Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Test Down and Teach Up: Task Analysis of a Duck

Complex color drawing of dog, duck, and tub


My three-year-old student with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) has difficulty finding items unless they have solid, contrasting backgrounds.   I have been using the CVI Complexity Sequences Kit with him, written by Christine Roman and published by the American Foundation for the Blind.  This kit contains a series of cards with pictures of objects that have increasing amounts of information in their backgrounds.


Color drawingw ith duck only




I chose the duck series, because one of my student’s favorite songs is “Five Little Ducks.”  But even after six lessons, my student pointed to the ducks on the first four pictures, but then couldn’t find them on pictures #5-#8, with their increasingly complex backgrounds. 




What to do?  I had recently watched the movie, “Pleasantville,” and was reminded of the strong visual cue of color.  (In this movie, everything is black and whBlack and white drawing with yellow duckite except the characters who break the mold.)  With a color-coding strategy in mind, I ran all the CVI Complexity Series (ducks) through a duplicating machine so that they were all black and white.  Then I hand-colBlack and white dog with yellow duckored only the ducks: yellow with orange beaks.  I laminated the pictures because my student drools, and I know that he tolerates glare.  But he still couldn’t get past picture #4.




Maybe he needed to work with three-dimensional targets, rather than two dimensions? APH Product Information specifies that the kit is designed for “students with CVI who have had success with 2-dimensional materials.”  

Given this, I spread five little plastic ducks on a tray, and my student easily picked them up.  Then I added five different toys and asked him to pick Three-dimensional yellow ducksup only the ducks.  But he seemed to randomly pick up all the items, including the ducks.

Next, I spread out the five plastic ducks and added five yellow shapes, asking him to pick up only ducks.  Again he seemed to randomly pick up all the  items, including the ducks.

Yesterday, I spread out the 5 plastic ducks and added 5 purple shapes and asked him to pick up only ducks.  At last, he had success!

“Test down and teach up.”  Now that I’ve tested down through easier and easier tasks until my student successfully reached a baseline, I’ll “teach up” to three dimensional ducks with yellow shapes, then three dimensional ducks with other toys, then the “Pleasantville” cards, and finally the CVI Complexity Series duck cards as published.  Hopefully my student will have more success when I present other cards in the series (balls, spoons, etc.)  If not, then I’ll continue to test down and teach up.  It’s what we do.


Pinterest collage for complexity and CVI





CVI Complexity Sequences Kit

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Task Analysis

Posted by Faye Gonzalez

Great ideas! I believe I

Posted by Denise Grier


Posted by Gayleen Moeller

App that takes photo

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Color Splash

Posted by Jessica McDowell

Color Splash app

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Posted on February 13, 2013
Updated on: January 25, 2018

Previous comments for Test Down and Teach Up: Task Analysis of a Duck

Charlotte Cushman commented on April 4, 2017

What a cool app, Jessica!  It sounds like there would be so many ways to use it to enhance certain images for students with low vision or CVI.  Thanks for telling us about it!

Jessica McDowell commented on April 4, 2017
Color Splash is an app that can be used to edit a photo into black and white with one section or object color. Many apps that allow masking (or image blending) could be used to isolate elements of a photo.

Gayleen Moeller commented on February 24, 2017

Do you know the name of the App?? Sounds like a great tool.

Charlotte@Perkins commented on February 20, 2013


Thanks for letting us know about this app!  Do you know the name of it?  I think a lot of people would be interested in learning more about it, as it sounds like it would be a useful tool.


Denise Grier commented on February 20, 2013

Great ideas! I believe I recently found a free App that takes a photo, edits the photo to black and white, then you can choose to isolate one object in that photo and keep the color. This sounds like the same concept. Thanks for sharing.

Faye Gonzalez commented on February 15, 2013

This example and explanation of using task analysis of an evaluation as well as a teaching tool is excellent. Thanks for doing this post, it really explains and clarifies how this method works. It is inspiring!

Charlotte@Perkins commented on February 14, 2013

Mary Moritz writes: 

Thank you so much for sharing!  I was unaware that this kit even existed.