Does Homework Help Students Learn Better Visually

Students Learn Best When You Do This. And This. And This.

byGrant Wiggins, Ed.D, Authentic Education

Editor’s note: This post is a follow-up to a post from earlier this week, “Fixing High School By Listening To Students.”

Want to know what kids need in order to learn better? Ask them: Here are the first 50 answers, unedited, from our typical HS.

I learn best when the teacher –

  1. Has us do work hands on and with more discussion. It just seems like more fun.
  2. Is hands on and doesn’t just talk at me. They need to be interested what they’re teaching and encourage class discussions. Not only does this encourage us to use what we learned, it also helps us see the information in a different way.
  3. I learn best when the class is interactive and the teacher makes it fun and meaningful for my life
  4. I learn best in class when the teacher teaches one-on-one
  5. Explains it, then shows it, then asks us to demonstrate to make sure we know how to do it and if we don’t then further explains
  6. Assigns groups.
  7. Is engaging and attempts to relate to the students, not talk down at them
  8. gets the class involved and has hands on activities.
  9. I’m a hands on learner
  10. Allows us to ask questions and goes into detail.
  11. Teaches me in a hands on way, in other words I need to do an activity in order to learn it
  12. Shows a personality. Like when a teacher is humorous or shares personal experiences. When a teacher shows they are human, and don’t just do robotic teaching.
  13. Is showing me something visually instead of just talking at the students
  14. Shows the class what to do by demonstration
  15. Shows me step by step on how to do things and clarify any misunderstanding. Also has fun activities that involve interaction between other students in order to gain new insights. Has having field trips to experience real life situations.
  16. Is there to answer questions and gives us a lot of practice that is related to what we are going to be tested on.
  17. Interacts and gives us hands on things to do
  18. Helps me one on one
  19. Has us do things during class for us to learn
  20. Is enthusiastic about what we are learning and makes the learning fun and jokes around with us
  21. Interacts with the class and doesn’t just answer the questions on their own
  22. Slows down and does hands on activities
  23. Hands on with notes and examples
  24. Helps us learn by using visuals
  25. Teaches the class. Not when the students have to teach each other. That was horrible
  26. Actually wants us to learn about the subject and asks us questions about why we should learn this and gives us activities that ties it to the real world and outside of school
  27. hands on activities like anatomy.
  28. Has something (activity, homework, etc) that effectively demonstrates the concept
  29. Gives us a debate or something to discuss with each other
  30. Make learning active and fun
  31. I learn best when the teacher stands up in class teaches the lesson and then gives hand on activities instead of busy work. It also helps when if you don’t understand something the teacher is willing to help instead of just saying they can’t help us.
  32. Involves the whole class and we have in class discussions and everything is really hands on.
  33. Is hands on, gives us group activities and we share ideas.
  34. Hands on activities and expressing my ideas with others
  35. Is excited about what they are teaching and has many class discussions
  36. Anything that’s visual like when a problem is written out or when I have one on one with the teacher
  37. Engages students and makes content interesting.
  38. Is fun and makes me engaged
  39. Is fun and knows how to work well with the class
  40. Goes slow and spends many days going over what we are learning
  41. Gives examples & actually shows you what to do
  42. does more hands on things
  43. Talking in an exciting voice, acts like they want to be there, and help
  44. Doesn’t lecture the whole class and gives us lots of worksheets
  45. Actually teaches the class instead of simply sitting in the back of the room and play on his computer.  Or when the teacher provides no constructive criticism.
  46. Has activities for us to do and is more hands on and actually makes learning fun and want us to come to school not just another dreadful day waiting for the last bell to ring at 2:45
  47. Is more hands on, and cracks a joke here and there to keep my attention. When class is more layer back rather that really strict. Open discussion is a great stress reliever.
  48. Lectures and then let’s students work.
  49. Is interacting and asking us questions. It keeps me alert and I like getting the answers from fellow students as well as the teacher.
  50. Makes the material interesting to learn. Sometimes reading out of a book or listening to a lecture isn’t enough – I need to do hands on activities to see the point of things.

This article was excerpted from a post that first appeared on Grant’s personal blog; Grant can be found on twitter here; image attribution flickr user globalpartnershipforeducation

Your daughter's fourth grade class is studying the solar system. The mid-term assignment is to find out ten facts about an assigned planet, using sources such as books, magazines, and the Internet. Each student is to make a poster including facts, figures, and any pictures that are available. The students have a week to complete the assignment.

Your daughter's teacher recognizes that her visual impairment may make it difficult for her to do the work. When the class ends, he asks her to stop at his desk for a moment, then tells her she only has to answer five questions and write a paragraph about the planet rather than make a poster. At dinner, your daughter tells you about the assignment and the conversation with her teacher. What's your reaction?

Teachers and parents sometimes find it hard to decide, or agree, on how much classroom work and homework to require of a visually impaired student. Your child's teachers may shorten her assignments or extend deadlines from time to time. If that happens frequently, she might begin to expect the same sort of treatment in high school and later, on the job. However well-meaning those "perks" are, they're not really in your child's best interests.

Adapting Classroom Work for Children with Visual Impairments

Grade school is where students are given an increasing amount of academic work and also learn the structure of the school day. They need to absorb a lot of information to move on to the next level of academic work. An important focus at this stage for you and the other members of your child's educational team is to help your child develop strategies to keep up with her sighted classmates. Those skills don't happen automatically. They need to be developed and practiced so that she can later move on to high school with confidence in her academic abilities.

How You and Your Child's Educational Team Can Help

  • To reduce the amount of time your child has to spend in class copying work from the chalk board, talk to her classroom teacher and teacher of students with visual impairments about providing a copy of the information to use at her desk in print or braille. It's best to make that request at the beginning of the term, or even before school starts, to alert these teachers to your child's needs and give them time to prepare.
  • In the earlier grades you might ask the classroom teacher to consider having students work in pairs or small groups to complete assignments. In that way your daughter can get a sense of what it's like to work on a multi-task project before she has to take full responsibility for completing one.


Homework is an essential part of school. If you find that your child doesn't get homework assignments, and discover that her sighted classmates do, speak to her teacher and the rest of the educational team about the importance of having the same expectations for your child as for the other students in her class. Here are some things you can do to help your child with homework:

  • If your child uses braille textbooks, ask for a set of print textbooks to have at home. This will enable you to understand what she's working on and answer any questions she has.
  • If the classroom teacher doesn't make it standard practice to provide your child with accessible copies of the information he or she writes on the chalk board, ask the teacher to give you copies of class notes, especially if your child has to copy them from the board or take notes while the teacher is speaking. Use these to check the accuracy of your child's notes. If you find discrepancies, talk to other members of your child's educational team about strategies to help your child become a more efficient note taker.
  • If there are times when you have to help write out an assignment for your child, be sure to write exactly what she dictates to you. Don't correct her grammar or spelling. It's important that her teacher sees her work—not your cleaned-up version of it.
  • If your child needs to do homework in shorter blocks of time due to visual fatigue, try setting up a schedule for after school that gives her time to relax, then do some homework, have dinner, then do more homework, or some similar schedule.
  • For longer projects, such as a book report or science experiment, work with your child to develop a schedule for finishing each step.
  • If reading long text passages in print or braille slows down your child's homework, discuss with the educational team how she can have at least some of her reading material digitally to supplement textbooks or other written material.
  • Your child will probably have some assignments that require extra time. Encourage her to recognize when that's the case, to alert her teacher in advance, and to negotiate an extended due date rather than make excuses after she misses a deadline. In this way, she'll be developing skills she can use her entire life, as well as a sense of organization and responsibility.

Let "nature take its course," so to speak, when it comes to turning in homework. If your daughter doesn't hand it in on time, she deserves the same consequences as her classmates. Some of your daughter's teachers may want to be more lenient with her because of her visual impairment. But this isn't helpful in the long term because it misleads your child about what others expect of her, both in other classes and outside of school.

Being Organized Is Important

Whether at home or school, your child will be more efficient if she has strong organizational skills. For example, if she can distinguish colors, she may want to:

  • Use a different color folder for each subject
  • File handouts in the appropriate folder
  • Use the same colors for tabs in a 3-ring binder

If your daughter is a braille reader, it will also be helpful for her to place braille labels in the same position on all her folders so she can quickly find what she's looking for. In addition, using small storage boxes and trays can make it easier for her to locate items such as her slate and stylus, abacus, index cards, and other smaller items she works with at home or takes to school.

Give your child space for an organized area to keep the materials she needs to complete homework or other projects. If she usually does her homework at the kitchen table, you might set up shelves or a storage container for her in that room so that things she uses often, such as her braillewriter, hand-held magnifier, markers, visors to minimize glare from overhead lights, and other items are close at hand.

Your daughter's teacher of students with visual impairments is a source of other ideas on how to help her keep up with her school work and homework.

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