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Activity and strategy

Teaching Vocabulary to Use in the Community

Pre-teaching vocabulary is a helpful strategy to enable students who are blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities to get more out of community experiences.

Man signing water

As we take students into the community, sometimes we need to facilitate their interactions with their environment. I ‘scope out’ the environment prior to going, take pictures, and then talk to the team. What vocabulary do we want the student to focus on?  

I make cards using photos, signs, or tactile representations for students with no vision to practice vocabulary before going out into the community.


  • card stock
  • xyron machine
  • cutting board
  • plastic folder to store cards in

Optional: binding for creating cards in a book

Index card with image of a man signing
ASL sign for “plant”


I create cards with picture and font size that is recommended for that student. I try to limit the visual clutter in the photos, but sometimes that can’t be helped. The picture is put in the upper part of the Word document with the word centered just below. I print them on card stock as card stock is sturdier and doesn’t contain the glare that regular copy paper holds. Once printed, I cut the cards down to size. I prefer 5×7, but sometimes we go a little bigger. The ones pictured are 6×8 in size.

Then, if my student requires sign language, on the back are pictures of the sign for that vocabulary word. I put that in a word document and print to copy paper, trim, and then run it through a xyron machine. A xyron machine makes anything into a sticker! Amazon has them, as do Wal-Mart, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and other craft stores. I have several sizes as I use this A LOT! I don’t use glue as it has a tendency to bubble under an image or the image peels away after a couple uses.

The classroom teacher or paraprofessionals have been awesome in pre-teaching these vocabulary words. While in the community, the student is either given one card to locate the item or, if they can use them effectively, books.

Index card with an image of a stream surrounded by grass and rocks
Photo of stream labeled “water”
Index card with a picture of a man signing
Man signing “water”


An adaption to this that I’ve done has been with a student with no usable vision. We made the cards together based on tactile items that they felt would work and I affix them to cardboard as it is much sturdier. For example, plants were fake leaves, tree was a stick off a tree, and water was Saran Wrap.

Collage of teaching vocabulary


tick-tack-toe game made of felt.

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