner in which to review concepts recently covered or to look ahead to concepts to be taught.  Review of vocabulary learned as well as applying critical thinking to recent content are both effective warm-up ideas. Questions about content to come will spark the students' interest, though it is important to stress that you don't expect the students to be confident of these concepts yet.

Use The Textbook as a Resource

I have found most of the textbooks that I have used to be a great resource for warm-up ideas.  Look for the following headings in the teacher help section: Intro, Opener, Begin the lesson, etc.  Ususally these ideas are simple and require little preparation.  One consumable textbook even has an "Engage Your Brain" section at the beginning of each lesson, which are appropriate to use as warm-up activities.

Use Competition to Motivate

I have been surprised at how effective a simple game is at motivating students.  The following are a couple of examples: 

  • Students can work with a desk partner to "beat" the other groups in the class to the correct answer to a review question.
  • Working individully, give students a recently memorized mnemonic and allow them to race to correctly complete it.  If students are of widely varying ability levels, the challenge can be only to correctly complete and not to "race".

Encourage ELA Skills

Students can both review content and develop better English Language Arts skills through warm-up activities.  Examples include completing a sentence given a "sentence starter" for elementary students or writing about a recent topic (in complete sentences, of course) for middle school and high school students. 

To encourage reading skills, matching terms and definitions for several recent vocab words is a quick and easy warm-up.  See Vocab Review Game.

Adapting Warm-ups

Itinerant TVIs working with students with VI in a general education science classroom should consider how the student with visual impairment will most benefit from a warm-up activity.  Because warm-up activiteis are only a few minutes at the beginning of class, there is little time to "think on the fly" about how to adapt the content. It is therefore vital for the TVI to request info on the content and materials needed for the warm-ups ahead of time and to prepare materials as appropriate. 

  • Ask the teacher about upcoming lessons including warm-ups.  
  • Prepare for warm-ups as you would for classroom instruction.
  • If a warm-up relates to a picture in the textbook, consider offering a real object (model) or searching for a raised line if there is one available. 


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