Differentiation Using Visual Aids

Everyone knows that using visual aids when presenting information is a good strategy.  Everyone from businessmen to teachers know how effective visual aids are when you want to grab the attention of your audience.  We all know that there are some things that are just easier to explain with a picture or a drawing.  We all know that.

10 20 80 hear read and see

Even though we know it, this infographic supports my point.  It is  better to use visuals in our lessons and in the materials we use (i.e. worksheets etc).


Most Primary School Classrooms are filled with visual aids and concrete materials that teachers use.  We use posters for rules and routines.  We have big and colourful word walls with pictures to support new vocabulary.  We display flow charts and diagrams and photographs and symbols to remind students of lessons we have taught.  Primary School Teachers tend to use visual aids all the time.The fact is that students are more likely to retain the information presented in class if it is repeated in different ways (including words and visuals).

Secondary School Teachers are less likely to use visual support.  Why is that?

I don’t need to convince you that using visual aids is just good teaching.  You might be wondering how using visual aids in the classroom is a differentiation strategy.  Here are some examples.

  1. Visual Prompts for classroom rules/ routines: I have told you about how I display my class rules/ routines. Photos of students following the rules and carrying out routines makes rules clearer to students.  Seeing what is expected is a better reminder than being repeatedly nagged by the teacher repeating the rules.  This is especially true for students with autism.

    Stop Look Listen Visual Prompt

    I use this when teaching and rehearsing our attention getting signal. I ding a bell then point to the sign.

  2. Icons on Worksheets: when I create maths worksheets I include a small image of a calculator.  If the calculator is in a circle and crossed out, students know they are not allowed to use a calculator.  If the calculator has nothing around it or over it, the students know they can use their calculator.  My students who struggle with reading can see quickly and easily if they are allowed to use a  calculator.

    calculator circled

    The calculator icon is circled in red.

  3. Icons/ Colour Coding on Teaching Slides: I use a bold font in green for instructions (or questions students need to answer).  If there is information that students need to copy into their note books, I use a different font in purple or blue and a small picture of a pen.  This highlights text for students with dyslexia and students who get overwhelmed with large amounts of text.

    teaching slide independent task

    This slide includes the directions for an independent task that students complete at the beginning of the lesson.

  4. Illustrating Vocabulary Words: insert images on your handouts so technical language is clearer to students or have students draw images beside vocabulary words and definitions.  This will help them to understand and remember the meaning of the new vocabulary.  This also provides an opportunity for your visual thinkers to show what they know.

    Word Wall Term 1 2014

    This colourful Word Wall includes words with definitions that students have illustrated for display.

  5. Visual Aids Displaying the steps of a process taught in class.  Check out this teaching slide where the teacher has highlighted the buttons on the calculator that students need to use when entering an addition or subtraction equation.  This strategy is vital when teaching students with speech and language difficulties (especially receptive language), difficulties with executive function and problems with working memory.
subtraction teaching slide calculator

This slide was used to support the teaching activity, and then it was printed out on large paper and displayed in the classroom for students to refer to during future lessons.


The bonus reason for using visual aids in your classroom is that it will make it so much easier to achieve the Rule of 7 Lesson Planning Challenge.  The more images you use, the less words you will need!


Let us know in the comments if there other ways you use visuals to support your students with learning difficulties.  Happy Teaching and Differentiating!


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Updated Page: Teaching Resources

I would like to let you know that I have begun updating my resource page with some new Numeracy blogs and sites.  A new blog I just discovered has been the catalyst for creating the new section. There are a few other sites and blogs that will certainly be turning up there soon.  Be sure to check back often.

I think this is my shortest blog post ever!

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Free Math Worksheets at DadsWorksheets.com

This Dad deserves Father of the Year!  There are loads of great resources here and every single thing you click on is absolutely FREE!  I always find something useful when I visit Dad’s Worksheets.  There are some great drill and practice worksheets, printable reference charts, maths activities and strategies for consolidating maths concepts.  Dad started this as a free service (he was making them anyway, right?) and has continued to provide all his resources free of charge!

Here’s how it happened.

A great Dad with two daughters, starts creating worksheets for them to use when practicing addition facts at home. Knowing that good old fashioned practice is the best way to master number facts, this Dad was determined to make life in the maths classroom as easy as possible for his daughters.  When he realised that he had created more than a thousand worksheets he decided to upload them to a website.  The rest is history.  More than 7 000 worksheets later, Dad continues to upload FREE, printable resources to anyone with internet access.  He also blogs regularly with tips and tricks for learning basic facts including rhymes and stories.  As his daughters have grown, the website has too.  Dad continues to help out, by creating more worksheets and practice tasks for more areas and maths concepts including: place value, problem solving, fact families, geometry, exponents, order of operations, fractions, unit conversions, telling time, investment, data analysis, averages, money and more.

I hope you check out “Dad” and find something useful.  He is certainly worthy of your time and repeated visits! 

In my humble opinion: Dad is also worth sharing with any teacher or parent that you know.  Get tweeting, Pinning, G+1ing, Posting, Pressing, emailing and using every other type of social media you have at your disposal to get the word out.  Dad deserves it!

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FYI: “Dad” mentioned on this site is not at all related to me, even though there are times when I say, “I can’t get by without my Dad’s Worksheets”.  I have not been paid for this recommendation, I am simply sharing a great resource with my great readers.  All opinions here, are my own.

Egg Carton Shake Up!.

This is a great activity for numeracy centres!  I can also see it as a great game for fast finishers.  I imagine it would be much quieter than dice in a box.  😀


game image


You have to try this!

Students can play in pairs or a small group taking turns to shake it up and multiply the factors that the counters land on.  It is easy to implement and has the potential to become a student favourite.  This link has instructions to create the resource (although I’m sure you can infer from context) and how to use it with students.

I just had a great idea.  You could turn this into a homework task!  The kids can create their own and then use it to play at home with their parents.  That sounds like way more fun than writing out number facts over and over


Mel- The Literacy Coach

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NLNW 15th Anniversary… get ready!

nlnw logo 2013

National Literacy and Numeracy week is quickly approaching.  In fact, it is closer than it may even appear!

This year is the 15th Anniversary of NLNW in Australia.  At my school we are having our very own theme of “15”.  Don’t you think we are brilliant!! While I’m not sure that my school has always celebrated NLNW we certainly do now.  For the LN Team (just try and guess what the L and N stand for) it is our main event.  We take the opportunity to take over the school and promote every single aspect of ‘the fundamentals’.  I think the slogan for NLNW is a bit cutesy and I do whatever I can to avoid saying it.  But, I do try to make the week as enjoyable as possible for everyone at school.  Teachers, students and support staff all have an opportunity to participate in competitions and activities throughout the week.

15 anniversary

I’m looking forward to NLNW and I’m looking forward to the hot bubble bath I reward myself with on the Friday night, when it is all over! 

If you would like more information about NLNW and the festivities occurring in your local area you can visit http://www.literacyandnumeracy.gov.au/.  If you are just curious about the cutesy slogan, you can find it there too.


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