How to spot your colour blind learners
Whilst like all great teachers you will be keen to be able to identify and support your colour blind learners, you will have been thwarted. It’s unlikely you’ll have had any teacher training in CVD (colour vision deficiency), the Department for Education provides no information and advice, colour vision screening at school entry has been phased out (see article from the British Journal of School Nursing May 2015) and colour vision testing does not form part of the NHS eye test for children. All of this results in approximately 80% of CVD students being undiagnosed when they enter secondary school.
Luckily there are some classic signs to help you spot your colour blind students so we have listed a few here for you.
EYFS and Key Stage 1
- inappropriate use of colour – commonly purple skies, yellow/green/grey faces, red leaves, brown grass etc
- reluctance to help when tidying up if boxes are colour coded
- disruptive behaviour/unwillingness/inability to play board games, matching games, some memory games, sequencing, games in PE
- copying other children in colour situations where the child might consistently hold back and watch so he can borrow a colour from a friend routinely after the friend has used it, then copy exactly where that colour went
- unexpected errors in worksheets which rely on colour
Colour blind learners can sometimes appear slow, distracted or disruptive – this may be because they need extra time to process information and can result in them missing some teaching points because they are still trying to understand the previous one.
In Key Stage 2 also look out for
- inappropriate colour choices when completing worksheets, drawings and diagrams e.g. purple rivers/sky
- presentation of work which seems ‘boring’ and lacking in colour formatting
- unexpectedly poor results from worksheets or online homework programmes
- holding back in sports e.g. when (i) team colours clash (ii) balls, beanbags, training cones, sports hall line markings etc. ‘disappear’ against their background (See #PrimaryColours for more information and factsheets).
- reluctance to speak in discussions where colour is a main element e.g. maps in Geography, colour propaganda in History etc.
- holding back in (i) Science – practicals/diagrams and (ii) History and Geography due to difficulty interpreting information in coloured pie/bar/line graphs
- mistakes in use of colour names in language lessons
If you think a pupil might be colour blind, refer parents to an optometrist for a colour vision test.
How might you be inadvertently making life difficult for your colour blind pupils?
- use a traffic light system for marking or for the children to indicate how difficult they thinks tasks are?
- place pots of mixed unlabelled coloured pencil crayons on tables for groups of children to use together?
- have coloured labels on library books to indicate different reading levels?
- use games e.g. counting games with coloured counters?
- use worksheets/software which rely on colour e.g. for maths – ‘write the number of red balls as a fraction’?
- use books which highlight familiar sounds using colours?
- highlight teaching points in red and green on the white board?
All of these common classroom practices can make school life difficult for colour blind children. Using colour blind vision simulations, our training sessions for teachers can demonstrate how all of the above common teaching techniques can be create challenges and have an impact upon how much information some learners are able to glean from some of your lessons.
Consider too how you use common educational products such as Unifix and Numicon and how you might help your colour blind student use these tools – perhaps you can refer to coloured resources using other descriptions instead e.g.shapes?