Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Using Tack-Tiles to Build Braille Literacy Skills

Tack-tilesMy son Liam is 7 years old and will be starting 2nd grade this school year.  He is deafblind, uses tactile American Sign Language and is a braille reader.  
 
I love Tack-Tiles.  I have often been asked how we used Tack-Tiles with Liam in the "beginning".  I decided to write a quick post about our experience with Tack-Tiles and why I love them.  When Liam was first learning to read and write braille, his TVI at school began using Tack-Tiles with him. (We were very blessed that our set happened to be donated to Liam's TVI to use with Liam.) The Tack-Tiles were often sent home as homework.  
 

What are Tack-Tiles?

 
Tack-Tiles® Braille Systems are a sophisticated teaching tool for all ages based on LEGO®-type blocks. These Braille blocks provide a unique bridge, a smoother, shorter, more interesting path to Braille literacy. Now in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian literary Braille Code as well as Nemeth Braille Code for mathematics, Braille code for music notation, and computer Braille code. True to their nature, TACK-TILES® have shown themselves to be valuable tactile aids in several settings wherein of sensory stimulation, not vision, is the central issue to be addressed.
 

How Can Tack-Tiles Be Used to Develop Braille Literacy?

Writing with Tack-TilesTack-Tiles served as a great bridge for us from "big" braille to regular sized braille. The Tack-Tiles were very motivating for Liam! He loved working with the tiles and his braille skills improved at an incredible rate. At school they first used the tiles for letter recognition practice, then eventually began with word work, followed by sentences. They used it to support the curriculum he was using for reading and writing in school as well. They used the tiles for Liam to practice reading and also Liam was able to build words (writing) himself! The wonderful thing was that something just "clicked" when Liam started using the Tack-Tiles -- he understood that the "dots" had meaning. He could build words and phrases and he could read! And he could write! That is powerful! Eventually Liam moved from the Tack-Tiles to regular sized braille which was our end goal. Tack-Tiles were an instrumental part in Liam's braille journey.  
 
 

Using Tack-Tiles to Do Braille Homework

Below is a video of Liam doing braille homework at home using Tack-Tiles.  
 

Procedure for the homework: Writing Sentences  
  • Using a small plastic bowl, I place all of the tiles needed for Liam to create one sentence. 
  • I dictate a sentence for him to write.
  • Liam then finds the letters needed to create the sentence himself on the Tack-Tile board.  
  • After he finishes writing the sentence, he then reads it. 
 
 
 
The next video is of Liam reading his contraction homework from school!  
 
 

 
Videos include captions for Liam's signs. smiley  (Be sure to turn on closed captions -- "CC".)
 
 

From the Perspective of the TVI

Liam's TVI, Joe, also shared his experience of getting started with Tack-Tiles.
 
Tack-Tiles kitA smart person, whom I’m unable to quote once said, “You can’t argue with success.”
 
Tack-Tiles, pictured here, provided a strong and lasting bridge to braille for one young man with deafblindness. Here’s how the story began. 
 
I received an email from a colleague that was retiring. The email was sent on a list-serve and basically asked the question, “Who can make the best use of this product in America?” Write your response. I responded with my young man’s story and before I knew it, I had purchased Tack-Tiles from a teacher for a nominal fee. 
 
It was an exciting time from the very beginning. This kid was a tactile machine, but had little interest in regular braille that was presented to him via braille labels. So here we are with a five year old and we took off together. 
 
Now, I need to explain that this young man is not reading braille sounds. He is reading braille shapes. From the very beginning our mission was to introduce real objects and have him associate the shapes that make up the word with the tactile sign. 
 
We started with words that were of interest to him and not based upon any reading program. OK, so it wasn’t rocket science. What does he like? Snack time  became the best reading time and we simply started with words like cookie, cracker, blueberry, and so on. Other beginning words were mom and dad and other important words and functional words. 

Boy working with TVI on tactile discrimination skills

The Tack-Tiles which I call "braille Legos", sparked interest because of the size and shape and the hardness of the braille. Once this young man was taught letters and some words, he just took off. Every morning at school preparation was like Wheel of Fortune. There I would be searching for letters to teach and to make words, phrases, and finally sentences. By the time we were able to read short phrases, it was time to use other materials, most of which involved reading lessons based upon braille labeling from the American Thermoform Company in California. 
 
I’ll tell you right now, that I’ve never had this much fun. Watching this young man grow and become a voracious reader. As a matter of fact, reading is a favorite pastime. Currently, Liam has finished first grade. Our method of operation has been to affix braille labels with Velcro dots onto cardboard when we introduce new words. Well, we started out with a 1,000 dot rolled. We ran out of dots and had to order another roll. This young man learned approximately 1,200 new words in first grade! It has been a lot of fun for Liam, his teachers, and his parents. “You can’t argue with success.” 
 
Pinterest collage for Tack-Tiles
 
 

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