Visual Tracking & Scanning Activities

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Visual tracking and scanning activities help to hone three types of oculomotor skills, which include fixation, saccades and pursuits, according to the Eye Can Learn website. While fixation enables you to maintain your attention on a target, saccades allows you to shift your attention from one target to another. Pursuits involve the ability to track a target in motion. Visual tracking and scanning activities can range from the physical manipulation of a ball or balloon to Web-based games.

1 Create Charts and Guides

Work with charts of letters or symbols. Have someone point to the letter or symbol on the chart and try and identify it. Practice naming letter or symbols that fall into different patterns, starting with vertical and horizontal lines and advancing to diagonal tracks. Test scanning and tracking from a distance by reading one set of letters or symbols from a card directly in front of you to a card that’s been placed five to 10 feet away. Alternate between reading letters of symbols in left-to-right order to reading backwards, or read every third letter in several lines of text.

2 Track and Name Objects

Peer at an outdoor scene and try and name the objects in your environment. Conduct the same exercise in a room filled with furniture and décor. Describe specific objects in as much detail as possible. Have someone ask you to look for particular objects, asking “Where is…?” Search the room with your eyes, turning your head as little as possible. Peruse magazines and circle one particular letter, such as “s” or “a” in the words on the page. Advance to searching for certain words, such as “the” or “and.”

3 Engage with Internet Games

Play a series of online games to integrate your central and peripheral vision, which will help you to process individual letters, as well as perceive the next word in reading exercises. For example, Eye Can Learn offers a number of web-based activities that test your visual tracking and scanning skills. In the “Peripheral Clown,” you focus on a clown’s face in the center of the screen while tracking the outlines of expanding red and blue boxes that frame the clown. In “Fast Peripheral Circles,” a small colored orb is surrounded by larger colored orbs. As the orb changes color, you touch the same-colored orb on the periphery. Other games test line tracking, scanning letters that pop up on a lined page and tracking a butterfly that flits back and forth across the computer screen.

4 Play with Balls, Balloons and Flashlights

Roll, throw or bounce a ball. Roll it away from you and watch its path. Roll it from side to side. Have a partner catch the ball, watching the ball as you play a game of catch. Ask a partner to play a game of balloon volleyball and try to keep the balloon in the air. Use a string as a net and sink to your knees to boost the challenge. Have a friend write a word on the ceiling or wall with a flashlight in a darkened room. Try and identify the word. Take turns, increasing the difficulty of the words or writing in script. Lie on the floor and chase each other’s flashlight beams on the wall.

Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.