Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Using Legos to Promote Braille Skills with Dual Media Learners

Braille Lego sets coming out next year are the talk of the town this week amongst Teachers of the Visually Impaired.  I personally will be counting the days until they are released.  I’m a self-described Lego fanatic and any time I can incorporate Legos into a lesson, it’s a win-win.  Legos are a part of my ever-expanding TVI toolkit. 

Legos were my breakthrough tool with a struggling braille reader.  She is a dual media learner with a hearing loss who had hit a plateau in grasping uncontracted braille.  She was great at identifying letters, but putting together words was a struggle.  When my student started first grade, our incredible Assistive Technology Specialist, Neal McKenzie suggested giving Braille Legos a try. Neal, @Neal_AT, had printed some Braille Legos on the 3d printer, similar to what Cierra Brettnacher posted recently on Paths to Literacy.  

Introducing Braille Lego Alphabet Blocks

I brought in the Lego alphabet blocks with a few extra common letters (e, l, t, n…think Wheel of Fortune popular picks).  What happened instantly was amazing.  My student starting playing with our new hands-on activity as she exclaimed, “I love Legos!” She placed the letter blocks on the Lego base to try them out.  After a few minutes of play, I saw she had formed a word.  It wasn’t an easy word; it was “low.”  I thought maybe it was a coincidence, so I asked her what she had put together.  She said “l – o – w” but pronounced the word like cow.  I then found myself using the words I heard her classroom teacher say to teach any other student in the room about –ow rules.

3D braille legos spelling out "low"

 

Well, her love of Legos was the opening I was looking for.  From there, a dual media braille literacy activity naturally materialized.

  1. TVI writes a sight word on the APH All-in-One Board.
  2. Student picks out the corresponding Braille Lego letters (TVI assist as needed)
  3. Spell out the word on a Lego base with Lego Braille letter blocks
  4. Pronounce the word (verbal prompt as needed)
  5. Use the word in a sentence verbally.

 

From that day forward, Legos have become a fixture in my TVI toolbox.  I am using Building on Patterns and the Mangold Method, but supplementing Legos was really making my student excited to learn.  The fine motor skills get approval from her OT.

Related Games and Activities

There are also a bunch of fun offshoots from this initial activity that resulted:

Mix up the Lego letters; replace one letter to form a new word; start a Braille Lego Scrabble game; input the letters on a Perkins Brailler; label items in the classroom.  Having my student create a learning game were the best sessions, in my opinion.

I began trying to create Lego-based learning games to assist with braille literacy.  I wasn’t finding too much on Twitter or Pinterest, so I made my own.  I was connecting with my student, we were having fun, and there was noted progress.    The other students wanted to participate as well.

Lego Activities for High School Student

At a high school I incorporated Lego activities with a student who was just starting to learn braille.  The fun and familiar Legos took away some of the scary aspects of starting to learn braille at age 17.  She was studying coding in school, so I brought in a fantastic coding activity from Coding a Lego Maze.  It was truly a fun hands-on learning experience the entire class participated in.  Again, it is an activity that can be modified for all ages and abilities.

A student created Lego maze is shown with coding instructions in tactile print and Braille.

 

Legos and STEM Activities

On Twitter I saw a post on a fabulous STEAM activity.  My student loved making Lego letters with the single, double, and triple pieces.  Her hands were getting stronger with the fine motor practice.  
 
I actually set up this activity at an elementary Maker event (#MakerWorld2018) as a hands-on activity and to promote braille awareness.  The Braille Bug alphabet was a handout and all students that attended the event could make their names in Braille Lego letters.
 

Three Blind Mice STEM activity worksheet with a Lego board and “three blind mice” spelled out using single, double, and triple Legos.  A print copy of AFB’s Braille Bug alphabet is shown as a reference.

 

Lego Girls and Sight Word Practice

Now I find that I am getting a bit more creative with my use of Legos in braille instruction.  My second grade, dual media learner is my student who wants our braille lessons to be fun.  To fulfill her request, I brought in some helpers: #LegoGirls (yeah, we gave them have a hashtag!)

The Lego Girls first appeared with some sight word activities we were doing, similar to the aforementioned Three Blind Mice.  My student spelled out sight words on a Lego base with a flash card prompt that has large print, braille cells, and embossed braille.  The Lego Girls were just a fun addition at that point.

Sight words “too” “new” and “yes” are spelled out on Lego bases with single, double, and triple Lego pieces.  Flash cards with large print, braille cells, and embossedbBraille are shown next to the base.  Lego girl characters and their pet mice are placed on the board as well.

 

From there, the Lego Girls just became part of the lesson.  I loved my student’s enthusiasm for braille and the genuine affection she showed for the Lego Girls.  The Lego Girls can be brought in at any level of braille instruction.

On Valentine’s Day, large print cards with the word “love” in braille were sent out.  The Lego Girls spell out the word “love” on a Lego base.
 
 

The Lego Girls cheer on Percy the train as he rolls down the track.  Using APH’s “All Aboard the Sight Word Express,” All-in-One Board, and BrailleBuzz at Lego Station.  Dual media lesson with a goal of in-putting words correctly into BrailleBuzz.  A lighted marquee says “Lego Station all aboard!!”

 

Lego Girls Reinforcing Braille Letters

Practicing the letter “d” with the Lego Girls.  The braille cell template is from APH’s Lots of Dots book.  A single Lego girl is placed in the corresponding braille cell on the template and on the Lego base.

 

Using Lego Girls to Reinforce Dot Numbers

Placing Lego Girls in various dots of braille cell

 

Video of Lego Girls in Action

There were a lot of questions on how I was using the Lego Girls, so I created a video of my student putting together braille letters with the Lego Girls.  You may notice I take my emcee job very seriously!

 

I can’t wait for Lego to release their Braille Lego set, but there is plenty of ways to provide meaningful and fun braille activities for your braille student at any level.  

Collage of using legos to promote braille skills with dual media learners

Posted on April 29, 2019
Updated on: April 30, 2019