Each week my son, who is in first grade, brings home four new vocabulary words. The photo on the right shows how new sight words are presented to my son who has cortical visual impairment (CVI) and is in Phase III CVI (Roman-Lantzy). The words are outlined in red, which is his preferred color. This shows the shape of the word more clearly.
Some parents are more high tech and use Google Slides, but we use plain white index cards (my son really enjoys watching the simple act of writing). Each word is written in bold black marker on the card. Next the word is traced with a bright red bubble or tight outline. The outline or highlight should be tight enough that it preserves the salient features of the word shape (Roman).
Talking About the Salient Features of the Word Shape
Next the card is presented to my son and we talk about it, with an emphasis on the salient features of the word shape. A typical description might go like this:
- Is this a long word or a short word?
- The word feast starts with a tall letter, f. F is tall with a line that goes across. It ends with a tall letter, t. T is tall like f and both letters have a line that goes across. T is similar to f except that f has a curve at the top. (salient features, comparative language, Roman)
- There are short letters in the middle of feast. Can you touch the letter s? Can you touch the vowels? Both of these questions involve the CVI characteristic of complexity of array (Roman).
Using Consistent Vocabulary to Discuss Sight Words
By now my son is familiar with the language of discussing new sight words. When describing these to him, the descriptions will more likely take the form of questions. What kind of letter does feast start with? What kind of letter is at the end of the word? Can you point to all the vowels in feast? Lastly, Can you spell the word?
On the back of the card, the questions – describing how the word was presented – are carefully written out. The card goes back to school with my son. In this way, the educational team learns how new words are presented, and how to talk about salient features and use comparative language when talking about word shapes. By doing this, everybody is using consistent language with my son (Roman).
Comparing Similar Looking Words
Lately when learning new sight words, we compare the vocabulary word with a new similar looking word. This is based on a recent discussion about salient features with Christine Roman. As a strategy to strengthen my son’s skills in identifying salient features in general, she suggested emphasizing the CVI characteristic of novelty. Instead of grilling Jasper on the salient features of objects, we focus on novelty to get at those details, What do you see that is different? So when the two words feast and beast are compared, we ask, How are these two words different? Both words start with a tall letter, f is tall like b, but f has a curve at the top. The discussion was not specific to literacy or sight words and we have been applying this approach to novelty wherever we can.
Another Example of How to Present Bubble Sight Words
This is one example of how to present bubble sight words, along with how to help educational teams use salient features and comparative language when teaching words to a student with CVI. It may be helpful for other students who have cortical visual impairment.