Are You Teaching Braille, Literacy or Both?

Join us on Sunday, Aug. 3 from 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. in the Republic B ballroom of the Grand Hyatt San Antonio.

We’ll be presenting about how a blind or low-vision student can learn the braille code in one year and begin reading on grade level at the 2014 AER International Conference next Sunday.

In our field, well-meaning teachers have accidentally stopped teaching reading while going through the braille alphabet. Teachers focus a lot upon not using certain passages because they include dot-5 words, for example, while the student is focusing upon a contraction like “ful.” Furthermore, blind students across the country aren’t learning to read with the same curriculum as their peers. When blind students go through the Building on Patterns curriculum, they’re learning to read and write; however, most of the time it separates them from their peers during the language arts block. They are using different spelling words, stories and many times pulled to other classrooms. These curricula may be more comfortable for a sighted person teaching braille, but they’re not equipping students to get through the braille code quickly and get on grade level.

During the past school year, we pilot-tested a teaching method with two seven-year-old girls in the first grade. They both started learning braille in August 2013 using a method we’re calling the “Natural Order of Contractions.” Built upon Dolch words (also known as “sight words”), which we know make up more than 50 percent of the words in children’s books, the underpinning idea of the Natural Order of Contractions method is to help students quickly recognize words through their patterns…not individual letters.

The Natural Order of Contractions method uses the general education teacher’s resources and assignments, so that by the end of the year year, the blind students stay in their classroom during the entire language arts session.

We encourage you to come to the session on Sunday to learn more about this teaching strategy, ask questions, and see how you can begin adding this to your toolbox of techniques to immediately use with your students.

Our presentation will take place on Sunday, Aug. 3 from 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. in the Republic B ballroom of the Grand Hyatt San Antonio.

For those of you who aren’t able to join us in San Antonio, we’ll post more soon about the mechanics of this strategy on our blog. You can receive more information about this method, and other teaching techniques, by signing up for our weekly blog update e-mails.

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Casey West Robertson, M.Ed., NCLB

Casey West Robertson, M.Ed., NCLB

Casey was named as the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children in 2012 in part for her constant advocacy that blind children learn braille in a positive environment. In addition to serving as an independent contractor with four school districts in Mississippi, Casey is an active researcher and instructor at Louisiana Tech University.

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