10 Free Ways to Improving Visual Tracking for Weak Readers

Posted by Erica Warren on

While reading, one must visually track across the page from one line to the next. For many, this can be tricky when the text is small, but for countless students with dyslexia or weak reading skills, it can be a problem regardless of the font size. So why is this the case? Perhaps one of the problems is poor visual tracking skills.
visual tracking for weak readers

What Exactly is Tracking?

Visual tracking is the ability to move one's eyes smoothly across the text from one line to another. Tracking difficulties happen when eyes jump backward and forward and struggle to stay on a single line of text. In addition, tracking problems also tend to cause individuals to miscalculate what line they are on. They may miss a line entirely or keep reading the same line numerous times. These mishaps in visual skills result in problems such as word omissions, reversals, eye fatigue, losing your place while reading, and most importantly it can impact normal reading development. 
visual processing exercises

Can Tracking be Improved?

Tracking can be improved by strengthening eye muscles as well as getting your eyes and brain to work cooperatively.  In addition, eye tracking exercises can help to build a person's visual field, and develop body awareness. Some professionals who provide vision therapy offer visual tracking exercises which can help the brain gather the needed information for enhancing visual processing skills. An educational therapist, occupational therapist, or pediatric ophthalmologist are three types of professionals that may offer visual tracking support.

Why is it Important to Build Eye Tracking?

If one's eye-tracking is underdeveloped it can have a profound impact on one's ability to read. In addition, even if they are able to decode text, labored tracking takes up cognitive space, leaving little room to visualize or paint pictures in one's mind or even comprehend the text. Tracking problems can even impact writing or following objects in our environment such as a ball.

What are the Eye Movements Behind Tracking?

There are three eye movements that need to be developed to promote eye tracking:

1) Fixations:

Visual fixation is the ability or skill to hold one's eyes steady without moving off a target.

2) Saccades:

Saccades are the ability to jump to new targets that randomly disappear and reappear in a different location.

3) Pursuits:

Pursuits involve the ability to follow a moving target with one's eyes.

10 Free Ways to Improve Tracking:

There are a number of visual tracking exercises that can help to strengthen this needed skill. The trick is to find a series of daily activities that can target vision control.

1) Use Your Finger When Reading

Using your finger when reading supports the eyes and gets them to track in a more fluid manner. It also minimizes the cognitive load so that the brain can put more energy into reading comprehension. A final benefit to using your finger to track is one's reading speed tends to increase by 25 percent.

2) Use Beeline Reader 

This technology can be used to read ebooks, PDFs, and web pages. This Chrome add-on makes tracking faster and easier by using a color gradient to guide your eyes from one line of text to another. 

3) Building Peripheral Vision, Visual Tracking and Attention For Improved Reading and Scanning Video-Based Activities

By watching a ball move around the screen, one can build visual tracking and only visual tracking. Furthermore, additional activities target peripheral vision by directing one's attention on the edges of the visual field. The brain is only required to do one thing at a time, so this targets the area that needs intervention. Eventually, these vision skills can become automatic, so they can be done subconsciously. To maintain motivation, the activities are brief and include an assortment of activities and levels of difficulty. The videos also unite fun, upbeat melodies.

tracking exercises

4) Complete Other Visual Tracking Activities

I have two resources at Good Sensory Learning that offer visual tracking exercises:

  1. Visual Tracking Assessment and Activities for Improved Learning: CLICK HERE to learn more.
  2. Visual Reasoning and Tracking Activities: CLICK HERE to learn more.

5) Play Ping Pong 

Playing ping pong can be a great way to improve eye tracking. More importantly, watching others play the game can be an even better option. Sit on the side of the table and keep your head steady. Watch the ball, and visually track your eyes back and forth across the table to improve visual tracking.

6) Get a Book But Only Read the First Word and the Last Word in Each Line. 

Continue this pattern of reading the first to the last word in each line from the top of the page to the bottom. Time yourself and try to beat your speed. If reading words is slow or labored, just read the first and last letter on each line. Eye-tracking activities such as these also work on increasing processing speed and accuracy. If one uses their finger throughout the process, it can also develop eye-hand coordination.

7) Go to the Site Eye Can Learn 

This free website presents and wealth of information as well as eye-tracking exercises. 

8) Track a Metronome or Crystal Pendulum

Place the metronome or pendulum about 1-2 feet from your face, keep your head steady and move your eyes with the swinging metronome or pendulum. 

9) Use a Laser Pointer to Exercise Tracking

In a dark room, a laser pointer can be projected on a wall. Those with weak eye tracking can follow the red dot sweep across the wall. Be sure to use a variety of movements: go up, down, left, right, and diagonally. 

10) Use Apps Like Voice Dream Reader Which Will Highlight the Words While It Reads the Text 

You can read along with the excellent synthesized voice options, or if you prefer, read the text yourself and turn off the audio. Adjust the speed so that words are highlighted while you read. Voice Dream Reader also offers a "Pacman mode" option where the words disappear as they are read. This is one of my favorite features as it forces the brain to track in a fluid manner.

11) Scan Text For a Common Letter or Word

Pick a common letter of the alphabet such as "A." Select a book, or article and scan through the lines of text as if you are reading, circling "A" every time you see it. 

Visual Processing Workshop

12) Read Aloud 

This helps the eyes and brain to work together. If this is too difficult for a child, try echo reading. Echo reading is when a sentence or passage is read aloud to a struggling reader who focuses on tracking the words as they are said. Then the struggling reader reads the same sentence or passage aloud.

13) Play an Internet Version of Pong 

Visually track the virtual ball to improve eye tracking. This strategy develops left to right tracking as well as eye movements in the opposite direction. My favorite is Garfield Tabby Tennis. If one eye tracks better than the other, one can always cover one eye and then complete the games.

14) Play Balloon Toss Games

Having to observe a moving object can help eye tracking and using objects associated with fun and games can make the process enjoyable and motivating. Children are a great candidate for this strategy. Older individuals may prefer to toss a ball.

15) Place Tracing Paper Over the Text

For children and adults that have extreme visual tracking issues, one can place transparent paper over the text so one can draw a line or highlight as they read.

16) Check Out My Youtube Video

Are There Any Products I Can Purchase That Develop Visual Tracking?

Yes, check out my:
If you found this post helpful, come check out my other blog post entitled: 5 Free Ways Improve Visual Processing for Weak Readers.
Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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  • Hi Noni. Sorry for the late reply. Tracking and decoding weaknesses can cause the eyes to “jumping around” but parents should also rule out any vision problems too. Many kids with dyslexia struggle with tracking and I do offer a number of resources that can develop this skill. You can find them here: https://goodsensorylearning.com/search?type=product&q=tracking I hope this helps!! Cheers, Erica

    Dr. Erica Warren on
  • Hi Erica,

    I am excited to find your site.

    I am a Learning and Support teacher in a primary school. I assist students with reading difficulties. Very few of them have a diagnosis of dyslexia as the parents are not prepared to have them assessed but many of them would have some degree of dyslexia in my opinion.

    Is a weakness in tracking responsible for the issue of ‘ words moving/ jumping around on the page’? What is causing students to say that?

    Do you have any resources that can help with that in the school setting?

    Thank you

    Noni on

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