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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
The Unified English Braille (UEB) was implemented on January 4, 2015. APH has announced that they will start UEB braille transcriptions for the 2015-16 school year. Aroga Technologies put together this helpful reference sheet with all the new UEB symbols and the contractions that disappeared in UEB. You may want to print it out and carry a copy with you. Although it can be printed on standard size paper, it is best when printed on 11" X 17" paper.
If you would like to produce ink print braille to create worksheets for students who are beginning to lose their vision or for parents, peers or others who want to learn braille, there is an easy solution! You will first need to download a braille font such as Duxbury. Once you have downloaded the font, use this ASCII keyboard handout to create worksheets!
The Braille Challenge® is the only national reading and writing contest in braille for blind and visually impaired students. Contests include reading comprehension, braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling and reading tactile charts and graphs.
Assessment of Braille Literacy Skills (ABLS) Provides educators with a meaningful assessment of Braille literacy skills.
Becker, Roberta. Unified English Braille Practice Sentences. This book of practice sentences, available from ActualTactuals, was created by the co-author of Literary Braille Practice Sentences (with Phil Mangold). It is available in both print and braille and includes all UEB contractions. Sentences progress from simple to complex, making it easy to select appropriate exercises for individual students. The print book includes simulated braille on facing pages. The contractions are introduced one at a time where possible with sufficient repetition for mastery. The book progresses through all of the various types of braille contractions.
The Braille Connection: A Braille Reading and Writing Program, available from APH, is designed for former adult and teenage print readers how to read braille. This is a great program that I have used with teenage academic students who are learning braille as a secondary mode of learning.
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) provides Nemeth Code Reference Sheets designed to familiarize you with the proper Nemeth code for the common symbols found in Alegebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Set Notation.
Nemeth Code Reference Sheet I love this easy to use reference sheet! It shows symbols in use including numbers, omissions, comparisons, operations, money, geometry, fractions and other related symbols.
Learning the Nemeth Braille Code
This manual, available from APH is a great tool for learning how to produce Nemeth.
Maryland's College and Career Ready Standards for Unified English Braille Checklist is a great checklist by grade and includes braille, formatting and tactile graphics. This is a great age specific and sequential resource that can help write goals and objectives!
Anne McComiskey, former Director of Project BEGIN, an early childhood program at the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta, Georgia, has developed this Braille Readiness Grid that is an excellent resource tool listing skills future braille learners will need to develop.
Motor Activities to Develop Pre-Braille Skills
You are welcome to print and use this list of motor activities that can help develop tactual skills and pre-braille skills.
Determining how to teach braille including the frequency and intensity of instruction depends on a variety of factors. The age of the student needs to be considered and whether they have other options for a literacy medium. The student's intellectual capabilities will determine if the focus should be on functional braille or traditional braille. The student's tactile and perceptual abilities and skills are critical to learning to read braille. Students with a history of strokes may not have the finger sensitivity to discriminate the small differences in braille characters. The students age and additional disabilities will also play a large part in determining the way to instruct the student in braille.
Teaching Tracking Patterns
It is important to teach correct finger and hand use when instructing a student in braille. Different students will use different types of hand movement patterns to read braille. The most efficient pattern is to use a scissor type pattern, moving both hands together. The left hand reads to the middle of the line, then the right hand takes over and reads to the end of the line while the left hand returns to the next line and begin to read independently of the right. The hands meet in the middle of the line of braille and then separate. Light finger touch is also critical for students to acquire.
When teaching a student tracking patterns, encourage the student to:
Material Positioning/ Stabilizing Tip: Keep braille paper from sliding on the table or desk by placing it on shelf liner, Dycem, or slip guard
Discourage Backtracking & Scrubbing
It is important as a student is learning braille to discourage regressive hand movements (vertical or horizontal). Regressive hand movements, or scrubbing are those in which the hands and fingers move back and forth or up and down unnecessarily on the braille line and interfere with efficient tracking skills. In early literacy activities, these movements may indicate that the student needs additional practice in tracking lines while tactually discriminating likeness and differences between characters and words.
Backtracking is when the student returns to previously read characters if the text doesn't make sense. Although some backtracking is good and can be a positive strategy, excessive backtracking can be an indication that the student is reading at the frustration level and the reading level should be reevaluated.
Encourage Light Finger Touch
Another mechanical skill a good braille reader should develop is to use very little pressure when touching the braille dots. A student should touch lightly along the top of the braille as they read it. If a child is observed to place too much pressure on the fingertips, remind the child to use a light finger touch. If a child is pressing more heavily on the braille characters to gain more tactile information, they may be compensating for a lack of discrimination skills.
Encourage Proper Finger & Hand Position
Dot Position in the Braille Cell
Begin instruction by teaching the braille cell. Learning the dot positions in the braille cell is helpful, but not essential, for discriminating letters, numbers, and punctuation. There are many strategies teachers have used to teach the spatial position and dot numbers of specific dots in the braille cell. One of the most widely used methods are using a muffin tin with tennis balls. Half dozen egg cartons can also be used or you can find an egg/shape match game. APH provides several materials for instructing a student in the braille cell including the swing cell, pop-a-cell and the Big Cell. Refer to the Tactual Books page for suggestions on creating a braille alphabet book.
Phonics & Phonemic Awareness
As with any good literacy program, implicit and explicit instruction in phonics is needed. Student's need to be taught to recognize consonant and vowel sounds. By incorporating the explicit instruction of blends, digraphs, suffixes, prefixes, common endings, etc. the student will develop strong phonetic and braille skills simultaneously to build fluency and word recognition skills.
There are a variety of ways to incorporate phonemic awareness and phonics activities. These strategies are the same as those used by sighted peers. The difference will be in providing words in large print and/or braille and pairing the learning experiences with real world objects/materials that are relevant (this is beneficial for sighted peers too!)
Environmental Exposure to Braille
The goal for the braille learner is to recognize braille or other tactile symbols as easily as sighted people read print. Early exposure to print/braille is important. Students should be exposed to a wide variety of print/braille in books and in the environment. Future braille readers or possible braille candidates MUST have daily exposure to braille in a literacy rich environment that is fully accessible. This daily exposure (at school and at home) will help students make the connection between what is written and the spoken word. Provide students with opportunities to read class schedules, daily messages, cassette tape labels, recipes, menus, and notes from teachers. Also provide opportunities to read transcriptions of classmates’ writing, and a wide variety of children’s books transcribed into braille. Incorporate braille on: bulletin boards; braille names on desks, cubbies and lockers; classroom signs, rules and posters; and calendars.
Literacy Rich Environment
Find functional uses for braille, such as labeling personal belongings (lockers, notebooks, CDs, and so forth), recording telephone numbers, and writing homework assignments or shopping lists. For those less familiar with braille, a braille labeler can be used to make braille labels, although it can only produce uncontracted braille. Braille clothing labels can provide daily exposure to braille as well. Model the use of braille (as when reading aloud to the student) and use braille for sending messages and other functional purposes.
Shared reading provides an opportunity for the student to participate in reading with a reader that reads with fluency and expression. When you are reading together with a student who is learning braille, be sure that the student's fingers are in contact with the braille as you read. Encourage the student to use a light touch ("Smooshing" the braille will make it unreadable!) and not to "scrub" the braille. Also, encourage the student to smoothly "track" along the lines with the pads of the fingers on both hands from left to right as you read. In the beginning, it is not necessary for the student's fingers to be on the same words as you are reading - this will come later with more formal instruction. As the student gets older and more experienced with books, you may want to read only when they are tracking. This way the student will begin to understand that to read braille, you must keep your hands moving! After a shared reading experience, the student should be encouraged to re-read the story independently either silently or aloud.
Make It Fun!
Write braille notes to the student and place them in unexpected places to create interest and a sense of excitement in using braille. Later, the student can be encouraged to write notes to the teacher of students with visual impairments and others.
Use braille access technology, such as computers and personal note takers, as a motivating factor as students can be motivated by the voice output. This is also a great way to for a more advanced braille reader who uses a personal note taker to have an opportunity to mentor and feel good about their braille skills!
Give the student directions in braille to follow, such as the steps in a treasure hunt. Provide the student with a note that provides a clue to the first location to look. You can pair this with the theme such as hiding the next clue in an Easter egg (adapt to the current theme)!
The Nemeth Code for math and science notation was developed by Abraham Nemeth in order to transcribe the symbols. The code uses the same braille symbols used in literary braille but with different rules. It is important for Nemeth Code to be written without flaws as the student cannot use contextual clues to determine if there was an error. It is essential for classroom math teachers and the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) to communicate and collaborate in order to prepare for upcoming instructional units to prepare the student for upcoming symbols and formats they will encounter. For this reason, it is important for the TVI to have a good understanding of the Nemeth Code.
Teachers may need to refresh their skills as they can go years without working with a student who needs instruction in or the use of the Nemeth Code. I have recently found myself in this position as I have not previously worked with an academic braille learner who uses braille as their primary mode of communication. I have found the Nemeth Code Reference sheet from APH to be very helpful in re-learning the Nemeth Code. It was also very helpful to obtain a math textbook in order to see how the problems were set up. That allowed me to learn the accurate way to write the problems and therefore follow the pattern when creating additional problems.
Braille Instruction Resources from APH
Flip-Over Concept Books: Line Paths This concept book, available from APH, encourages students to follow tactual lines and flip panels to find matching tactual lines in order to continue a line or pattern.
This enlarged plastic cell model from APH is one of my favorite tools for teaching older students who are learning braille as a second mode, the positions of the dots. I use this with my students and they enjoy using marbles to create the braille characters.
Swing Cell Compact
Although I tend to use some of the other methods more, the swing cell is a great tool to demonstrate the relationship between the braille cell and the keys on the braillewriter. It is more portable than the original swing cell.
This braille cell, available from APH, is a fun and noisy way to learn braille. Students enjoy popping the cells to create the braille characters.
Quick Pick Braille Contractions
This braille contraction flash card game, available from APH, provides students with another way to practice braille contractions. Each game card presents a question or other challenge with four possible answers. The student inserts the wooden stylus in one of four holes in the front of the case. If the answer is correct, the card will slide out.
This peg slate from APH is another favorite to use in teaching beginning users the braille code, but particularly the braille slate.
I LOVE using the Braille Caravan jumbo manipulative braille cells from CAL-tac and so do my students! Unlike the peg slate, the pegs are smooth and glide easily to practice forming letters and contractions. Cells can be placed together (they have internal magnets) to form words.
Expanded Dolch Word Cards
These braille/large print flashcards, available from APH, consists of 220 sight vocabulary words and 95 words with pictures. The cards can be used for reading practice or an informal assessment of a student's ability to read words in contracted braille and to spell words in uncontracted braille. If you don't have access to APH materials, obtain a package of card stock or index cards and cut it into smaller flashcards. Label the cards with print (either hand written, with a labeler, or on the computer) and place the card in a braillewriter or use a slate and stylus to add braille. If you are working with a student who still has useable vision, you may choose to not add the print to challenge the student to improve their braille reading skills.
Braille Contraction Cards
These braille contraction flashcards in large print and braille, available from APH, includes alphabet, numbers, punctuation, composition signs, contractions and short-form words.
Word Play House Kit
The Word PlayHouse kit., available from APH, is one of my favorite tools for teaching phonics activities. The durable Velcro tiles can be used to create a number of activities that focus on phonics, spelling, and phonemic awareness. I use this kit with the activities listed as the tiles are already made! If you don't have access to APH funds, you can create your own Letter Tiles with some minor adaptations. I've used these letter tiles prior to APH creating the Word PlayHouse Kit. I like them because they are made of virtually indestructible plastic. Clear braille labels can be added to the front of the tiles while Velcro can be added to the back. The problem of correct orientation remains for braille readers. A tactual dot can be placed in the top left hand corner of each tile to help students correctly orient the tile.
If you don't have access to APH funds, you can create your own Letter Tiles with some minor adaptations. I've used these letter tiles prior to APH creating the Word PlayHouse Kit. I like them because they are made of virtually indestructible plastic. Clear braille labels can be added to the front of the tiles while Velcro can be added to the back. The problem of correct orientation remains for braille readers. A tactual dot can be placed in the top left hand corner of each tile to help students correctly orient the tile.
Lots of Dots: Learning My ABC's and Counting 123
The Lots of Dots books, available from APH, are a coloring book series. They are designed for future large print and braille readers. The books are designed for sequential use; children develop character recognition, pre-literacy, pre-literacy, and pre-math skills, and eventually picture building and daily living skills. Accompanying each book are suggested enrichment exercises for each letter, number, or word, allowing a child to fully associate the print letter, the braille, the tactile graphic, and the object.
A Califone CardMaster Card Reader is one of those "oldies but goodies"! In "Teacher Mode" you can record vocabulary words or simple sentences on cards (I prefer the blank cards that can have print/braille added). The student can listen to the card and practice reading it on their own. This is a great device for building fluency and allows the student to
Turbo Phonics Kit
The Turbo Phonics Kit, available from APH, is a computer based, phonemic awareness and phonics program for young students who are preparing to develop reading skills. Student performance is tracked in a self-contained database that identifies skills the student has and areas where the student needs further assistance.
APH.SQUID Tactile Activities Magazine This activities magazines, available through APH, introduce a recreational approach to tactile literacy. SQUID Magazine is deceptively fun: while your child or student enjoys a variety of activities, he or she will acquire skills needed to become a more proficient tactile reader. These puzzles, games, and brainteasers will foster: Texture discrimination, Systematic searching, Shape identification, Tracking line paths, Pattern building and recognition, and Understanding symbols
Remember to store braille books in bookshelves sitting on their end. Do not stack them on top of each other or it will flatten the braille!