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AFB American Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Beginning with Braille: Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy, Second Edition

NEW edition, updated and expanded with UEB!
Purchasers of chapters receive, free of charge, all introductory sections and appendixes to this publication.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Trends in General Education Literacy
    Trends in general education affect literacy learning for all children, whether they read print or braille. The more teachers of beginning braille readers understand about the complex process of learning to read, the better they will be able to ensure that their students receive state-of-the-art instruction in literacy skills. This chapter provides an overview of recent trends in literacy learning for print readers and summarizes essential components of effective reading instruction.
  • Chapter 2: Trends in Teaching Braille
    Braille continues to be recognized as an essential literacy medium for people who are blind or visually impaired. It is the primary path to literacy for many children who are unable to access print due to a visual impairment. This chapter provides an overview of legislation and research that has reaffirmed the importance of braille instruction, including the landmark Alphabetic Braille and Contracted Braille Study, focusing on the acquisition of braille literacy skills by young children.
  • Chapter 3: Guidelines and Strategies for Teaching Beginning Braille
    Learning to read in braille is a time-consuming and complex process that requires skilled teaching. The first part of this chapter presents guidelines and practical teaching strategies aimed at facilitating students’ braille literacy learning during both individual and group instruction. Recognizing that it takes a team to teach literacy skills to a beginning braille reader, the second part of this chapter focuses on collaboration with classroom teachers, paraeducators, and families to enhance students’ opportunities for success.
  • Chapter 4: Assessment and Documentation
    Effective teaching involves a cycle of assessment, planning, instruction, and evaluation. These components enable teachers to create high-quality lessons and reflect on their own work, as well as that of their students. A well-designed assessment plan is ongoing and multifaceted, with a direct impact on instruction. The first part of this chapter focuses on data collection methods that allow teachers to document progress toward IEP goals and objectives and adjust their instruction as needed. The second part describes ways that teachers of students with visual impairments can collaborate with classroom teachers to conduct assessments and evaluate the results together.
  • Chapter 5: Promoting Early Literacy: First Experiences with Reading and Writing Braille
    Whatever the age or ability of the student, early literacy instruction must be meaning based, focusing on concrete experiences and topics of interest to a particular child. Fostering motivation and engagement during beginning literacy activities is the key to developing long-lasting, positive attitudes toward reading and writing. This chapter begins with a brief summary of the findings of the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP), and subsequent sections describe specific strategies and materials designed to build a solid foundation of emergent literacy skills and concepts in braille.
  • Chapter 6: An Overview of Options for Literacy Instruction
    Learning to read in braille requires mastery of many of the same skills and strategies as learning to read in print. However, the braille code adds another layer of complexity to the reading process that sometimes affects the decoding and fluency of early tactile readers. This chapter provides a comparison of learning to read in print and braille and discusses when to begin formal braille reading instruction and the curriculum options for implementing a language arts approach. The more teachers of students with visual impairments integrate the braille code with reading processes, the more effective they will be teaching reading in braille.
  • Chapter 7: Teaching the Beginning Reader: Three Steps to Beginning Braille
    Formal braille instruction evolves naturally from the broad literacy experiences of early childhood. This chapter describes a three-step approach to teaching braille reading that the author has used successfully with fully included students and those who have additional learning needs. The initial steps are highly individualized, addressing not only skills but also the creation of positive attitudes toward literacy.
  • Chapter 8: The Third Step: Guided Reading
    In the general education setting, primary classrooms are filled with high-quality leveled trade books of all shapes, sizes, and genres. One of the joys of teaching reading is matching books to individual children’s interests or helping children make their own choices from a variety of enticing titles. Leveled trade books may serve as the basis for a reading curriculum or supplement a classroom basal series for students who are ready to make the transition to commercial reading materials. This chapter will describe strategies for teaching braille with trade books, based on the guided reading model used in many general education settings.
  • Chapter 9: Beginning Reading Activities
    Activities that meet the needs of individual children and engage them fully in the learning process are the heart of day-to-day teaching. They fit within the framework provided by IEP goals and objectives, but are specifically adapted or designed by a teacher who asks thoughtful questions about a student’s learning. The activities suggested in this chapter are divided into two broad categories: those focusing on word study and those that involve reading or writing connected text. A balanced lesson will include both aspects of reading instruction. A final section at the end of the chapter offers suggestions for adapting activities that are part of a morning meeting or “circle time.”
  • Chapter 10: Teaching the Beginning Writer
    Becoming a competent writer in braille requires significant time and energy from the student, as well as ongoing modeling and feedback from teachers. This chapter begins with a discussion of prerequisite skills and concepts for braille writing as well as special considerations related to the mechanics of using the braillewriter. The second half of the chapter presents an instructional sequence for developing proficiency in writing through daily journal writing, a common activity in many primary classrooms.
  • Chapter 11: The Developing Writer, the Writing Process, and the Role of Technology
    This chapter begins with an overview of the writing process and strategies for adapting each step for young students who use braille. It continues with suggestions for assessing children’s writing and teaching spelling. The final section of this chapter explores the use of electronic technology for beginning braille students, focusing particularly on the development of skills that facilitate writing.
  • Chapter 12: Teaching the Dual-Media Learner
    Children with low vision who acquire literacy skills in both print and braille are known as dual-media learners. Many of these students benefit from the flexibility to choose the most efficient medium to complete specific reading and writing tasks. Teaching braille to children who can see print does take extra time, effort, and perseverance, but it can also make a huge difference in literacy development. In this chapter, assessing print efficiency and the need for braille is discussed along with the characteristics of dual-media learners, the considerations and challenges in teaching dual-media learners, and the logistics for teaching braille reading to dual-media learners.
  • Chapter 13: Teaching Braille to Students with Diverse Needs
    Teachers of students with visual impairments typically have a wide range of students on their caseloads, including those with multiple disabilities or limited English proficiency. In many ways, teaching braille to children who have disabilities in addition to their visual impairment is the same as for students who only have a visual loss. This chapter begins with a discussion of general considerations for teaching braille to students with diverse needs. Subsequent sections in this chapter focus on students with reading disabilities, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and deafblindness. The chapter ends with a look at students who are learning English at the same time that they are learning to read in braille.
  • Chapter 14: Case Studies: Two Beginning Braille Readers
    A number of years ago, the author had two beginning braille readers at the same school on the itinerant caseload. Despite the wide disparity in their cognitive abilities, their learning was similar in several ways. The anecdotal records presented in this chapter are taken from notes during the first year the author worked with both students. They illustrate many of the techniques, activities, and materials described in this book, as well as the frustrations and successes of real-life teaching. Each is followed by a short reflection in which the student’s instruction is considered in the context of current developments in teaching braille reading.
  • Chapter 15: Adapting Print Materials
    Worksheets are a fact of life in most classrooms. Many of the activities are highly visual and require transcription as well as creative adaptation. This chapter proposes answers to the questions that arise when braille readers are included in general education classes. It begins with logistics for the timely creation and delivery of transcribed materials, followed by recommendations for producing high-quality braille materials with correct formatting. Other sections include guidelines for adapting early print literacy materials, an overview of tactile graphics for beginning readers, and examples illustrating thought processes, techniques, and materials used in transcribing and adapting early print literacy materials.
  • Chapter 16: Braille Literacy for Sighted Classmates
    From the moment sighted children see their first dot, they are fascinated by the braille code. Teachers of students with visual impairments can build on sighted students’ natural curiosity about braille by designing activities that highlight different aspects of the code and providing hands-on practice in reading and writing braille. This chapter offers suggestions for giving presentations about braille to general education students, as well as step-by-step directions for follow-up activities. Teaching braille to typically sighted students provides an opportunity to replace misconceptions with an understanding of how people who are blind or visually impaired use compensatory skills to achieve independence in their daily lives.