Sharing Good Practice: Literacy
My colleague and I are currently supporting a boy who is blind (C), in P1 at his local mainstream school. He receives support five mornings a week and has weekly input from a Mobility Specialist.
Issues that need to be addressed
The reading scheme used in his school is Oxford Reading Tree (ORT). C is at the early stages of Braille and as yet is not fully confident with all the letters of the alphabet. Therefore, careful consideration had to be given as to the best means of access to ORT for him. It was decided a real objects story bag approach would be used as this would offer a multi-sensory experience and scaffold early literacy development - particularly relevant in C's case as he lacked some experiences due to his Visual Impairment.
A young student who is ready to begin formal Braille instruction must have completed a pre-braille skills programme. C covered these skills in his pre-school years.
Teaching Methods and Strategies
Each character from the book was introduced as a hand puppet where detail was added to identify each character e.g. beads to represent mums earrings, ribbon to represent Biff's bows ... The same detail was then added to the reading book, along with Braille, representing the printed word.
In addition, real objects were used to create a story bag which was then used to 'act' out the story prior to the book being introduced to the class. This enabled C to have a deeper understanding and join in with group/class discussions in a more meaningful way. Relevant vocabulary is introduced to C after the book has been acted out but before the book is issued. C then has his own Braille flashcards for each book.
The success of this approach involves a high level of collaboration and preparation amongst the VI teachers and class teacher in order to achieve a positive outcome for C.
- C was able to practise tracking in the context of the class reading book.
- Identified accurately story characters through tactile clues.
- Enjoyed the interactive process of the story bag, making experiences more meaningful.
- Interaction provided an opportunity to develop a wide and varied vocabulary.
The story bag approach fosters and develops imagination. The tactile version of the book enables C to have the same book as his peers. C has enjoyed this approach very much. However, moving forward C may benefit from a more structured approach as he is finding tactile discrimination between letters difficult.
Professional Reading and Resources
There are many on-line suggestions, journals, books, tips and tools to help guide and inform decisions when introducing Braille to a young student. Listed below are a few suggestions:
- Feeling Ready to Read: www.rnibbookshare.org/cms/feeling-ready-to-read
- Paths to Literacy: www.pathstoliteracy.org/
- Positive Eye: www.positiveeye.co.uk
- Story bags - National Literacy Trust: literacytrust.org.uk
- Importance of Play: www.scope.org.uk
- Book: Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy by Diane P Wormsley & Frances Mary D'Andrea
- Book: Beginning With Braille by Anna M. Swenson
Adrienne Speirits and Hazel Bell
Qualified Teachers of Visual Impairment