All students need to learn to use commas and have opportunities to practice using commas. Quite often braille students who are pulled out for language arts, miss activities that reinforce grammar skills, such as when to use commas. Students in the 21st century classrooms may rely on spell check and grammar check tools to point out and even correct their writing errors. Students who use screen readers may not be aware of all the punctuation - especially commas - that should be included in their written documents. Here is a gen ed worksheet that can be used to reinforce writing with commas and to practice the required tech skills used in editing documents.
This activity is a wonderful opportunity to practice navigating, editing, and table tech skills used in online assessments!
The Where Do Commas Belong? worksheet is a free worksheet available from Education.com. The PDF version is the original version and can be marked up using an annotation app for students with vision or low vision. Students who use a screen reader or who want to manually type in the commas, will need to use the editable Word version. Caution: The "editable" Word version is just that - a student can edit or make changes to any part of this document! The Word version is a slightly modified, accessible version created for your convenience. Download these worksheets:
This PDF version of Where Do Commas Belong? is accessible with a screen reader; however, students cannot manually type in a comma or make changes to the document. Use an annotation app to mark up the PDF version. There are numerous annotation apps available and Paths to Technology has multiple posts about various annotation apps. Here is one post that details how to use a free annotation app called SAS Gloss.
Navigating a Simple Table
Note: These worksheets can be opened on any tablet or computer. Screen readers navigate the tables and navigate text the same way irregardless of the device and students may use their preferred method of interaction (keyboard or braille display). Note: Gestures on a touch screen are more challenging when editing, as there are more Bluetooth keyboard/braille display navigating commands available than gesture commands. In this post, we will use an iPad running VoiceOver with a Bluetooth keyboard. The worksheet can be opened in any document app, including Google Docs; in this post, the worksheet is opened in the Pages app.
The Where Do Commas Belong? worksheet has a simple two column table. Column 1 shares the comma rule and Column 2 provides an example sentence of that rule. When using a screen reader and the focus is on the table, the screen reader will announce that there is a table and the number of rows and columns in that table. This provides the blind student a quick "glimpse" of the table. Understanding the concept of a table and being able to quickly build a mental map are crucial tech skills! If the student needs to work on building these concepts, start with the post, Moving Forward with Accessible Digital Math. With this Comma worksheet, VoiceOver announces, "Table 1, 8 rows, 2 columns" then goes on to list the physical size and additional information that is not necessary for young students. (Use the Pause gesture (2-finger single tap) or Command key to pause VoiceOver.)
Turn the Rotor to "Rows". (Up+right arrows, stopping on Rows.) This enables you to move up/down within a column using the up/down arrows. As you move vertically within the column, VoiceOver will announce the Row header - in this case, Row 1, Row 2, etc. Move right and left horizontally within a row using the right/left arrows. VoiceOver will announce the Column Header (in this case, Column 1 or Column 2).
If the student has limited experiences with a digital table, allow the student to first explore the table on his own. (He may swipe right, drag his finger or use the Read All command.) Pay attention to whether the student listened to the VoiceOver announcement of how many rows and columns. If the student has more experience with digital tables, he may listen to the number of rows and columns announced at the beginning and use that information to build a mental map. Ask the student open ended questions to describe the table. Analyze whether the student developed a mental map and if he efficiently navigated and gleaned information from his exploration. Did the student know how many rows and columns and the headers of these rows and columns?
A table is simply a method of organizing information. After the initial exploration, teach the student how to efficiently gather information from a table by listening for the VoiceOver announcement of the number of rows and columns and building a quick mental map. What information is in column 1? What information is in column 2? Then, fill in the mental table with the content - in this case, the comma rule and the example sentence. Ask the student to listen to the first three rules. Did he navigate to the examples or did he move straight to the second then third rule? For young students who are beginner tech users, dragging a finger in a straight up/down line will reinforce the concept of a column. Note: Unless the rotor is set to Rows, the student cannot swipe up or down to navigate within a column! Students who are swiping, will move across the page from left to right and typically do not build a mental map of the table. As the student's tech concepts grow, he will need to progress to using the arrow keys (or braille display commands) to navigate up/down.
If the student has good spatial/mental mapping tech skills, then he is ready to learn how to navigate the table using keyboard or braille display commands. Explain how to set the rotor to Rows which enables the student to use the up/down arrow keys or braille display commands to move vertically within the table. Ask the student to find the example sentence for a specific rule, such as the sentence about "quotations", using only Keyboard commands or braille display commands. Which row and column has the sentence about Boo, the dog? When using keyboard or braille display commands, be sure to check the student's concept knowledge by asking open questions about the table.
Adding Commas to the Sentences Activity (Screen Reader)
After the student is familiar with the comma rules, then he is ready to complete the worksheet. Editing is much easier and more efficient using Bluetooth keyboard commands or on a braille display with routing buttons. Navigating by character, words or lines with gestures is awkward and slow!
NOTE: When completing grammar or spelling worksheets, go to Settings and turn off Check Spelling, Predictive, Auto Correction, and Smart Punctuation. If these features are on, the iPad will automatically assist the student! Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > and turn off the desired options.
The Punctuation feature should also be selected as a Rotor item. Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Rotor and check Punctuation. Once Punctuation is a rotor option, go back to the worksheet. Turn the rotor to "Punctuation" (up + right arrows stopping on Punctuation). Select ALL punctuation; when left on ALL, VoiceOver will say all the punctuation in the sentence, including the commas. When you are done, change punctuation back to Some punctuation.
Bluetooth Keyboard Navigation
With the worksheet opens in a document app (in this case, the Pages app), make sure to double tap (up + down arrow) to make the document an editable document (vs. a read only document). In order to add commas or edit the document, Quick Nav must be off. (Right + left arrows toggles Quick Nav on/off.) Now, navigate by characters using the right or left arrow. (Note: If the VoiceOver cursor jumps to another area of the document, Quick Nav is on.) Navigate to where a comma should be added using the following Bluetooth keyboard commands (Quick Nav is off):
- Read next/previous character (right arrow/left arrow)
- Read next/previous word (Option + right arrow/option + left arrow)
- Read next/previous line (Down arrow/up arrow)
- Read next/previous paragraph (Option + down arrow/option + up arrow)
- Move insertion point to the beginning of the current line (Cmd + left arrow)
- Move insertion point to the end of the current line (Cmd + right arrow)
When the cursor is in the desired location, input the comma by pressing the comma key.
Braille Display Navigation
Router buttons are crucial braille display components used for editing. The router buttons are either directly below or above each braille cell. Pressing the router will jump the VoiceOver/braille cursor to that location. The student can read the desired line on the braille display using the panning keys to move the braille forward or backwards through the document. When the student finds the desired location to add the comma, press the router button below and one cell to the right of the desired location and type in the comma braille symbol.
Note: APH's Orbit Reader does NOT have router buttons. To navigate with the Orbit, the student must use the rotor set to characters, words or lines, then use the arrow commands to move by the select unit.