Scanning Activities for Reading (Free Download)

visual scanning for reading

Today, we have a fun scanning activities for reading using a printable resource that supports the underlying visual skills while using a fun theme that kids engage with. Vision truly impacts learning so if we can support the areas of development that help a child thrive, we are moving in the right direction. One of the ways that occupational therapy professionals support development is through meaningful occupations, and anything fun and playful is a winner when it comes to pediatric OT!

There are many visual scanning activities that support functional participation. Here, we’re talking specifically about reading skills.

Visual Scanning and reading

The end of the school year might feel like coasting into the finish line, however it needs to be focused on meeting goals and preparing learners for summer reading. 

Learners seem to have a love/hate relationship with reading. I believe the people who hate reading struggle with this task.  Becoming a proficient reader takes a combination of skills. Beyond vision, phonics, spelling, and letter recognition, are the visual perceptual skills needed to read fluently. Today’s post is focusing on scanning activities for reading. 

Visual scanning impacts reading in many ways.

  • The child who struggles with letter reversals
  • The child who labors with reading and commonly skips words or lines of words when reading.
  • Saccadic eye movement, or visual scanning, is necessary for reading a sentence or paragraph as the eyes follow the line of words.
  • Visual scanning allows us to rapidly shift vision between two objects without overshooting as when shifting vision during reading tasks.
  • In copying written work, this skill is very necessary.
  • Skips words or a line of words when reading or re-reads lines of text
  • Must use finger to keep place when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension

All of these aspects of reading can be an issue because of scanning challenges.

So what’s going on here, visually?

Visual scanning is one of several visual perceptual skills. These have been highlighted in posts before, but as a reminder, they are:

  • Visual Attention: The ability to focus on important visual information and filter out unimportant background information.
  • Visual Discrimination: The ability to determine differences or similarities in objects based on size, color, shape, etc.
  • Visual Memory: The ability to recall visual traits of a form or object.
  • Visual Spatial Relationships: Understanding the relationships of objects within the environment.
  • Visual Sequential-Memory: The ability to recall a sequence of objects in the correct order.
  • Visual Figure Ground: The ability to locate something in a busy background.
  • Visual Form Constancy: The ability to know that a form or shape is the same, even if it has been made smaller/larger or has been turned around.
  • Visual Closure: The ability to recognize a form or object when part of the picture is missing

All of these areas combined make up visual perception, and is part of the bigger picture of how our eyes work functionally.

Visual perception is the ability to organize and interpret the information that is seen and give it meaning.  This is a common thread in therapy treatment, as it is the foundation for many activities addressed daily.

Visual perception is essential for reading, writing, math, self care tasks, instrumental activities of daily living, and play.

How to develop SCANNING Skills FOR READING

There are ways to support the development and accuracy of visual scanning skills.

  1. Reading Readiness Skills- When my girls were young, the summer reading list meant a chance to earn a ticket to Six Flags from the school!  It also meant a dollar per chapter book from mom and dad.  I was out $61.00 just from one kid that summer.  It was worth it. 

In preparation  we did a lot of scanning activities for reading readiness.  These included worksheets like the ones offered on the OT Toolbox, as well as games.  Amazon has their (affiliate link) visual perceptual games chunked into one search category. 

This might include using reading prompts, desired books, and short reading passages.

Other strategies include working on scanning the environment for details. Ask kids to look for items that are all one color, for example.

Another reading readiness activity that supports reading is I Spy activities like these I Spy colors game, I spy with real toys, and printable pages (Many are found in our Membership).

2. Visual Scanning Games- Some activities to develop scanning skills for reading include:

  • Tricky Fingers
  • QBitz
  • Where’s Waldo
  • Highlights Magazine
  • Spot it Games.

3. Vision Activities– Also be sure to check out these vision activities for kids to support all of the underlying skills that impact reading and learning.

Specifically, be sure to check out these visual scanning activities that cover the full gamut!

4. Take a Deeper Look at What’s Going On- When assessing for reading difficulties, once you have ruled out visual acuity issues, use a screening tool or assessment to test for visual perceptual deficits

The Motor Free Visual Perceptual Test, as well as the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills, assesses the different visual perceptual skills, broken down into different areas. 

5. Visual Scanning Exercises- The free spring weather visual scanning exercise (grab it below!) is just a sample of the larger packet offered HERE on the OT Toolbox.  

Below you’ll find a free downloadable spring visual scanning exercise you can use to support visual scanning needed for reading skills. These activities include a weather and Spring theme, but you can use them all times of year. The sun and clouds themes work for everyone!

This visual scanning exercise is a great scanning activity for reading. It relies on visual attention, discrimination, memory, visual-sequential memory, and figure ground.

For more scanning work, grab the Spring Fine Motor Packet. This 97 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes Spring themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

6. Visual Perception Activities- There are several posts this month highlighting Visual Perceptual Activities for Spring. 

For some therapists, parents, and educators these will be great worksheets for spring break, on those long rides to Grandma’s house.

Others will find these PDF sheets great for a spring lesson plan. Make a great packet of pages to send home, or do during class.  You can laminate these pages to make them eco-friendly and reusable. Some people project these onto smart boards, however I personally prefer the added skills involved in writing on paper.  However you choose to motivate your learners is the key to success.

DATA COLLECTION during scanning activities

Scanning activities for reading readiness are great for data collection. It is easy to measure the number of correct/incorrect guesses.

Of course it gets tricky when other factors such as impulsivity, attention, and compliance skew the data. Be sure to document these aspects of scanning that impacts reading skills as a functional task:

  • Document the number of errors, while adding narrative about the learner’s behavior. 
  • Provide several different types of visual perceptual tasks to try and determine which specific skills (or combination) are deficient.  This way your treatment can be more efficient, if you can hone in on one or two skill areas, such as visual memory, or scanning. 

DOCUMENTATION of Scanning tasks to support reading

  • Does your learner scan in sequential order, or all over the page?
  • Are items completely missed when scanning?
  • Is your learner taking their time, or making random guesses?
  • Does your learner thoroughly look at all the choices before giving an answer?

Some of these questions are not easy to answer. Continue to provide different types of exercises in order to measure progress. 

Progress is often the answer we seek, rather than “why do they do that?”  Often doctors do not know the why, but have to try different things until they find something that works. 

Use spring break (if you are lucky enough to have one) to rest and recharge for all of the fun spring activities that can be added to your treatment plans and OT Toolbox!

Free scanning activity Download to support reading skills

Want to add this printable tool to your therapy toolbox?

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

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FREE Visual Scanning for Reading Exercise

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    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    Kindergarten Readiness and Executive Functioning Skills

    Kindergarten readiness and developing executive functioning skills in kindergarten

    Many parents of preschoolers have questions about preparing for kindergarten. There are kindergarten checklists and loads of resources online designed to address kindergarten readiness. One area that parents might miss when getting ready for kindergarten is the concept of executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills develop from very early in childhood! These skills can easily be developed
    through fun, age-appropriate play. Sound familiar? Combining learning and play in kindergarten is essential to build skills with an age appropriate awareness and at developmental levels. This is the exact way that children should be preparing for kindergarten!

    Kindergarten readiness and developing executive functioning skills in kindergarten

    Kindergarten Readiness

    There is immense amount of pressure for children to be ready for the academic demands of
    school, even from kindergarten. From the moment they walk in the door, most kindergartners
    are pushed to be “little sponges” of the academic content to meet standards. However, most of us
    recognize that this may not be the most appropriate approach to take. Finding engaging executive functioning activities can be tricky. The ideas here should be a great start to add to your kindergarten lesson plans or use in kindergarten preparations.


    However, there are more child-friendly things that parents can do to help their children get ready
    for kindergarten. Provide children with opportunities to be independent! Teach them the steps to
    wash their hands (initiation, working memory, shifting, monitoring), how to blow their nose
    (initiation, working memory, and monitoring), and letter recognition (working memory). Teach
    them how to follow directions (impulse control, working memory, and shifting).

    PREPARING FOR KINDERGARTEN WITH EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING SKILLS

    Working on some kindergarten prep through play can involved executive functioning skills at the same time. Start here to understand exactly what executive functioning skills entail, but when it comes to kindergarten aged children, here are some of the executive functioning skills that can be addressed through play as well as tasks that will help them prepare for kindergarten:

    Kindergarten lesson plans can include these reading and writing activities that build executive functioning skills

    Reading, Writing, and Executive Functioning

    Amazon affiliate links are included below.


    There are many ways to integrate reading and writing preparation into play. Have your child
    match uppercase and lowercase letters in games or at the store. This encourages working
    memory (what letter they need to look for). Games like Zingo are great for teaching sight words
    in a fun way while also requiring a child to use their impulse control, shifting, and working
    memory.

    More reading and writing for kindergarten:

    Alphabet Discovery Bottle

    Magnetic Letter Handwriting Game

    Name Soup Writing Your Name 

    Fizzy Dough Letters 

    Handwriting Cookie Cutters

    Kindergarten lesson plans can include these math activities to develop executive functioning skills to prepare for kindergarten

    Math, Science, and Executive Functioning

    Early math and science skills can be fun and easy to integrate into play! If the weather is
    conducive, try hopscotch, saying the numbers out loud as you jump! For mental flexibility,
    change the rules of how they go through the series: hop on one foot, jump on two feet, switch
    feet, and so on. For older children or those who know their evens and odds, have them only jump
    on the odds or only on evens.


    For science, create simple science experiments, like vinegar and baking soda volcanos! This
    requires initiation, monitoring, impulse control, shifting, and planning/organizing.

    More kindergarten math activities to build executive function:

    Caterpillar Math Craft 

    Math with Checkers 

    Cardboard Tangrams 

    Play Dough Math 

    Counting Nature 

    Play and Executive Functioning

    Play is critical, but with the push to be ready for academics, play is getting pushed to the side
    However, without play, children suffer. They lack the ability to find joy in learning.

    Outdoor play provides the opportunity for children to develop their executive functioning while
    participating in child-led adventures! Taking a bike ride or a walk around the community, or
    even playing basketball in a driveway, requires a child to demonstrate strong impulse control and
    monitoring skills for safety. Red light, green light is also a great opportunity to work on impulse
    control.

    Outdoor play also encourages children to take risks while being aware of their surroundings.
    Whether determining if cars are coming, stranger danger, or appropriate clothing to wear outside,
    this is an incredible opportunity to encourage executive functioning development!


    Can’t play outside? Build a fort! Planning/organizing, initiation, shifting, time management, and
    working memory are critical for this.

    Kindergarten play ideas to build executive function

    Teaching Spatial Concepts 

    Bugs and Beans Sensory Play 

    Outdoor Small World Play 

    Painting Toys in the Water Table 

    Sticks and Stones Simple Sensory Play

    Use these executive functioning games in kindergarten lesson plans and to prepare for kindergarten

    Games and Activities to build executive functioning skills in kindergarten


    Some family-friendly games include Outfoxed (initiation, working memory, monitoring,
    planning/organizing, and impulse control) and Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game.

    For less structured activities, think about making something in the kitchen, like baked goods. Making slime with a slime kit is another engaging way to build executive functioning skills.

    For a less structured executive functioning activity, try making a bracelet from a bracelet kit that involves patterns or low-level direction-following.

    For kindergarten readiness, focus on fun! This is a time of extensive growth, including in the
    area of executive functioning.

    For more executive functioning activities, grab this Executive Functioning Activity Guide. It’s full of strategies to address common executive functioning areas that impact working memory, attention, impulse control, organization, and more.

    executive functioning skills activity guide The OT Toolbox

    Outdoor Pre-Reading Activity for New Readers

    We’re back to join the All Things Kids bloggers with this month’s series.  We’re talking about Fall and Outdoor fun with the kids.  We are a family that plays outside every.single. day.  Friends at church have said to us, “Wow you guys are tan, you must spend a lot of time outside”… Yep! We do.  (with sunscreen, don’t worry haha) 

    So, when we realized that this month’s series post is all about outdoor play this fall, we were beyond excited!  Getting outside with littles is necessary for the kids and for mama.  Otherwise, we have a tornado of toys in the house and children bouncing off the walls and each other.  Well, those things happen regardless, but the fresh air and yard to run in help.  A lot.  

    We made an outdoor scavenger hunt for early readers and pre-readers.  This literacy activity would be perfect for any time of year, but there’s something extra crispy and fun about playing outside in the Fall.  We took the letters outside for letter learning and word sounding.  This isn’t our first outdoor literacy activity, We loved our sight word scavenger hunt.  
    Outdoor Pre-Reading Activity for new readers from Sugar Aunts

    This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  
    Use clothes pins for a pre-reading activity. This is great for indoors or outdoors.


    Using Clothes Pins in Learning

    We started with a bunch of wooden spring clothes pins.  We use these clothes pins in a ton of learning and play activities.  Art, learning, and play are more fun with a fine motor manipulative like this simple household item.

    Learning and play with clothes pins in literacy activity. from Sugar Aunts.


    Literacy Pre-Reading Activity

    Big Sister used a permanent marker to write uppercase letters on the clothes pins.  We wanted to use upper case letters so that Little Guy (age 5) would be able to identify the letters.  He is just starting to identify lower case letters, but I wanted to ensure confidence and success in this part of the activity so he would try something a litter harder for him: sounding out letters in pre-reading skills.  
    Literacy Activity for kids Outdoors from Sugar Aunts



    We worked together to sort out the letters on the clothes pins.  We did a few different activities with the clothes pins once we had all of the letters.

    First, we went on a scavenger hunt around the yard, pinning our clothes pins to objects in nature with the corresponding letter.  It was a fun pre-reading task to sound out things that we saw.  Pinching the pins onto items was a fun fine motor task for both kids.  We pinned R to “roots”.



    S is for “sticks”.


    We did a few quizzes for Little Guy.  Big Sister and I thought of an item and said I know something that starts with the letter “S”.  He had to think and look to find something that started with “s” as he sounded out sssss.  This is such a great pre-reading activity for pre-readers.

    B is for bark.

    C is for clover.

    M is for moss.

    A is for arborvitae.  Time for a science lesson!


    How many ABC items can you think of in the great outdoors?  We put together a list of ABC nature items that you can find in our NEW newsletter.  It’s a completely free way to be sure you see all of our posts.  Each Wednesday, you’ll receive an email of our latest blog posts along with other fun stuff.  Sign up for the newsletter to get the full list of ABCs of Nature items.  But don’t worry, we’ll be sharing the list with you at some point in the future.  Watch this space!

    Tips to Make Reading Fun

    Do you have a reluctant reader in your house?  The features from this week’s Share It Saturday have got some GREAT tips on how to make reading fun for kids of different ages.  A love of reading begins from a very young age and promoting that love throughout childhood is so important…and fun!  We’re loving these reading ideas from the features this week.  Stop by and check them out for lots of great reading ideas:

    How to make reading fun for kids:

     
     

     

     

    • One sure way to grow a love for reading is acting out favorite stories.  Why not try puppets for your storytelling, like Lets Play Music?
    • Go with a beloved theme.  Does the child in your house LOVE all things nature?  Try these books from Peace But Not Quiet.  The transportation lover in your house will love these cars, planes, and trains books from School Time Snippets.  Or maybe a topic sure to inspire giggles, like chickens would guarantee some extra reading time.  Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes has a great list of chicken books.
    • If you’re encouraging your new reader to try more words, these sound it out slider cards from The Measured Mom looks like a great way to practice.
    • We’ve got lots more ideas on ways to make reading fun for your reluctant or new reader.  Check out the full list of  Creative Sight Word Activities 

    Experiments with Storytelling

    Today was our first day back into routine after the holidays.  The husband was back at work and my nephew Baby Boy,
    (who, along with Baby Girl, probably need new “names” since they definitely Think they are big kids…but in reality, really are Toddlers, not Babies…But I’m not ready for that yet.  SO, Babies they will stay!)
    was back with us as everyone went back to work…we resumed our routines.
    I had this little play area set up today for an invitation to read.

    Of course, Big Sister jumped right into the role of teacher/librarian.  She loves being the boss Big Kid who can tell the littler kids all about life at pre-K, dance class, and every other place that only she know about since she is the Big One in the family.  You know, how life is on the Pre-K streets 😉

    Storytelling at it’s finest!  She was reading to all of her “students” from a book that she wasn’t too familiar with.  Sometimes, if we’ve read a favorite book maaaaaaaany times,
    she can memorize the words and story lines of a whole book.
    Doing the rote memory thing is great! It is so empowering…allowing them to gain confidence, learn beginning/middle/end transitions, and lets them test voices, feelings, and  sound effects.
    A step beyond memorization reading is when they build a story based on the pictures they see in a book.  They can elaborate on experiences and use their imagination to follow the pictures.  At this stage, a child is testing their confidence in concepts of beginning/middle/end, depicting feelings, dialogue, and transitions.  Big Sister throws out a lot of reeeallly excited “And THEN”s as she turns the pages 🙂
    It is really fun to see where the story goes when she reads to her students.  There is a lot of switching roles, changing focus (getting distracted by details in a picture), and stories based around the girls in the pictures 🙂
    Baby Girl is a willing “student”!
    She also loooves doing what the Big Kids do…

     

    Baby Boy is a little tired from all these stories!  It’s nap time for this guy.

    So, What are some other ways to “Experiment with Storytelling” and build on SO many concepts?

    ~ Use a puppet to tell the story, quiz the children on colors, ask ‘what happens next’, pique their curiosity, question emotional states.
    ~Play the Director Game: The child tells the story as Mom/Dad writes it down. Draw pictures to go along with the story.  Read it together.  Save it forever 🙂
    ~Tell a story about this morning’s experience.  Recount details/characters/feelings.  Add surprise endings for fun.
    ~Act out a favorite story using super hero figures, Little People…whatever in on hand and a favorite in your house.
    ~Tell a story based on one of your child’s drawings.  Scribbles are detailed drawings, too 🙂
    ~Tantalizing with Storytelling: Set up an invitation to play like ours!  You could also sit on a big comfy blanket with lots of pillows and start reading to yourself.  Use fun voices and sounds…See how long it takes for little kiddos to climb up into your lap :

    Enjoy today!
    Colleen