BRL: Braille through Remote Learning

Intro to Braille Course

Session 11 page

Session Topics
  • Teaching Braille Reading

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  • Session 11: Teaching Braille Reading

    This chapter is intended to discuss the unique learning needs braille readers face as they learn to read. The braille reading teacher will benefit from considering these needs and identifying methods and techniques useful to address them.

    What makes a good braille reader? That question has been asked by every teacher that has worked with children with blindness. What about the child who has low vision now, but may lose it at anytime? What do I (the teacher) need to look for, when do I start, and how do I proceed? These questions have different answers depending on the student for whom the questions are asked. So, what does the braille teacher do? The following discussion is meant to give the reader a range of ideas and suggestions. Rules of thumb are offered for the teacher's wise use. Observation, gut feel, intuitive teacher magic, and other tricks of the trade should be employed minute by minute when the actual act of "teaching" is happening. The child's motivation, family attitude (whether braille is "a wonderful tool to open doors" or "something that tells everyone this child is blind"), teacher's attitude toward braille, physical and/or cognitive delays or deficits, are just a few of the "other" attributes for consideration. Luckily good teachers recognize that each child is unique. Consistency, encouragement, patience, hope, confidence, optimism, and other teacher and family traits and behaviors often make the difference between success and failure.

    The following three groups represent the categories of students who will need to learn braille:

    1. The beginning reader who is blind
    2. The reader who will use both braille and print
    3. The reader who has learned to read using print who now needs to read using braille
    The beginning braille reader, like all beginning readers, must acquire the readiness skills associated with the actual reading process. An important prerequisite that all readers must have to be efficient and read with comprehension is a rich background of concrete experiences involving many objects, people, places, activities, and cause and effect relationships. In addition, the child must have receptive and expressive vocabulary that corresponds to his experiences. Each individual child must develop auditory skills of identification, closure, sequence, memory for stories, and discrimination. The young reader must be able to concentrate, exert self control, and follow directions. Another important readiness factor is motivation. Once the student has experiences and language sufficient to read, he can begin a more structured reading program. There are many effective teaching programs used to provide reading instruction. Each child will have his or her own unique set of experiences.

    The teacher will find that the number and quality of concrete experiences will vary from child to child. One should never assume that basic information is correctly understood until the child can demonstrate that he or she does understand. While both sighted and blind children require language concepts, it is more time consuming to provide the experience required to teach the concepts to the student without vision. It is important to provide experiences in a natural environment. The child who has been read to, seen braille labels, and experienced braille books is more apt to understand.

    The children that have already learned to read print have mastered the "reading process" skills, however, they must develop the skills associated with reading using their fingers. All students learning to use braille must acquire the following:

    • Tactual Discrimination--The ability to discriminate discrete tactual differences is essential to efficient braille reading. The noticeable shape or arrangement of dots is the most critical variable in braille reading. Do not teach the child by teaching the dot numbers. This may be helpful to the person who reads braille with his eyes, but not for the tactile reader. Also, avoid teaching the idea that some letters are reversible pairs; for example, "r" and "w."
    • Finger Dexterity--The effective braille reader will have "curious" fingers that move quickly, with ease. Many readers use all four fingers of each hand. This speeds up the reading process by allowing the reader a view of a series of symbols rather than a single cell.
    • Hand and Finger Movement--Most good braille readers use two hands. A skilled two handed reader begins reading a line of braille by placing both hands at the beginning of a line. At approximately the middle of the line, the right hand continues to read to the end of the line while the left hand moves in the opposite direction to locate the beginning of the next line. The right hand finishes reading the first line, the left hand then reads the first words on the next line, and the right hand quickly joins the left hand on the second line.
    • Light Finger Touch--Beginning readers may have a heavy touch, however, to be good two hand readers one must acquire a light touch. Games may be created to help students develop a light touch. An example of an activity to encourage a light touch is to ask students to slide their fingers across a piece of paper without moving the paper. This takes practice and attention to task. In addition, the student's hands should move smoothly from left to right without stopping.
    • Page Turning--The student should be instructed to turn the page quickly with the right hand when the left hand cannot find another line.

    The above was taken from "Faster Braille Reading: Preparation at the Reading Readiness Level," by Myrna R. Olson (THE NEW OUTLOOK, 1976). The braille teacher should read this entire article.

    Exercise and special activities are needed to develop strength, dexterity, and endurance. Writing braille using a braillewriter will assist the braille reader by reinforcing his recall and memory of the shape of the letters and symbols.

    Students will perform better if their hands are clean, dry, and warm. Furniture should fit their bodies allowing the arms from the wrists to the elbows to be even or a bit higher than the desktop. Feet should be flat on the floor and the back straight.

    The braille teacher should study the works of Dr. Sally Mangold and Dr. Randal Harley. Remember, students with severe visual disabilities will not be literate without braille skills. The American Printing House for the Blind produces two special series to teach braille reading. "Patterns" is the name of the series for young braille readers and "Read Again" is for older students who are skilled print readers who want to learn braille.

    Now is a good time to practice "reading with your fingers." Get out some braille work, blindfold yourself, and read!

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