Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Lessons for Beginners Using Screen Readers


When I teach a new student to use a screen reading software, I always teach the Windows shortcut keys first because they are the same no matter what screen reading software is used. You can perform most needed task on your computer using only Windows shortcut keys. The screen reading software shortcut keys when the student is proficient with the Windows shortcut keys.
Remember you only need to teach the shortcut keys needed to complete the lesson. You are not teaching the concept of shortcut keys but how to use them to complete a task on the computer. Below, find the resources I use for looking up shortcut keys. There are way too many to imagine ever memorizing! is an open, wiki-style Reference Database for Keyboard Shortcuts

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts Overview

Use shortcut keys as an alternative to the mouse when working in Windows. You can open, close, and navigate the Start menu, desktop, menus, dialog boxes, and Web pages using keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts may also make it easier for you to interact with your computer.
computer hope

Computer Hope

Top 10 keyboard shortcuts everyone should know.

Sample Lessons

I use silly poems to teach some of the navigation shortcut keys for a word processor first. With the poem I would teach the student how to navigate using the arrow keys, the arrow keys with the Ctrl key, top of document and bottom of document. When the student reads the poem I ask them a few questions about the poem and if they can’t answer I have them go to the top of the document to read the poem again. This process sometimes requires repeated reading. This poem is one of my favorites.

Excerpt from Homework! Oh! Homework! 

From Jack Prelutsky’s (1984) The New Kid on the Block 
I'd rather take baths
with a man-eating shark,
or wrestle a lion
alone in the dark,
eat spinach and liver,
pet ten porcupines,
than tackle the homework,
my teacher assigns.


The next lessons I teach require the student to reformat a document by selecting words, titles and numbers to change. The hardest part of this lesson is to have the student select the word, number or title by using CTRL with the right or left arrow keys (characters) or CTRL + Shift with the right and left arrow keys (words). For future lessons you can change the sentences or maybe use a recipe to reformat, the choices are endless.
Directions:  Find the “numbers” in each sentence, select them and make them bold.
The summer of 2011 was the hottest in Texas' history.
Temperatures soared higher than 100 degrees for more than 90 days out of June, July, and August.
The lowest temperature recorded in Austin for August 2011 was 71 degrees, on August 30.
Directions:  Find the titles of books and movies in these sentences.  Change the titles to italics.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold more than eleven million copies in the first twenty-four hours following its release.
My favorite movie is Lord of the Rings, but my sister likes Sleepless in Seattle better.
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, is a book about pirates.
Directions:  Read each sentence carefully.  Underline the correct verb in parentheses.
Jason (brought, brang) his laptop to school.
Danny (gived, gave) his outgrown bicycle to his brother.
Edna quickly (wiping, wiped) up the spilled milk.
So remember if you start with Windows shortcut keys you can practice on your own laptop unless you use a Mac, then you will need to borrow a computer. These Windows shortcut keys have be around since 1992 with the miracle that was Windows 3.1 and they just get better with new shortcut keys added and new versions of Windows.
screen readers collage




Using JAWS to access the Internet

Posted by Roxanne

Using JAWS to access the internet

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Posted on October 5, 2015
Updated on: October 7, 2019

Previous comments for Lessons for Beginners Using Screen Readers

Charlotte@Perkins commented on May 3, 2016

Hi Roxanne,

This post may be helpful: Accessing the Internet with Windows Screen Reading Software


Roxanne commented on May 3, 2016

Can you direct me to a source for teaching students to use JAWS to access the Internet. Thank you.