Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Strategies for Helping Children with Visual Impairments to Develop Listening Skills

Strategies for Teachers of Students with Visual ImpairmentsYoung boy at the sink

  • Provide ample time for children to inspect any objects presented for exploration. This may be time spent in addition to circle time, either before or after, describing the salient features of the object as the student manually explores it. 
  • Before students participate in circle time, provide orientation to instructional materials that are regularly used, such as calendars, name charts, counting objects, and pointers. Children also benefit from opportunities to practice with the materials so that when it is their turn to put the new number on the calendar, for example, they have a greater level of comfort and familiarity. 
  • Provide opportunities to practice the movements that accompany the songs that are regularly sung, explaining, when necessary, why they accompany the words in the song. For instance, when singing “I’m a Little Teapot,” one hand is held up like a teapot spout, while the other is hand is placed on the hip, as if forming a handle. A real teapot should be shown to the child as a model during description and practice. 
  • Encourage youngsters with visual impairments to listen for the voice of their teacher or the person who is speaking during activities. Teach them to turn their bodies so that they face the speaker while seated. This will take practice until it becomes natural. 
  • Teach children how to raise their hands in response to and when asking questions during circle-time instruction. This, too, will take practice.

Strategies for Classroom Teachers

  • Choose a circle-time seating arrangement that places the student with visual impairment in close proximity to instructional materials and actions. In this way the child will experience the activity more fully, and teacher support will be nearby when necessary.
  • Use the names of children consistently so that the student with visual impairment will know who is called on or involved in an activity. 
  • Use precise positional terminology during instruction. For example, when directing students to point to or place an object, use specific language, for example, “Put the counting bear in the ones cup on the right."
  • Encourage the child with visual impairment to participate during circle-time activities by calling on him or her regularly, with the expectation that the child can participate fully. In the beginning it will support the child if he or she knows in advance that he or she will be asked to tell the name of the day, for example. Prepare the child for what to expect. 
  • When presenting new ideas and concepts, link them to the child’s prior experiences and knowledge.


The sound environment in preschool and kindergarten is rich and complex.  Listening skill development will improve awareness and understanding of the environment, increasing security and encouraging curiosity.   By providing careful support and deliberate instruction in listening skill development, children with visual impairments will thrive and enjoy their early school experiences.


Collage for developing listening skills

Reprinted with permission from L.A. Barclay and K. Byrnes "Preschool and kindergarten: early skill development" (p. 94), in Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn: Teaching Listening Skills to Students with Visual Impairments, Lizbeth A. Barclay, Editor, Copyright ©2012 by AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind.  All rights reserved.




6th Grade work

Posted by Camiel Bertram

Struggling 6th grader

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Posted on April 13, 2015
Updated on: September 13, 2020

Previous comments for Strategies for Helping Children with Visual Impairments to Develop Listening Skills

Charlotte Cushman commented on November 1, 2017

Hello Camiel,

Thank you for contacting us.  Does your son have a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI)?  Where do you live?

There are a number of different reasons that he may be struggling in school.  He may need to have materials prepared in his preferred medium or format, he may need preferential seating, so that he has visual access to the teacher and materials being presented, etc.  There may also be other reasons that he struggles, such as an underlying learning disability or cognitive challenges.

Feel free to contact me directly, at if you would like to ask more specific questions.

Camiel Bertram commented on November 1, 2017


My son is now in sixth grade and is struggling., he is blind in the right eye and partial vision in the left eye.

What advice can you give me of how I can ask the teachers for ways to help my child.