Posts Tagged ‘brlchat’

Inaugural Braille Chat – Thursday, August 23, 2012

August 31, 2012

The awesome Natalie Shaheen, who’s one of those teachers who never seems to run out of ideas, came up with the idea of having a twitter chat for teachers of blind students. I was a little skeptical at first. I like to talk, I like to debate, and I couldn’t figure out how any of this would be affective in 140 characters or less. However, I’ve been proven wrong, and once again seen that social media is awesome! I’ve been able to participate in the #brlchat for the last two weeks, and I’ve learned tons and been introduced to lots of other teachers that are going to serve as fabulous resources for me as I go through school and start a career. I was going to write down the stuff I learned for myself, but then thought that other people who weren’t able to participate might like all of these resources in one place. So, here we go.

The first week’s topic was ways to make Braille fun for students of all ages. It’s something that’s always kind of broken my heart, seeing students come into summer programs who’ve had no interest in Braille because their teachers have made it seem like something to dread. Natalie’s first suggestion was to incorporate students’ interests into your teaching. If they’re sports junkies, let them read a sports magazine or a football roster. If they love music, go onto Google and print out song lyrics, or facts and articles about their favorite artists. Natalie says, “Using short interesting articles or blog posts is great for older kids learning Braille 2 keep them motivated & feeling like they are accomplishing.” Domonique says, “I like to have students use contraction, word, and concept sorts. With these activities they read & learn sorting & organization.” I had to ask for some clarification on this one, and she told me that she writes up words or contractions and then has students put them in different piles or sections. Someone might sort seasons, etc. She does note, “Make sure that if you are making sorts or card games that you cut a corner of the card for orientation purposes.”

Natalie also says, “Braille twister is lots of fun for working on memorizing dot patterns.” Braille Twister involves creating life size Braille cells by using your hands, feet, and other body parts to make letters/contractions.” Casey said, “I like to include games such as Braille twister, Braille go fishing, file folder games. Etc.” Natalie suggested that teachers and kids could make puzzles for each other, which works on other skills along with Braille. Older kids could also make puzzles for younger ones. I’ve also played cards in Braille class, especially with high school students. I’m no card shark, but they love the chance to teach me games they already know. Natalie also said that she knew people in Ohio who had a Jeopardy game with Braille contraction usage questions. Brooke says, “We did a Braille bee where everyone was given a study guide for a week so that students had an equal chance. Our newest student won the bee because she memorized all the contractions.” I also love Natalie’s Braille musical chairs idea, where each chair has something in Braille on it and students have to read what’s on the chair they land in. What a great way to keep students up, moving, and interacting with their environment.

A few different teachers suggested communicating with students during, or outside of class, in Braille. Natalie suggested having a conversation with students in Braille, letting them talk about whatever they want but having them write it all down. Eric suggested fractured fairytales as a great way to promote literacy for all kids. Natalie also said that texting or chatting with students using contractions is a fun way to get them interested. (As a random side note, I do this all the time with my friends and it shortens my texts a lot!)

As Natalie pointed out, “cooking with Braille recipes is always fun too!” Domonique says, “Have kids write out grocery list for a Braille recipe. Then have them make m&m cookies or cupcakes. Make contractions with the candy.” Casey says, “One of my students loves to bake and decorate cakes with candy dots making Braille messages.” We did something similar to this in Nebraska when we held our BELL program, and the kids loved it. (I loved it too, but that was partly because I got to eat the skittles.) Next time I have a student with a birthday, I’m totally going to make time to make a cake that says “happy birthday” in M&M Braille.

One of the things I liked most about the whole chat was teachers’ willingness to let their students see them under sleepshades. Kelly says, “I have students make a scavenger hunt for me. Complete with Braille directions tactile map and sleep shades,” and, “As a sighted person I put on the sleep shades and have the kids teach me their favorite contraction. Love to c their different styles.” She also says, “I race all my students writing the alphabet on the slate & stylus. Then we race writing numbers, drawing pictures, etc…they choose.” When I was growing up I never had a teacher who seemed like they knew the slate and stylus well, and that included the blind Braille teacher I had, so that was especially impactful for me.

Lots of resources were suggested. Eric and Krystal say, “Fun with Braille from the American Printing House for the blind is a great resource.” Casey says she likes “Adapting the exceptional teaching aid’s “Hot Dots” to Braille. Kids love it.” Kelly says, “Quiddler is a great game for Braille, spelling, nemeth and dare I say it…abacus.” If you’re like me and hadn’t ever heard of Quiddler, you should check it out, it looks fun.

I always liked reading books about blind kids in Braille. Kelly suggested Girl, Stolen, by April Henry. This one’s available from NLS, Bookshare, or in print from amazon.com. I downloaded it, and when I find time to read for pleasure I’m gonna give it a try.

Kelly is in the process of adapting Scrabble into Nemeth to, “help students learn math facts.” I think this would be awesomely fun, and I really hope she’ll share her secrets. Natalie suggested Sudoku as a fun way to work on numbers, too. I’ve seen this done a few different ways. I saw a plastic sort of board with squares you can set numbers into, I’ve heard of people using magnetic numbers on a magnet board, and you could also use basic tactile graph paper for something that’s only going to be used one time.

You can also make Braille art. Serina says, “I teach adults and find it fun to use Drawing with Your Perkins Brailler.” I just ordered this book from Perkins Products and I can’t wait to try it out. Barbara has also created art using a BrailleLight and a Blazer embosser, which is super cool. And I was absolutely enthralled a couple of years ago when Natalie pulled out a Janice slate and stylus and started to doodle. She made a train and a pumpkin, and to this day I have no idea how she really did it but they were some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

Regardless of the techniques they use, everyone who participated in the chat agreed that our attitudes as teachers impact student’s willingness to learn. Sighted students are encouraged to love reading, to love literacy, and to see it as something exciting and new. Blind students should be offered the same opportunities, and taught with the same positive attitude. It makes all the difference.

**note: I changed some quoted tweets very slightly by translating commonly used internet abbreviations into whole words and in some cases complete sentences.**