Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Montessori-Inspired Phonetic Braille Reading Blocks

Boy with wooden phonetic blocks

This past November I attended the "Getting in Touch With Literacy" Conference in New Mexico (a national conference focusing on the literacy needs of individuals with visual impairments).  One of the "break-out" sessions was about a Montessori educational approach.  I was inspired and saw many ways how Montessori learning activities and tools could be easily adapted for children with visual impairments.  When I got home from the conference I searched on Pinterest for Montessori tools and found many!  

 

 

Phonetic Reading Blocks

Blocks with braille letters to create wordsAn example of one I found online that used print: Phonetic Reading Blocks.   The consonants were printed with red ink and the vowels were printed using blue ink. You could purchase them and modify them yourself or you can make your own!  I wanted to create my own and modify the blocks for my son who is in first grade and reads using braille.  I bought some wooden cubes at Michaels and had holes drilled through them (thanks to my dad).  I put them together with pipe cleaners with wooden balls at the ends so that the cubes could "spin" and words could be created.    

I chose to use CVC pattern with three letters (Consonant Vowel Consonant).  You can find a variety of different word lists for free if you search for them online.  I added braille to the cubes (and also print so it would be easy for family and friends to read the blocks with him).  

  

Choosing Letters for Blocks

Blocks with braille contractions

Note:  Be intentional when choosing letters for your blocks.  My first attempt, when making the "e" centered reading block string, words ending in -ed and -en were created.  I didn't think about the fact that they should have been contractions until AFTER I made the blocks.  I had a couple of options for an easy fix.  I could have changed the endings to not include contractions or I could add the contractions onto the blocks.  Adding the contractions was what I decided.  I added the -ed and -en contractions to two of the "e" center blocks and then I left two of the end blocks blank.  This block will be different than the others (again, my choice and doesn't have to be that way) and will present an opportunity for some discussion with my son about the words and the contractions.

Materials: 

  • wooden cubes (such as those sold at Michaels)
  • pipe cleaners

Procedure: 

A boy signs the letter "b"

 

Your child can enjoy these blocks by spinning the blocks to create new words.  You could also ask the child to create a word and they have to spin the blocks to create the word you requested.  These blocks present a great opportunity to discuss new vocabulary words that the child may not know yet.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations: 

  • You could use other patterns on your block sets such as CVC with silent "e".
  • Another possibility is to create words using contractions.  Ex: contraction 'ea' instead of single letters only.  You could also do words that end with 'th'.  These reading blocks are great practice for whatever word patterns or contractions your child is working on.  
  • You could add some sort of tactile mark (perhaps puffy paint the border of the cube) for vowels just as the "printed" blocks used red and blue for consonants and vowels.

Storage of braille cubes

 

Link to the blocks I found on Pinterest (they are sold on Etsy):  https://www.etsy.com/listing/86225492/montessori-phonetic-reading-blocks-eco

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Core and Braille Standards

Foundational Skills: 

RF.K.2d Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel-consonant, or CVC) words.1 (This does not include CVCs ending with /l/, /r/, or /x/.)

Collage for Montessori-Inspired Phonetic Braille Reading Blocks

Kindergarten - Writing: 

K.1.2 Braille consonant-vowel-consonant words (i.e., demonstrate the alphabetic principle).

Comments

Montessori cubes

Posted by Cyral Miller

deafblind

Posted by vaishali mazhar...

Posted on January 12, 2016
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for Montessori-Inspired Phonetic Braille Reading Blocks

vaishali mazhar... commented on May 14, 2016

Its really working and helpful for all types of children.thanks giving such nice material creatting. And giving idea to us.

Liamsmom commented on January 15, 2016

Hi Cyral!

I'm glad you were able to use the blocks for some hands on phonics fun:)  Thanks for the kind words!  

-Sandy

Cyral Miller commented on January 12, 2016

Stunning - I needed some ideas for phonics support for a student who benefits from more hands on activities than paper and pencil. This allows hands-on manipulation - just what he will adore! You are brilliant, my friend!