I love the opportunity to have kids engage in these alternative forms of communication to practice their spelling and vocabulary words, and these two often end up being the most popular centers in our room!
While many of my students have been exposed to sign language before (often with interpreters at church or events, or through their own experiences in preschool), many of them had never heard of Braille and what it was all about.
As a class, we began by reading this quick biography together about the story of Louis Braille and chatting about his life as a blind man in the early 19th century. I printed out a copy for each student so we could read along together and this also freed up our projector to show pictures to help with vocabulary and context along the way, like:
If you do have time to share a full-length biography, I highly recommend it! The story of Louis Braille is one of resilience and strength. He definitely had a Growth Mindset, so it's worth sharing or having his biography around during this time, as he is a truly inspirational figure.
There are several choices available on Amazon, and I love the "Who Was" series as well as the "Picture Book Of" series to address the variety of readers in your class.
After we had read a bit about Louis Braille, I was excited for the students to see this short YouTube video of real elementary school children who are visually impaired and go through their day using Braille to learn and grow just as any typical peer does:
Of course my kids and I were fascinated by the Perkins Brailler and how they used pushpins and dark lines to help them keep their place and make important notes along the way. I did pause it occasionally to point out certain things, especially the term "visually impaired" since that was new to many of them and changed some of their thinking about levels of sight that people may or may not have.
Finally it was time for the exciting hands-on resources! Not only did I introduce our Braille Word Work sheet, I actually had a copy of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by Jon Scieszka in Braille!!
Because we don't have any visually impaired students currently in our school, and I was too impatient to try to track one down through the district, a quick Google search introduced me to Seedlings.org. This is a wonderful non-profit organization that was set up to provide low-cost Braille books to young readers. Read more about them HERE and when you do, I know you'll fall in love with their mission as much as I did!
They have so many titles to choose from and I quickly decided that this perennial class favorite was a must-have. Sharing it with my students and having them touch a real-life Braille book was a wonderful experience and something that I know helped enlarge their perspective on our world and ways in which we all communicate.
I hope one (or all!) of these activities can help you start a meaningful conversation with your students about the Braille language and get them excited to use it in their own Word Work practice. Obviously, coloring in dots isn't quite the same as using a real-life Brailler, but I have found that my students have a deeper understanding and appreciation for this center now, especially after watching the YouTube video of such wonderful boys.
**Through Christmas, I will be donating 100% of the proceeds (from the day it posted on 10/15/14 until 12/25/14) from my Sign Language & Braille Word Work Center to Seedlings.org. I hope you will consider purchasing it (if you haven't already) and adding it to your collection, knowing that your purchase is not only helping your students, but helping other visually impaired children get access to high-quality Braille books to deepen their love of reading from a very early age. Thank you!!!**
Click HERE to purchase and have a wonderful start to this festive month!