Braille Instruction Materials
By: Carmen Willings
Updated October 28, 2017
If a student cannot attain a functional reading speed using large print or low vision devices to read regular size print, then braille should be considered as a complementary tool for literacy. Keep in mind, however, that not all students are good candidates for braille instruction. It is not only essential to have the cognitive abilities and foundational concepts, but it is important to have finger sensitivity and fine motor coordination to maintain sustained touch and systematically track across the paper.
Developing Tactile Reading Skills
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.
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
Learning the Braille Cell
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 braille characters.
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.
Contraction & Sight Word Practice
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.
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 handwritten, 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.
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.
Emergent Reader Braille Books
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.
This read-aloud storybook, available from APH, promotes emergent and early literacy skills. The rhyming story tells of a family of alphabet letters as each sets out to explore the page. As each letter takes a turn crossing the page - shown as a line of repeating letters - the child has the motivation to track along the line of braille, gaining skill in the hand movements used for braille reading. Reading Alphabet Scramble provides exposure to upper and lower case braille and large print letters, letter names, the sequence of the alphabet, and includes the letter word contraction associated with each braille letter.
On the Way to Literacy: Book Sets 1-3: Early Experiences for Visually Impaired Children These sets of storybooks, available from APH, introduces large print, tactile illustrations, and braille. Illustrations provide opportunities to use finger and hand skills. Recommended for students 2 1/2 to 5 years old.
Early Braille Trade Books: Rigby PM Platinum Edition Kits These kits, available from APH, are known for their meaningful stories with books that present a clear climax and resolution. Titles hook children with real storylines, and the steady growth of sentence structure scaffolds text complexity for incremental reading success. APH's Early Braille Trade Books Project provides commercially available books with braille labels and access to an interactive website
Early Braille Trade Books: TWiG Books Kit 1 & 2 These Upper Emergent kits, available from APH, combines commercially available books with braille labels for beginning readers. This kit includes books, braille labels, and access to an interactive website.
Best for a Nest
This large print/braille book, available from APH, provides an opportunity for the learner to focus on many concepts: the position of objects, prepositional phrases, and use of tactile symbols. Includes a storyboard with manipulatives to allow the student to participate in the storytelling.
Braille Literacy Programs for Young Students
Building on Patterns: Primary Braille Literacy Program: Kindergarten This kindergarten level braille literacy program, available from APH, is a complete primary literacy braille reading program designed to teach beginning braille users to read, write, and spell in braille.
Building on Patterns: Primary Braille Literacy Program: Second Grade This second-grade braille literacy program is a complete primary literacy program, available from APH, is a complete primary literacy braille reading program designed to teach beginning braille users to read, write, and spell in braille.
Building on Patterns: Primary Braille Literacy Program: First Grade This first-grade braille literacy program is a complete primary literacy program, available from APH, designed to teach beginning braille users language arts: reading, writing, and spelling.
Braille Instruction Books for Dual Media Learners
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.
Blindskills, Inc publishes DIALOGUE, a quarterly magazine in large print, Braille, email, NLS-compatible digital cartridge and four-track cassette tape: that is designed for blind youth and adults who are experiencing vision loss.
Resources to Support You in Teaching Students with Visual Impairments
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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!
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