Teaching Listening Comprehension: Very Hungry Caterpillar App Activity

It is often believed that students who are visually impaired have heightened senses to help compensate for the vision loss. Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) know that these other 'compensatory senses' are skills that have to be carefully taught and honed - these skills do not 'magically' appear! It is true that students with visual impairments rely on their highly developed senses and skills - once these skills have been developed. In early elementary classrooms, colorful pictures and objects are used to capture and maintain students' attention and provide critical educational information. While their sighted peers may receive information through visual means, a student with a visual impairment needs strong listening skills to glean the same information using a different sense.

Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is not just hearing what is said - it is the ability to understand the words and relate them in some way. Listening comprehension involves:

  • The ability to take in information
  • The ability to respond to instructions
  • The ability to share ideas, thoughts and opinions

When a student hears a story, listening comprehension allows them to understand it, remember it, talk about it, and retell it in their own words.

Note: In elementary school, reading comprehension generally lags behind listening comprehension. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar App Activity

I recently discovered that TVIs also need prompts to listen carefully and comprehend information! Last week, I presented two workshops for TVIs on how to introduce VoiceOver (iOS screen reader) to students ages 3 - 8 years old. One of the apps used in this presentation is The Very Hungry Caterpillar App - First Words by StoryToys. This interactive book app is self-voicing and students can tap around the screen to find the various objects on the page; tap on the same object again, to hear an associated sound of the object. The app is self-voicing and is not compatible with VoiceOver; however, students do not need to physically see the screen, random taps will locate the various animals.

The following video introduces The Very Hungry Caterpillar App.

The initial goal of the first page in the interactive app is to demonstrate that young students with visual impairments or blindness can interact with this self-voicing book app by simply tapping around the screen to find the animals on the screen. The animals are placed towards the center of the screen (not in the corners or very top or very bottom of the screen). While students can randomly tap the screen to find the animal, the student should pay attention to where the animal is located and the spatial relationships between the animals. (Note: The last few pages of the book ask the student to find a specific animal - the student needs to remember where the animal is located on the page in order to tap on it!)

After demonstrating the first two pages of the book, I asked the TVIs about the category of animals on these two pages. When they were not able to answer, I opened the second page again to start the Read Aloud for that page. This time, the TVIs listened and said "Jungle" category.

Next, the TVIs were asked to name the three animals  that were mentioned in the Read Aloud on the Jungle page and what these three animals did. When the TVIs were not able to answer, I opened the second page again to start the Read Aloud for that page. Then, the TVIs answered that the crocodile splashes, an elephant stomps and the lion dashes.

The video below plays the Jungle page again, enabling the TVIs to focus on - and comprehend - the sentences being read aloud.

After that, the TVIs tuned into and comprehended the rest of the story without any prompts! This is a great listening comprehension activity to do with students. So often, listeners - both students and adults - are so excited to see what the app will do, that they miss critical auditory information.

Note: There are several apps available based on Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar book, including another version by StoryToys.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - First Words by StoryToys App Store

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - First Words by StoryToys Google Play 

VoiceOver Hints

The same is true with VoiceOver hints. When VoiceOver is on, VoiceOver announces exactly what to do, if users pay attention to the auditory announcements. I'm the first to admit that VoiceOver tends to be a "Chatty Cathy", jabbering away with information that I already know. A prime example is when swiping right through the icons on the Home screen. VoiceOver will announce the app, then double tap to open. I know how to open apps, so I tend to swipe quickly and not listen to that information after each app is announced. 

However, do you know how to reveal Notifications? Touch the time (located in the top left corner in iOS 13) AND LISTEN CAREFULLY.  The VoiceOver hint starts with the time, "status bar item, swipe down with three fingers to reveal notifications . . ." then VoiceOver hint continues on to provide additional information about the Control Center and additional features available.

Do you know how to use a Picker Item? With VoiceOver on, open the Clock App. In the bottom right corner of the app, open the Timer Button. Now touch the middle of the screen. There is a picker item for the hour, minutes and seconds. Listen to the VoiceOver hint in order to learn how to adjust the picker item value.