Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Tactile Activities for Pre-Braille Learners

A resource for teachers or parents of tactual learners

Clipboards with tactile objectsWhen many people first think of literacy skills, or pre-braille skills they think of things like tracking braille lines, identifying tactual or textured pictures or exploring objects in a story box, just to name a few.  Before we can do many of these skills, we have to be able to touch and be able to touch in a functional way.  This is why I call this post "Back to the basics". 

I am a preschool teacher for children with visual impairments.  I teach children of all different ability levels.  I have students who are tactually defensive and refuse to touch most things, I have students who cannot yet touch things gently and tear, rip, scratch or pick at everything they touch, and I have students who are eager to touch and learn through many different materials.  I came across a tool that can be used to work on many different pre-braille skills and with many different ability levels.

A few years ago a box full of textured clipboards, a dozen or so, were given to me.  At the time I was unsure where I was going to store them, and what I would do with them.  One day I brought one out for a student who tore everything he touched.... I mean EVERYTHING!!  I was trying to find something durable that we could use to work on "looking gently" (an important braille skill).  These boards served the purpose for this student.  As I worked with him and explored these boards further I came up with more ideas, and more students came to mind that might benefit from this tool.  

Some ideas for use:

  • Just to touch and explored tactual materials, they can be created to meet any tactual need             Clipboard with tactile shapes
  • Exploring and comparing textures, learning language for textures... hard, soft, rough, smooth….
  • Teaching comparisons such as: long/short, hard soft, big/small and so on.  
  • Teaching shapes, or counting
  • Touching things gently, not rubbing, scratching, picking or tearing
  • Looking at items one at a time, or searching systematically
  • Concepts of a page: top/bottom, left/right, corners
  • Tracking left to right
  • and much more...  

This tool is versatile as you can see by the suggested list of uses above.  These boards can be easily created to meet the needs of different children, and you can use the materials to create boards that are meaningful to individual students.  

Tactile clipboardMaterials needed:

  • Mine are created on clipboards... I would have never thought of this on my own, but they seem to be the most durable
  • Miscellaneous texture materials and objects: small objects of interest, hair bows, small cars, beads, buttons, ribbon, zippers.... ANYTHING!
  • Strong glue... mine appear to be hot glued on, and have withstood a lot!!  We have only had to make minor repairs.  

This tool is something that can easily be used at school or home, can be individualized and can teach a wide range of literacy skills.  Get creative and have fun!


Collage of tactile activities for beginning braille readers





thanks for sharing

Posted by Liamsmom


Posted by Wendy Y

Spicing it up with a little braille

Posted by benthompson90

Posted on October 13, 2016
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for Tactile Activities for Pre-Braille Learners

benthompson90 commented on May 2, 2016

Really great blog here Katie! You presented some really creative and obviously ‘solid’ (in more sense than one) teaching strategies to get our kiddos developing those pre-braille skills they will soon need to put into practice. Obviously with little ones like that, you cannot just give them a piece of paper with some braille and tactile graphics and tell them to explore it. As you said, many of them would simply rip it to shreds. Besides that, it just would not be interesting to explore. I understand that that is why these clipboards have all sorts of interesting materials to hold the kids’ attention. 


I’m sure you have braille in other places around your classroom for your kids to explore - there are probably tactile books with bits of braille; you probably have centers, cubbies, etc. labeled in braille. I have no doubt that you realize the importance of introducing our future braille users to the medium as early and as often as possible. That is why, I think when I undoubtably utilize these tactile clipboards in my own practice, I will add just a little braille to them as well. Now I realize that the whole point of these things is to allow your students the opportunity to explore an interesting tactile material that is tough and sturdy and will stand up to the abuse they are put through. I would imagine that the standard strips of braille on adhesive paper would probably not last long under this abuse, so I took a glance at the APH catalog and came up with some interesting ideas. I think that hot gluing some braille alphabet tiles or those print alphabet magnets with braille letters embossed on them to the clipboards would be a great, sturdy way to add a little braille to the experience. A quick search on Etsy turned up some more interesting ideas: what about adding some crocheted braille letter tiles on there for a different tactile experience than the plastic/ wooden braille letters? On a rather unrelated note, I found some pretty neat braille quilts and rugs on this hunt! What an interesting way to further introduce these little ones to braille - during nap time and circle time! Just a thought. 



Thanks for the great ideas!

Wendy Y commented on October 17, 2013

Thanks for that, Clipboards are a great idea.
Recently we used cheap plastic lightweight kitchen cutting boards to glue scratchy feely stuff on. They had the handle bit on so we used this to tie things that the kids could run their fingers through ie shoe lace, plastic curtain rings, curly ribbon bunch, etc.
Baking trays with holes along the side has also be good sturdy base.

Liamsmom commented on October 14, 2013

always love your ideas--I have a preschool aged deaf/blind son so I am always looking for new things for him to try and 'read'!  I especially loved the part about the student you had who ripped apart everything...sounds like my little guy:)  He has gotten better at that but we are also always looking for 'sturdy' materials for him:)