Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Tips and Tools for Teaching Beginning Braille Skills

These tips and tools are designed to address skills for the young beginning braille reader who is ready to start braille instruction and who has received preschool instruction on concept development. For experienced TVIs, this will be a review of ideas and activities you may already be familiar with. Many of these ideas and activities you may already be familiar with. Many of these ideas are simple, or things you already do. All the ideas and activities listed below are not necessarily my own ideas. They have been gathered over the years from other TVIs, books, and resources. I have simply pulled them together for your reference. Thanks to all those who shared their ideas with me. 

Topics

 

Using the Right Touch

Help students to use the right pressure on braille by:

  • Running fingers over a banana
  • Running fingers across their arm so that they can feel the right touch
  • Skimming fingers across the top of a thin layer of sand without feeling the tray underneath 
  • Skimming fingers across a layer of sandpaper covered with flour without feeling the sandpaper 

 

Learning Braille Letters

  • Sort letter cards
    • For example: 5 d's and 5 y's into 2 baskets
  • Put name cards in order -- first/last
  • Use dice and board games for letter recognition 
  • Copy cat: Give the student a card with braille, have them braille a matching card,and learn to paper clip them together
  • Make Garages out of painted boxes (lunch size milk carton) and put a letter on the box. Put a letter on a toy car and drive the matching cards into the right garage. 
  • Make a cut out of a tree on a wall poster. Velcro leaves onto the tree. Have the student remove leaves and read read. This can be seasonal and modified for the skills being taught.
  • Letter ladder: Put braille cards on each rung of the ladder and have the student "climb up the ladder." Put raised stars at top every time they make it up correctly. 
  • Create braille cell on the floor (6 dots from Twister game, add texture) and move around the cell to learn cell dots.
  • Use commercial products to helpReady Building on Patterns
  • Marking letters with high dots

A student uses an APH soundboard A student using an APH soundboard and marked high dots

  • Create games and fun activities:
    • Find letters in a mini-mailbox
    • APH Swing Cell
    • Egg carton with plastic eggs
  • Letter Activities
    • Hide braille letters under Guess Who Characters
    • Spin and identify

spin a star toy and identify the braille on it

  • Practice with the Language Master
  • Beginning words
    • Monster days of the week eater - Pencil holder with popsicle sticks
    • Days of the week Lego roller and graphing with push pins and APH individual calendar 
    • Monster Word Eater 
    • Word or Contraction Concentration

a pencil holder looks like a monster to eat the words on popsicle sticks     A chart with pushpins to identify the days of the week

 

a box decorated like a monster     a board game is used to play concentration

  • Plan letter parties: Use rectangular crackers with cream cheese, apple butter, or frosting for a cell. Use raisins or M&Ms to make braille dots into the shape of letters.
  • Decorate a reading box to help eliminate the chance of looking.

peanut butter is spread on crackers and raisins are placed in the position of braille dots     a reading box is decorated with a purple cloth

  • Use small blockers: Reading glasses covered with black tape allows the student with usable vision to see but reminds them not to look down. 

 

Creating Beginning Books (Experience Stories)

  • Tactile ABC Book
  • "Alex can..." & "Alex can go..." books
  • You can ____
  • I like ____
  • I do not like ____
  • I will not ____
  • Dictated stories by student
  • Books of lists: My favorite things, My favorite foods...
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Who Do You See? using classmate names (e.g., "I see Jordan eating with me.")
  • "Who sank the boat?" -- Modify with names of friends and family
  • Color books
  • Number books
  • Notebooks for creating stories

a spiral book with a green dinosaur to identify the letter d     a page in a spiral notebook with a plastic spoon that says calvin can play kitchen

 

Reinforcing Games 

  • Perquackey brailleGames to play with peers
    • Homemade and adapted games
  • Use commercial game boards to create braille practice. 
  • Rope Race:
    • Put cards along a rope. Time how long it takes to read the rope cards.
  • Graph It:
    • Use large graph paper and put a letter in each box. The teacher gives directions (go down 2 and over 3). The student reads a letter. If the student is correct, they add a push pin/high dot. When complete, the push pins create a shape. 
  • Fish Fry:
    • Cut out cards in the shape of a fish and add braille. Put them in a frying pan and use a spatula to flip out a fish. Read the card and put it back in the water (use a bowl). 
  • Go Fish:
    • Use a wooden dowel with a magnet on the end. Place braille cards with a paper clip in a bowl. Fish for the cards and read them. 

Paper fish in a plastic cup     a pencil is made into a fishing rod to catch the paper fish

  • Seasonal Word Containers:
    • Create special cards (e.g., boo, gobble gobble) depending on the season
    • Create letter and word cards (--- d ---, ddddddddddd, Mr. Nobody/names)
    • Put letter and word cards in a container along with a few special cards. 
    • Draw cards and read them, keeping all the word read correctly. 
    • When drawing special cards, pass all earned cards to an opponent. 
    • The winner has the most cards at the end. 
  • Contests:
    • Practice reading alternating the left hand and right hand.
    • Take turns with the student.
    • Beat the clock.

 

Matching Games:

  • Cinderella's Closet:
    • Cut out shapes of shoes, frogs, apples, stars. Match the braille on the cards to make pairs.

Shape match with braille

  • Using everyday toys to create learning fun
    • Building and counting, blocks, reading numbers on dice
    • Bingo and popcorn holders

a popcorn holder with bingo pieces

  • Capital Cone:
    • Cut out cone shapes and ice cream shaped tops. Put lower case letters on cones and capital letters on circles. Match the tops to the bottoms.
  • Velcro Concentration:
    • Use Velcro to hold cards in place. Begin with just a few pairs.
  • Bingo Game:
    • Use sticky notes to cover called letters. Use graph paper.
  • Speed Race:
    • Place braille on a Velcro board or card. Have the student look for a particular letter. Detach the letters and earn points for each correct find.

a speedracer game board

  • Who's At Home Game:
    • Make a house and put in names. Include Mr. Nobody (full cells). Gradually add the student's name, Mom, Dad, siblings, friends, teacher, etc. Leave a different person out of each time.

a cardboard house with note cards for each family member

  • Brailled UNO Game
  • Lazy Susan spinner

a lazy susan serving dish with braille cards on it

  • Matching and sorting activities: Bins can be used for all sorts of activities. Create books with pockets for letter/word cards to find new words.
    • Pocket fun: Using hanging jewelry bags for matching cards. 
    • Matching with 100 board: Create your own patterns 
  • Clothes Pin Clip:
    • Matching words on paper to words on clips

a clipboard with clothespins on one side and braille text on a piece of paper     clips with braille labels are matched to the braille words on a piece of paper

  • Star Contractions Dominos:
    • Braille all of the contractions on to tiles and create a tin of all known contractions as they are learned. 

braille labels on dominoes     dominoes with braille labels

Lesson Plans

a sample lesson plan form including fields for hand strength, finger isolation, and discrimination

Songs 

  1. Letter Songs

  • BRAILLE SONG to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell. The student can chose the words for each of the letters to make it her own.
    • A   Dot 1 stands for an A

Dot 1 stands for an A

A stands for Apple Juice

A and Apple Juic

  • B  Dots 1 and 2 are B

Dots 1 and 2 are B

Betty buys beautiful bunnies

But Bill buys ugly bugs

  • C Dots 1 and 4 make C

Dots 1 and 4 make C

Can you catch the cute cat

Cuddling on my coat

  • D Dots 1 4 5 make D

Dots 1 4 5 make D

Dragons do not live with dad

Do dragons live with you?

  • E  Make E with 1 and 5

            Make E with 1 and 5

Every elephant we get

Enjoys giving elephant rides

  • F  Dots 1 4 5 are F

Dots 1 4 5 are F

Get fancy, frilly frocks

From fancy famous stores.

  • G  1 2 4 5 are G

1 2 4 5 are G

Go get grandmama

Then go get grandpapa

  • Dots 2 4 5 are H

Dots 2 4 5 are H

Do you have a heavy hat 

Then hand your hat right here

  • I  Dots 2 and 4 are I       

Dots 2 and 4 are I

I like chocolate ice cream,

Icicles and igloos

  • J dots 2 4 5 make J

Dots 2 4 5 make J

Jane just got so much jewelry

She joined a jewelry club

  • K Dots 1 and 3 are K

Dots 1 and 3 are K

Kate, kittens and knowledge

All begin with k

  • L Dots 1 2 3 are L

Dots 1 2 3 are L

Lovely little ladies

Like lots of Lolly Pops

  • M Dots 1 3 4 are M

Dots 1 3 4 are M

More mother's like to bake

M & M cookies for me

  • N 1 3 4 5 are N

1 3 4 5 are N

They make the letter N

For you not anyone                   

  • O Dots 1 3 5 are O

Dots 1 3 5 are O

O, orange and onion

All begin with the o

  • P 1 2 3 4 are p

1 2 3 4 are p

People will pick pumpkins

Play in the pumpkin patch

  • Q 1 2 3 4 5 are q       

1 2 3 4 5 are q           

Q - quite a quirky one

What do we know about q

  • R 1 2 3 5 are R

1 2 3 5 are R

Randy would rather run

Than ride on roller skates                                                                             

  • S Dots  2 3 4 are S

Dots 2 3 4 are S

So Sammy says something

Silly to you and me 

 

Finger Isolation Songs

    The pointer says hello…            

    The middle man says hello…

    The ring finger says hello…

    The pinky says hello…            

     
 
    The pointer says hello
 
    The pointer says hello
 
    Watch the pointer wave hello
 
    The pointer says hello

    (waving fingers one at a time)                                                               

 
    The pointer stands alone       
 
    The pointer stands alone
 
    Lonely little pointer
 
    The pointer stands alone
 
    The middle man stands alone...
 
     
 
    Lefty, lefty
 
    Lefty, lefty
 
    123
 
    123
 
    -------
 
    Righty, Righty, Righty
 
    Righty, Righty, Righty
 
    456
 
    456
 
     
 
    Dot 6 is best of all
 
    Dot 6 is best of all
 
    You’ll like this very special dot
 
    It makes the letters capital
 
     
 
    Thumbs make spaces
 
    Thumbs make spaces
 
    Between all the words
 
    Between all the words
 
     
 
    After every word
 
    After every word
 
    We use our thumb
 
    We use our thumb
 
     

    Our thumb is very busy

    Our thumb is very busy

    Thank your thumb

    Thank your thumb

 
Wave fingers one at a time. If you're using a finger puppet, use the name of the puppet.
 
The pointer says hello
The pointer says hello
Watch the pointer wave hello
The pointer says hello
 
The middle man says hello...
 
Thumbs make spaces
Thumbs make spaces
Between all the words
Between all the words
 
After every word
After every word
We use our thumb
We use our thumb

 

Resources 

  • Songs
    • "The Braille Rap Song" - written by Lynn Horton and Tammy Whitten as a fun way to teach braille to their students at the Helen Keller School in Talladega, Alabama. A high-quality, professional recording is available as a free download.
    • “Songs for Beginning Braillists” by Denah Burnham, Beginning with Braille (p.86)
  • Websites
  • Books
    • Gallagher, Patricia A. Educational Games for Visually Impaired and Sighted Children. Denver: Love Publishing, 1986.
    • Mangold, Sally S. and Myra R. Olson. Guidelines and Games for Teaching Efficient Braille Reading. New York: AFB Press, 1981.
    • Swenson, Anna. Beginning with Braille-Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy. New York: AFB Press, 1999.
    • Wormsley, Diane P. and Frances M. D’Andrea (Editors). Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy. New York: AFB Press, 1997.
  • Instructional Programs
    • Un’s the One Primary Level: Uncontracted Braille Fundamentals. Ann Rash and Debra Sewell Texas School f/t Blind and Visually Impaired
    • Building on Patterns: Primary Braille Literacy Program: Kindergarten Kit.  Louisville, Kentucky: APH, 2006.
    • The Mangold Developmental Program of Tactile Perception and Braille Letter Recognition. 1977 (revised 1990, 1994). Available from Exceptional Teaching Inc.
    • Math Builders Unit 1 Matching, Sorting and Patterning  APH  7-03560-01
 
Collage of beginning braille skills

Comments

Tips for Older Students and Grownups Learning Braille

Posted by Pauline

Tips for Older Students and Adults Who Are Just Learning Braille

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Teaching Braille Skills

Posted by Anna Swenson

Posted on November 14, 2016
Updated on: April 28, 2020

Previous comments for Tips and Tools for Teaching Beginning Braille Skills

Charlotte Cushman commented on November 18, 2016

Good question, Pauline!  We have some posts on Paths to Literacy that offer tips for individuals who are learning braille later in life:

Braille for Latecomers

Teaching Braille to Students Who Already Have a Print Literacy Foundation

We hope that others will share their ideas!

Anna Swenson commented on November 18, 2016

What a treasure trove of creative ideas! Every teacher of young braille students should read this post - I'll be sharing it with my colleagues.

Pauline commented on November 17, 2016

Now, can someone post tips for of this same sort for working with older students and adults who are just starting to learn Braille?