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Activity and strategy

Providing Direct Experience to Develop Concepts

Children with visual impairments and other special needs need to develop an understanding of basic concepts in order to grasp meaning in books.

When teaching students to read braille (or large print…anything actually) we have to consider the concepts in the book. For example, the book “The Beach” is a simple book. It has two words on each page and each page refers to something that can be found on a beach (rocks, shells, crab, starfish, fish, and bird). While the pages don’t mention sand, that needs to be addressed as well. Some students may never have experienced a beach. The concept needs to be taught in order to help bring meaning to what the student is reading. Ideally, the student would actually go to the beach, but since that is often unfeasible, this is another option.

Procedure

To help students understand the concept of a “beach”, I created a container with the items included (rocks, shells, crab, starfish, fish, and bird).

Container of beach items
Plastic bin with sand, seashells, crab, starfish

The bird is not a “beach” bird, but was all I could find. I looked for the items in craft stores, dollar stores, and even pet stores. I found a few things, but not everything. I ordered additional items from Oriental Trading and Rhode Island Novelty. The nice thing about these two companies is that I can order in bulk (12 items or so depending on the item), as I know I’ll be needing the item more than the one time. For instance, I’m thinking I might have her write a beach book from her perspective.

A child exploring the sand tray
A child explores the sand tray.
Close-up view of sand tray
Close-up view of a child exploring a starfish
Collage of providing direct experience to develop concepts with children with visual impairments and special needs
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