We worked on a group assignment in our art class that challenged us to think about how we could incorporate a child with a specific special need into our classroom, using UDL strategies. We were invited to consider who else an approach like this would benefit, and to ponder whether there is any benefit in withholding these resources from all students who may want or benefit from them.
My partner and I wrote the following assignment on colour blindness, enjoy.
Special Needs Assignment: Colour Blindness (Grade 5)
Colour blindness is a condition that ranges in severity and causes the distinction between certain colours to be impossible. Despite being referred to as a type of blindness, people afflicted with colour blindness are not blind and most can actually see some colours. Colour is often used to engage students. Contrasting colours can be used to highlight importance on visual documents, are often used when marking student work, and are used in the teaching of many abstract concepts as a means for categorization. This can be challenging for a colour blind individual who will have trouble following and understanding these activities as well as gleaning meaning in colour-coded methods of assessment. Since each case is different, communication is especially important with these students to get an idea of their individual needs and abilities when it comes to what colours they are able to distinguish between. Special attention to how colour is used in the classroom to add emphasis with colour-coding should be exercised and clear labels for coloured material will be helpful for these students.
Salt Painting is an activity that allows students who have visual impairments, such as colour blindness, to have an equal opportunity to participate in an accommodating art activity. The activity fits perfectly into the new Grade 5 curriculum, as it allows students a chance to explore connections to identity, place, culture, and belonging through creative expression.
This activity involves the use of water paint, salt, glue and also parchment paper. As a teacher, it is important to prepare for this class by labeling all art materials so that the different colours do not confuse visually impaired students. When writing out instructions for the activity on the chalkboard, it is important to use white chalk in order to maximize the contrast for those students with visual impairments. The teacher can also encourage teamwork by pairing the visually impaired with non-visually impaired peers.
Students will start by choosing a sheet of parchment paper, taking a glue bottle, turning it upside down, and beginning to create their design. The design can be anything, as long as it represents themselves, a place, or their cultural background. The use of parchment paper allows students to peel out their work afterwards if they wish to. Once the design has been completed, students will begin sprinkling salt onto the design before letting it dry. It should only take about 5 minutes for the design to dry. During this time, students can begin preparing the water paint that will be used on top of the salt. The paint chosen for this activity can be labeled clearly to accommodate lack of ability to distinguish colour. As soon as their designs have dried, students can begin painting them by brushing the water paint on top of the salt.
Throughout the activity, students are encouraged to express feelings, ideas, and experiences through the artwork. At the end of the activity, all students will receive the opportunity to share their design with everyone in the classroom. One of the outcomes of this activity is to educate all students on colour blindness, and to help them learn to accept people of all abilities.
The accommodations made to this art activity involve how it is presented, with the use of black contrasting chalk, and clearly labelling the materials, especially the coloured ones, to help colour blind students differentiate which colours are being seen and used. These accommodations can be considered an application of Universal Design for Learning because they have the potential to benefit more students than just the colour blind. Among those are students who are otherwise visually impaired, such as near-sighted students who would benefit from the clear contrast on a chalkboard; students with lesser developed cognitive functions that may require assistance with basic terms, such as words for colours and materials which are now indicated on the labelled material; and English language learners, who would benefit from the labelled colours and materials for language acquisition.