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for the Blind

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Volunteer teacher in China, looking for a lot of advice.

Hello everyone,

Let me introduce myself and explain my situation in brief. My name is Anthony, I'm from Upstate New York, but I've been living in Xi'an, China for the past 2 years. About 6 months ago I began volunteering as an English teacher at what I shall refer to as "The Xi'an Blind and Deaf School" -- there's no official English name; it's "xi an mang ya xue xiao" for those of you who can read Chinese pinyin (literally "xi an blind deaf school").

Anyway, this is my first real experience in working with the visually impaired (I also have classes with the deaf students, though I realize this is the wrong community to ask for advice on that).

I am looking for advice on teaching blind/visually impaired students ... more specifically, teaching them English when they know virtually none. What are some good activities or ways to help them memorize words and phrases? I am trying to focus on reading and pronunciation for now, but I can't think of any fun ways to practice it with them. Most of the students know the English alphabet in Braille, which I am slowly learning as well -- very slowly, to be honest; I'm juggling my primary job at a middle-school, teaching weekend classes at a college, practicing guitar (which I intend to teach to some of the blind students), lazily studying Chinese and spending time with my girlfriend. Occasionally I sleep, as well, though not often.

I'm also looking for advice on good materials to donate for blind students -- my first thought is reading material. The only material they have is a room full of textbooks; the only time they read is when they are forced to for their lessons. My idea is to find some good novels (in Chinese) and simple books (in English, Grade I, I believe) -- this, of course, is proving difficult and the only options I can find (for English books) is very expensive. I'm not very well off financially, so I am aiming for inexpensive materials and failing miserably at finding them.

I scoured the entire city for bookstores that sell books in braille, and unfortunately not a single one has any braille at all. One of the teachers at the school said they have to order textbooks from Shanghai -- this is more or less out of the question for me, as my Chinese is terrible.

I attempted to contact the Hadley School for the Blind in China, but my e-mails were rejected by a "full inbox." My girlfriend has no idea how or where to look for Braille, be it Chinese or English -- she's Chinese, by the way.

I have a student who is borrowing a classical guitar and wants lessons from me; I'm practically a beginner guitarist myself, though I'm a mildly experienced bassist. This had me thinking about purchasing some cheap beginners guitars (they're about $20 USD a piece) and starting a proper class for learning the guitar -- but, again, I don't really know how I would go about teaching them. For now, I am planning on having him take notes as he's comfortable (probably Chinese braille), while mixing in English words and whatnot. Should I try to find a braille system for tabbing the music? Should I create my own system with them? Should I ignore written material and just make tapes of our lessons for them to practice with afterwards? Any and all ideas/suggestions are warmly welcomed.

Sorry to go on so long in such a disjointed manner, this has been brewing in my brain for a couple months now, but I just stumbled upon this website. My search continues ...

Thanks in advance,

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Re:Volunteer teacher in China, looking for a lot of advice.

Hello Folks,
I am in a similar situation as Anthony having recently agreed to teach English to a blind orphan in SW China. .I do not know if he is still active in his teaching of the Chinese blind but, if so, I could benefit from his experiences and those of any others who would be willing to share them.

I have no prior experience in teaching English to the blind.

Thanks for any advice you might offer.


Re:Volunteer teacher in China, looking for a lot of advice.

Hi Anthony

Hadley School for the Blind has a school in China. I came across your letter via Google search I have set up to help me run a newsletter project on education for the visually impaired which is helping Chinese teachers of the blind. I am in the UK and I and a few friends run a charity registered in the UK as 'China Vision'. (whether my sig line comes out is another matter: it has a link to the charity's page.

China Vision has a braille library in Beking at the Beijing One Plus One Centre. email me at and I will send you lots of information. We have a few basic children's books there which are part of a reaching scheme - but they're not complete by any means.

Hadley School in the US runs distance correspondence courses in braille and one of my Chinese friends has completed it: so it can be done. I can ask him who he contacted if you would like me to. It is also possible to teach yourself UK English braille from a book: 'British Braille'. Teaching children braille is a complex business and is not done from a book these days but from a whole different series of ways and means as the child matures.

I don't know how braille is taught in China except that I do know that the Chinese learn a great deal by rote.

The friend who did the Hadley School course spent some months teaching braille to children in what they called a school, but you and I would recognise as an orphanage with a school attached, but the children mostly inevitably had more than sight problems and I don't honestly know how successful it was: the last time I enquired a replacement teacher hadn't been found.

The two most well known schools in China are Beijing School for the Blind and Shanghai School for the Blind. There's also a well known one in Hong Kong.

You could also try contacting the China Library for the Blind in Beijing: I've got their details if you would like them. Not that I've had dealings with them for a very long time when they decided English braille was no longer flavour of the year and dumped their braille library which I had been sending them material for.

As a very basic level you could teach the children the braille alphabet in English braille (same UK and US at that level): it would be easy to send you that - I am a braillist.

I also do have a book which details a lot of the braille codes at a basic level: but I don't know whether you could teach that as an entity as I don't speak mandarin. Its a print book and probably not been available for *years*, but I have a feeling I've seen an on line version you could look at to see how practical it would be.

email me and we can see how far we can go with this.

Sincerely Mrs Chris McMillan

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