By: Carmen Willings
June 9, 2019
Students who are blind or visually impaired will may need adaptations to access the language arts program. Literacy and reading skills are foundational skills that will allow the student to access all areas of the curriculum. It is the role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) to determine the student's primary reading mode. Although the student should develop strong auditory skills, it is essential for the student to learn to read print and/or braille.
In reading aloud, the teacher reads aloud from a book. Reading aloud to the students should be a daily occurrence for students of all ages as studies have shown that it positively impacts students success in learning to read. Prior to reading the book, provide a summary of the story. Also explain vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to the students. This will give the students a chance to identify the word, place it in context and remember it. Concentrating on concept and vocabulary development will assist students with learning disabilities including those with visual impairments. As you read the story, point to key words on each page to help students make the connection between print and spoken words. If the student is a braille learner, someone knowledgeable in the braille code should ensure the student is able to be exposed to these same opportunities. Remember to read with inflection and intonation.
When presenting the selected reading to the students, discuss with them that you are going to read a book and for what purpose (e.g. learn more about the topic, to read a certain style, etc.) Discuss the title and describe the picture. Encourage students to answer literal question (review and update answers after story is read). Ask students to predict who, what, where, when, and why events happen. Consider having a story helper to hold the book and help turn the pages.
Before you begin a story, read the title and ask your student what the story might be about. Take some time to recall similar experiences that you and your student have had that relate to the story. Present the objects from the story. Encourage the students to explore the materials and make educated guesses about what the story will be about. As you read aloud to your student, you can help them develop a sense of “book behavior” or basic conventions of reading. These behaviors are things like holding a book right-side-up, turning one page at a time, and reading from top to bottom and left to right, using page numbers, and taking care of the books.
Incorporate concepts during this time by talking about how thick/thin the book is, whether or not it is big or small and if it is hard or soft bound. Be sure to describe pictures to the students to help them interpret the pictures, and take time to enjoy the pictures on each page. While reading predictable stories, leave off the ends of sentences and let the student attempt to finish them. After reading aloud, act out stories with the student. When you have advanced to longer stories and books that cannot be completed in one reading session, be sure to finish the story the next time or over several successive readings.
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.
In independent reading, the student is in charge of reading independently, using strategies to decode unfamiliar words. Students should select books that they can read at the independent level and avoid books that are at the instructional or frustration level. The goal is to build fluency in reading. Time should be set aside for daily opportunities to read independently whether during the course of the school day, at home, or both.
After reading the story, have students identify characters, setting, and events in the story. Have students retell or re-enact the story. Discuss if the story was fantasy or reality. Recognize main incidents, plot, and how problems are solved, relate to personal experiences. Compare/Contrast to different versions of the story
Encourage students recall information and retell sequence of events. Compare and contrast it to others stories that have been read. Tell main idea of selection that has been read. Ask “wh” questions about the story. Generate or list questions regarding the main idea. Compare information from books, magazines, newspapers and on-line resources about unit topic. Create maps, diagrams, charts, and graphs to convey information learned about topic.
Encourage students to recall important ideas and respond to questions. Scaffold the questions and provide multiple choice if necessary. Be accepting of answers – reflect on responses and expand. Ask students "wh" questions about the story (incorporate questions about characters, setting and events in the story). Ask students to determine the main idea of the story (Use title page, photos, captions, and illustrations to help develop comprehension). Discuss main incidents, plot, and how problems are solved, relating this to personal experiences.
Building vocabulary can be natural when discussing items related to the current topic or identifying words in the stories, poems, and songs. The following is a list of ways to develop vocabulary: Make a list of words from the book, poem or song. Determine meaning of unknown words through use of classroom dictionary. Look in thesaurus to identify words that have similar and opposite meanings.
Discuss similarities and differences between: characters; between events in the story and their lives; between current books and other books on the topic or other books by the author, etc.
Rogow, Sally. Language, Literacy and Children with Special Needs. Pippin Publishing, 1997. This book focuses on the importance of supporting students with special needs so they can participate and be integrated into the educational mainstream. Rogow outlines a variety of approaches that will help teachers ensure that learning happens for everyone.
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