Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Playing with Words

By Linda Hagood, Megan Mogan, Jay Hiller, Kate Hurst, Cyral Miller, and Charlotte Cushman

Two students collaborate to co-create a play-based story.

Playing with Words is a collaborative approach to play-based storytelling with students who are blind or visually impaired who have additional disabilities, including those who are autistic or deafblind.  Co-creating stories is focused on the process, rather than the product.  That is, it focuses on expanding language and communication, self-determination, self-regulation, and creativity rather than a perfectly composed story.  The adult is a support, rather than an authority, building on student interests and using props to expand playful exploration and expression.

Types of Stories

There are five different types of stories that are included here.  Descriptions of these types of stories, and links to numerous videos with accompanying materials can be found on the pages below.


A student writes on a white board.

Essential Components of the Intervention

Linda Hagood suggests that all stories should include six essential components, although initially (as a pre-teaching activity) or as a follow-up activity peers may not necessarily be included.   These components are:

  1. Building on all students’ strengths and interests; choice-making
  2. Including peers in all intervention sessions
  3. Building an atmosphere of play, with modeling and encouragement of varying levels of social play and symbolic dimensions of play
  4. Adult role is to be flexible & supportive, acknowledging, accepting and expanding on participant input, scaffolding between highly directive, highly participatory role and non-directive encourager and scribe
  5. Contexts for activity include predictable routines, consistent, accessible locations, adequate space for enactment and story creation
  6. Physical enactment, including the use of props and actions, should be included in all intervention sessions

Read more about the six essential components.

A boy with a wig made of toilet rolls.

Incorporating the Essential Components into Collaborative Storytelling Activities

We recommend that you think about these 6 Essential Components when you are planning an activity, and use them again to reflect on the lesson afterwards, to think about what went well and what you might do differently next time.  We invite you to download the forms for planning an activity and reflecting on instruction when you make your own videos.  Please use whichever forms are helpful to you in the way that works best for YOU!

Planning the Next Story Creation Session

Planning, acting, observing, and reflecting are a continuous cycle, as is illustrated in the graphic below.  Self-observation and reflection after each session should be built into the plan for the next session, so that you are repeatedly adjusting your intervention to meet the individual needs and interests of each student.

Screenshot of story creation cycle

The steps in the process are:

  1. Review goals for student(s) when planning lesson.
  2. Fill out the Planning Sheet to map out how to incorporate the 6 Essential Components.
  3. Video tape the session.
  4. Create written stories during intervention sessions.
  5. Review portions of video samples from all practitioner sessions.
  6. Fill out the Reflection Sheet after watching the videos.
  7. Note how you will change the next session, based on your reflections.
  8. Incorporate reflections into next session.

Share Your Ideas!

We welcome you to submit your ideas and videos of students using a play-based collaborative approach to writing.  Please email us if you have something you would like to share.

Seeking Feedback

We are actively seeking feedback from the field about this section.  We invite you to fill out this form and let us know your ideas on how we can improve this Playing with Words microsite.

Playing with Words feedback



See more examples of Linda Hagood's work.