Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.
Teaching about Electricity to Students Who Are Visually Impaired
In order to address deficits in learning due to limited access to the visual environment, students with visual impairments require sequential and systematic instruction from a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, or TVI. A TVI has the unique skills necessary to help these students access the general core curriculum by applying the Expanded Core Curriculum, or ECC.
The TVI collaborates with the education team, but certain facts must be understood by the general education teacher. For example, vision loss without other disabilities represents a sensory problem and not a cognitive issue. Although overall reading rates can be lower considering the beginning use of braille by students requiring the reading format, students with visual impairments and those without can learn at comparable rates with appropriate instruction.
In general, practically every subject can be taught to students with visual impairments and students who are fully-sighted, including studying the electromagnetic force. For these reasons, productive collaboration between the TVI and general education teacher is crucial for obtaining favorable instructional outcomes.
Below is a lesson I conducted with my students with visual impairments regarding electricity. As a counselor with TVI training, I search for the “teachable moment,” and an instance exists in this lesson. I’ve divided the lesson into activities that can be carried out over multiple days. The objective of the lesson is to instruct elementary-grade students with visual impairments in the production and distribution of electricity while recognizing the importance of electrical energy.
Components of This Lesson
- Grade: Elementary
- Subject: Science and electricity
- Materials: Three small ropes, a laptop to play a song, and an area for students to move around in.
- Vocabulary: circuit, current, electricity, magnetism, electric field, magnetic field, generator, motor, and power plant. (Feel free to add or remove words and phrases as necessary for your students.)
Phase 1: Switch On
I began the lesson by stating: “Today, we will study electricity. How is it made and delivered to us? We will also play a few games. Now, who can tell me what electricity is?” I received responses demonstrating my students had a minimum working knowledge of the energy source.
I clarified electricity is a form of energy, like heat, sound, and light. We discussed how electricity consists of charged particles flowing in a current or in an accumulation of charge as static. One student exclaimed, “Every time I wear my wool sweater in the winter, I feel electricity regularly.” Many of my students agreed, and we talked about how static electricity can be discharged through the air based on various factors, including weather conditions.
Phase 2: Get Charged Up
Next, I introduced vocabulary words. My students learned magnetism and electricity are closely associated. I explained: “Magnetism and electricity are part of the electromagnetic force. They both create fields of attraction and repulsion. Using oil, solar power, nuclear energy, wind turbines, fossil fuels, or hydroelectric dams, power companies generate electricity sent to us through above-ground power lines. Places where electricity is produced are called power plants.” We further discussed the purposes of generators and motors.
Integrating the ECC in a Teachable Moment
One student thought electricity was always visible to people who are fully-sighted. I immediately drew upon areas of the ECC. I responded:
- Social Interaction Skills: Regardless of visual ability, no one can see electric or magnetic fields directly.
- Academic Compensatory Skills: I explained lightning is a form of visible static electricity during storms. Sparks from electric wires, which indicate danger, can be seen as well. We discussed insulating materials and safety when dealing with electricity.
- Career exploration: We talked about the job of electricians and the ways they stay safe when repairing power lines, such as wearing heavy rubber gloves. One student nodded, expressing their understanding as to why trucks from the power company came around after blackouts. He didn’t realize the electricians were performing their duties.
- Independent living: I encouraged my students to purchase energy efficient electronic gadgets to save money.
Activity 1: The Human Circuit
I explained: “A circuit is a path electricity follows. Electricity comes from power plants to buildings. Electric power is distributed by a device called a circuit breaker to the wiring in the outlets in buildings. Closed circuits allow electricity to move in a loop, powering certain machines. An open circuit means the opposite. For example, a light switch closes and opens a circuit.”
I demonstrated by walking to each student, showing them my outstretched arms with a rope, indicating a broken, or open, circuit. I brought my hands together, forming a circle, illustrating a closed, or complete, circuit. I said, “Now, let’s put this knowledge to use in a fun way.”
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Let's Be Electricity
- I instructed all but three students to come to the front of the classroom.
- I told the group at the front: “You are electricity made at a power company. You are leaving the power plant. Find the closed circuit before the music stops. Keep moving while the song plays. You may make fun buzzing noises like electric current.” (They loved that suggestion.) Note: Tapping into the area of orientation and mobility in the ECC, I instructed my children to move using their canes in the classroom.
- I passed out the three rope pieces to the three children at their desks, instructing them to hold the rope in outstretched hands. I picked one child to hold his hands in a loop, simulating a closed circuit.
- I instructed the group at the front of the room, “When the song stops, those at the open circuits must go on to another point which will be your desks. If electricity encounters an open circuit, it cannot go further.)
- I started the music and the children zoomed around the classroom until it stopped. I repeated this several times, starting and stopping the tune. Eventually, I selected different students to hold the ropes, giving many students the opportunity to pretend to be electrical current or a circuit.
Activity 2: Little Lights of Mine
When we finished the first activity, I instructed my students to separate into groups of three. I directed each group to think about five machines that require electricity to function and to present the names of these devices to the class. This strategy was implemented for comprehension checking with peer learning engaged.
- The first group mentioned portable devices, such as laptops, calculators, cell phones, and GPS systems.
- The next group came up with technological marvels like printers, televisions, radios, and electric guitars.
- My other students in the third group indicated that lights, x-ray machines, and high-tech medical equipment required electricity to work properly.
- The final group named household appliances like microwave ovens, blenders, and dryers.
Phase 3: Review and Homework Assignment
Near the end of the class, I took time to review with my students about the production and distribution of electricity. They stated the games we played were very helpful. A student said: "Wow! Mr. Truzy, I'll never think about electricity the same way now that I've been a charged particle." I smiled, knowing the lesson was learned. Finally, I instructed my students to prepare a one-minute speech to be presented in class for homework based on the impact of electricity in their lives.
- Fast, Danene K. “Including Children with Visual Impairments in the Early Childhood Classroom.” Early Childhood Education, 2019, doi:10.5772/intechopen.80928.
- Papageorgiou, Dora, et al. “The Evaluation of a Ten-Week Programme in Cyprus to Integrate Children with Multiple Disabilities and Visual Impairments into a Mainstream Primary School.” Support for Learning, vol. 23, no. 1, 2008, pp. 19–25., doi:10.1111/j.1467-9604.2008.00364.x.
- Sapp, Wendy, and Phil Hatlen. “The Expanded Core Curriculum: Where We Have Been, Where We Are Going, and How We Can Get There.” Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, vol. 104, no. 6, 2010, pp. 338–348., doi:10.1177/0145482x1010400604.
- Simon, Cecilia, et al. “The Inclusive Educational Process of Students with Visual Impairments in Spain: An Analysis from the Perspective of Organizations.” Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, vol. 104, no. 9, 2010, pp. 565–570., doi:10.1177/0145482x1010400909.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on January 27, 2021:
This lesson can be modified by having models of wind turbines for the children to feel. A teacher could show the children how wind spins the blades helping to produce electric current. A teacher can incorporate even more tactile items into the lesson as necessary. I appreciate your visit.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on June 29, 2020:
There are many ways to incorporate the tactile sense into instruction while furthering the knowledge of students with visual impairments. For example, this lesson was conducted when health concerns from viruses was not at an all-time high. A teacher may wish to have hand sanitizer or instruct the students to wash their hands after touching the representations of circuits. This helps reminds students that maintaining cleanliness can contribute to their overall physical health. Thanks for reading.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on May 27, 2020:
One reason I chose the tune Electric Slide is because of the cultural integration in the great song. Besides, it's great to move to in any circumstance. I appreciate the visit.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on May 27, 2020:
Thanks, Eric and Sampsons. These children are great. I'll be glad when school's back.
The Sampsons from The Ozarks, Missouri on May 23, 2020:
Well, that was really good. I learned some things also!
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 23, 2020:
Really cool I learned a lot. We will have fun exploring.