By Patricia Weismer and Deirdre Leech
A literacy kit is a set of activities that are designed to allow a student to actively participate and communicate during book reading activities. The primary purpose is to support and enhance the curriculum with math or reading/writing/language activities to provide the student a multi-sensory experience.
First, a literacy kit starts with a simple story box which includes an accessible copy of the story using the modifications most motivating and appropriate for the child. A story box is also a collection of objects and materials that are related to the story.
There should be objects to represent main characters. These could be stuffed animals, dolls, or paper cut-outs of characters. Then, any other concepts in the story that can be represented with objects and/or tactile representations should be gathered. If possible, it is good to collect as many real objects as possible so that the child can make real-life connections with the concepts in the story. These items can be used act out the story, explain new concepts, and engage in creative play.
In order to expand on the story box, it is necessary to create a variety of multi-sensory activities that are designed to expand on concepts included in the book. This could include the use of a communication board, switches or other devices so that the child can make comments while reading a story. The literacy kit may also have materials for other types of activities. It gives the professional the opportunity to be creative when developing expanded lessons which may include the use of computer based activities to enhance comprehension. Each literacy kit is individualized based on the developmental level and sensory needs of each student and is most often teacher made.
Exposure to books and print is important, but how do we assess what our students are learning as they read? We must always find new ways to assess how our students are learning, how they are receiving information, and what they are getting out of books that are read to them or that they read to themselves. It's easy to say, "I know my student understands this idea," but in reality, we need proof and instructional data in order to confirm our thoughts about the students we know so well.
Assessing your students' reading comprehension requires teachers to be creative, use their students' abilities to answer questions and respond, and be open to whatever communication your student may give you during reading time. Assessing whether or not your student likes or enjoys a particular book is most likely a lot easier than actual facts, events, characters, or plot of a story. For some students, they may be able to answer questions regarding a story using sign language or their voice. For many of our students, however, this is not an option based on their developmental level.
Here are some examples:
Use objects that are included in your Literacy Kit or Story Box.
I f you read the book "Worm Builds," show the student three object choices and ask, "Who builds the tower - Worm, Turtle, or Rat?"
Use symbols that the child already has in their repertoire.
After you read a story that has a weather theme, you can ask "What is the weather in this story?" You can then use familiar symbols such as a raincoat to represent rain, a mitten to represent cold weather, and sunglasses to represent sunny weather. By using symbols that the student already knows, you are then creating a "crossover" or connection between calendar symbols and story themes.
Use the "extension activities" that you have created to go along with your Literacy Kit.
Using a communication board that goes with the book, "Worm Builds," see if your student can expand on a simple story and answer more complex questions. In this case, the book is about worm's tower getting knocked down. The communication board is about how he feels when it tumbles down.
Check your students' vocabulary comprehension.
Using the verbs from a sports article, use the communication board from your literacy kit to play a ball game and you will see if they have learned the article vocabulary. By being creative and using the materials that are around you, there are many ways to assess your students' comprehension for the stories that are being read.
Sample assessment activities
The assessment activities will depend on the individual student. Here are some sample assessment activities:
- In the story, the mouse builds a house with blocks. Build a house from blocks together...then count the blocks. Who has more blocks?
- In the story, the mouse draws a picture with markers. Draw your own pictures! Use a paint program on the computer too.
- In the story, the mouse has a lunch box. Pack your own lunch box. What kind of things go in a lunch box? This is a great sorting activity!
- In the story, the mouse writes a story. Write your own story about school. Use objects, record your story, or use an adapted word processor.
- Take pictures of things you have that are the same as the story words. He had a basketball....take a picture of your basketball. Then make a vocabulary PowerPoint book.
From: Every Child is a Potential Reader
By Patricia Weismer, MS. Ed. and Deirdre Leech, M.Ed., Perkins Deafblind Program, Perkins School for the Blind
Photos by: Megan Majors; New England Center Deafblind Project: In Touch Newsletter, Vol. 6, Issue 4 (February 2008)