Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Supporting Friendships Through Creating Accessible Books

A girl uses a braillewriter

My son Liam has a good friend from school named Bella. They are in the same first grade class, where Liam is fully included. (Liam is deafblind and Bella has typical vision and hearing.)  We love it when she gets to come over to our house to play!  We always try to do a "craft" when she comes over.  This visit we decided to MAKE books.  

 

Goal:  

I wanted an activity that would be motivating.  Creating books is something that they could do and share together and would be accessible for both of them.  This is also a great way to encourage social interaction, in addition to braille and literacy skills!
 

Materials to prepare ahead of time:

  • Blank chipboard books (I found mine on Amazon.)
  • Small cardboard pieces with braille (AND with print) words placed on them. (I got this idea of the velcro squares from Liam's TVI at school!) Carefully choose words that the kids will know and also that will be able to make a variety of sentences.
  • Place velcro pieces on the back of the word pieces.    
  • Place Velcro strip on the bottom of every page of the book
  • Large cardboard piece covered with velcro (to place word pieces on it and keep them in one place) 

Braille and print word cardsVelcro on back of word cards

 

Velcro dots on bottom of blank page

 

Procedure:  Here's what we did!  

1.  Examine word cards.

​Liam and Bella explored all of the word options using the large cardboard piece.  

A boy examines braille word cardsReading braille word cards

 

2.  Make sentences with word cards.

They both came up with sentences using the words and placed them onto the pages of their books.  

Two children make braille sentencesPlacing words on the velcro strips

 

3.  Illustrate pages with tactile stickers.

Next, we had a variety of tactile stickers.  The kids used the stickers to "illustrate"  their books.

Two children illustrate pages with tactile stickersPrint and braille page with tactile stickers

 

4.  Add title to book.

They added a "TITLE" to their book by themselves!  (Of course, in print and braille!)  

Covers of friendship books: Liam is my friend book and Bella is my friend book

 

5.  Read book together!

Lastly, Liam got to read his book to Bella and Bella read her book to Liam! 

Two children read book togetherReading book together using tactile sign

Note on the pictures:  When it was Bella's turn to read her book that she made to Liam, Liam would first read braille in her book and THEN Bella would read the sentence to him using "Tactile American Sign Language".   Liam read his book to Bella using American Sign Language (ASL).  

 
 
Supporting friendships collage
 

Comments

Building Bridges

Posted by epete

Hi Liamsmom, my name is Erin and I am a graduate TVI student.  I am so passionate about literacy and inclusion, so your post is exciting to read!  I am thrilled that you are providing us with these great blogs to learn from as educators. I like how you created opportunities to build so many skills with experiences in literacy and braille through social activities with Liam's peers. In fact, it got me thinking how I could create the same opportunities in the classroom for the students I will be supporting.  

I agree that your activity was a fun way to encourage social interaction for both Liam and his friend Bella and an engaging way to learn braille and literacy skills.  Introducing and teaching braille to a class of both typically sighted students and students with visual impairments has a great number of benefits too.  I would like to take your activity to the classroom to encourage an environment where print and braille are equally valued, as well as accessible.  Teaching braille to typically sighted peers gives them the opportunity to understand more fully how students with visual impairments use their compensatory skills to become more independent.  In addition, it gives students with visual impairments a social advantage and allows them the opportunity to gain status and become the class expert on how to read and write braille.

As a TVI, I would encourage all general classroom teachers to not only create print rich classrooms, but to make them "braille-rich" too.  In order to do this the class could have braille labels and materials for all students to access.  For example, the student's desks or coat hooks could all have a braille label for their names along with their print names.  Braille labels could be attached to important signs and posters in the classroom, alphabet charts and at the calendar.  I would strongly encourage having books in the classroom library that include print and braille.  The TVI could help to adapt books and make experience books with the class to keep in their classroom library. Braille related centers could be constructed such as a slate and stylus center.  Resources and reference sheets could be kept there with the Braille Alphabet and Numbers.  Teaching all the students these braille skills is just another learning modality that can benefit many students.  

Another fun activity that students could all do is called Bean Braille.  It teaches sighted students to recognize braille letters in their names.  You would need a piece of paper made into a grid drawn with black marker for placing the print and bean braille letters.  The grid would consist of two rows of rectangles. In the top row you would place the bean braille and the bottom row would be for each printed letter of the individual child's name.  Have the students print each letter of their first name in the bottom row of the grid, starting in the second rectangle.  Next, have the student pencil in the correct dots in the rectangle above each print letter by placing a braille cell template made from an index card with six holes punched in it in the shape of a braille cell.  The first top rectangle should be dot 6 to indicate a capital letter. Put a drop of white glue on each dot and have the students glue on their beans to create their bean braille name above their printed name.  

I believe if we teach braille to all the students in the class it will create a community that is excited about other ways to learn literacy, while also taking the mystery out of how all those dots can be read with just the touch of your fingers.  I agree with you that  they are skills that everyone can learn and enjoy.  But most importantly, teaching braille in the classroom builds bridges for all of our students.

I look forward to reading more of your blogs and incorporating them into the classroom setting!

Erin

Resources

Swenson, A.M. (2016) Beginning with Braille: Firsthand Experiences with Balanced Approach to Literacy. AFB Press: New York, NY

 

Great ideas!

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas, Erin!  I love your ideas about creating braille-rich classrooms, and teaching braille to typically sighted students too.  I think we should add "Bean Braille" as a new activity on this site!  

Great resource

Posted by epete

Thanks Charlotte!  Beginning With Braille is an excellent resource with lots of easy to follow mini-lessons. The Bean Braille idea was one of many in that text!

Erin

Another great idea!

Posted by epete

Hi Sandy,

Teaching all the children ASL is another idea I will put into my teacher toolkit.  I bet your son loves having you at his school!  Lucky duck!

At the school I teach in currently my Early Childhood Educator teaches the alphabet along with the sign for each letter of the alphabet.  The preschoolers love it.  I have suggested to her that we need to add the braille, even though we don't have any students with visual impairments in the class at present.  Learning literacy in a variety of ways is good teaching and presents the information in a flexible format for all types of learners to learn. 

Keep blogging...I'll definitely keep reading!

Erin