A project for the Teaching Strategies class that I’m taking this quarter as part of the teacher of blind students master's program is to come up with a lesson plan to teach literacy skills. Not only do we develop the plan, we then teach a blind child in town using that lesson. I worked with an outgoing preschool student who was ready to practice the braille code in a fun way.
I knew she went to Braille Club, a group that meets at the Louisiana Center for the Blind and offers additional practice for interested braille students of all ages. So, I asked her teacher what she was working on there. She told me that my student was learning dot-5 words and that she enjoyed using flashcards. I wanted to do something more interesting than just flash cards and drilling words. I like to do crafts, so I came up with the "Braille Monster!"
I typed up braille flashcards of all the dot-5 words and clipped the upper-right corners so that my student could quickly tell if she was holding them upright. I wrote a short, one-page story in braille for her to read with lots of dot-5 words. I just made up silly things in the story like, “My name is Passion and I have a mother…” so that she could practice reading them.
Now, about the monster: I used a cereal box and covered it with felt. The monster has a colorful boa for hair, big googly eyes and a cut-out mouth…to eat all the dot-5 words, of course!
I put the dot-5 flashcards with other braille word flashcards. Every time she found a dot-5 word, my student got to feed it to the Braille Monster, and she loved that! She did a great job finding the dot-5 words and stayed attentive, which was awesome because she tends to get off track during lessons.
I will be making more Braille Monsters for the Louisiana NFB-BELL Program this summer. The Louisiana BELL Program hosts a Braille Carnival with lots of games to make learning braille fun and engaging.
So, get creative when thinking of lessons for your students. The Braille Monster was easy to put together and could easily be adapted for sighted children to use with print flashcards as well. You don’t have to over-think it or put a lot of money into projects; you can use things already around the house to make your own monster lessons!