Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Using PenFriend to Make (Formerly) Boring Flash Cards More Fun

A young braille student uses the PenFriend
To make flash cards that are more interesting and motivating, I like to use the technology of the PenFriend to add an audio component.  This activity provides fun practice for beginning braille learners. 


  • Permabraille sheets from APH, which make very durable, crisp, easy-to-read braille dots.
  • 3” x 5” cards:  I cut the 3” x 5” cards in half for word cards, and I use the whole 3” x 5” or 4” x 6” cards for sentence cards. I snip off the upper right-hand corner of each card for orientation. 
  • PenFriend is made by RNIB (in the UK) and is available through them or through Independent Living Aids or Maxi-Aids in the United States
  • Braillewriter


  1. The cards can be loaded into the Perkins brailler to write on.
  2. I place a Pen Friend sticker near the bottom of each card with my voice reading the letter, sign, or sentence.
  3. The student reads the card and checks his/her answer using the Pen Friend.  Students enjoy recording their own voices on the Pen Friend labels too.  
  4. I make sentence cards to supplement the material found in the Kindergarten Level of “Building on Patterns” by APH.
  5. Students can make their own sentence cards as well for even more practice.


Common Core and Braille Standards

Kindergarten - Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development : 

K.1.15 Read simple one-syllable and high-frequency words (i.e., sight words).
K.1.15a Read simple high-frequency words in uncontracted braille.
K.1.15b Read simple high-frequency words in contracted braille.

Collage of using PenFriend with beginning braille reader

Posted on November 26, 2016
Updated on: February 16, 2022