Notes on Literacy for New English Learners with Visual Limitations

by Sylvie Kashdan and Robby Barnes

MS Word .doc version (89 kb)

1. The Relevance of Literacy

In the United States today some degree and kind of literacy is important for all adults, for independence and dignity. Reading and writing play a role in most everyday tasks—at home, in stores, on the street, using public or private transportation, and at work. The more reading and writing we can do on our own, the more independent each of us can be and the more self-respect we can have. Literacy is also important for becoming more fully informed about issues and events of importance to us and letting others know what we think; for the pleasures of reading letters from friends and relatives, stories, poetry, etc. … and writing our own.

Literacy is just as important for adults who are visually-impaired or blind as for anyone else. And it is no more difficult to acquire, given the proper assistance and support. Moreover, whether or not one is functionally literate, using either print or braille, plays a large part in one’s quality of life. In today’s job market, it strongly affects one’s employment opportunities or lack thereof. Even for those who are not seeking paid employment, whether or not a person has and utilizes literacy skills plays a large role in how much self-respect, independence, access, inclusion and equal treatment that person can experience.

Many immigrants and refugees from countries outside the United States, Western Europe or Oceania never learned to read and write in their first language because of poverty and the need to go to work at an early age. Those who had visual impairments as children or developed them as adults often suffered from the lack of educational opportunities for students needing accessible formats, such as large print or braille.

Coming to the United States opens up new opportunities for blind and visually-impaired immigrants and refugees to acquire functional literacy in accessible formats, as part of acquiring the new language and beginning to feel more self-confident, becoming more independent in their everyday lives, and feeling as if they have greater general control over their futures.

With this in mind, it is vital that all of us—professionals and volunteers—who are involved in assisting blind and visually-impaired new-comers prioritize helping them to develop real functional literacy, not just oral English proficiency.

2. Approaches and Methods Relevant to All New English Learners

The approaches and methods described below are generally recognized today as among the best practices for teaching new languages to all students. They are particularly important for new language learners who are visually impaired or blind, because those students do not have many of the same opportunities to fill in their language learning with environmental writing and visual cues that are available to fully sighted students every waking moment of the day.

While it may take some initial effort for those who are tutoring on a one-to-one basis to learn to incorporate these approaches and methods into their regular teaching routines, they will definitely find them of great value even with fully sighted students. For such tutors and students working together, these approaches and methods can make the difference between experiencing the teaching and learning processes as sometimes depressing and unfulfilling or pleasurable and stimulating.

Although it may require some initial rethinking of class procedures and routines to incorporate these approaches and methods into mainstream classroom teaching, their use does not involve shortchanging fully sighted students in any way. On the contrary, for the fully sighted students, these approaches and methods can make the difference between experiencing learning the new language as frustrating and boring or enjoyable and exciting.

For adult students who are visually impaired or blind, using these approaches and methods in individual tutoring situations or mainstream classrooms can make the difference between their experiencing learning the new language as embarrassing and degrading as well as frustrating and boring, or accessible and empowering as well as enjoyable and exciting. These approaches and methods give such students a much better chance of developing functional literacy, gaining more equal access to the opportunities and benefits available in our society, and being treated with respect and as equals in their everyday lives. This is because these approaches and methods enable visually-impaired and blind adults to learn the new language more easily and thoroughly than do approaches and methods that depend on them learning despite their lack of access to the visual stimuli meant to help the fully sighted students. And, the more easily and thoroughly handicapped immigrants and refugees can learn the new language and the ways of the new culture, the more quickly and thoroughly they can gain a say in how their lives will unfold and how successful they can be in becoming full participants in our society.

a. Wholistic Teaching and Learning

Wholistic teaching and learning (sometimes referred to as the whole language approach) is a student-centered philosophy of learning that focuses on teaching and learning meaning rather than isolated skills and espouses instructional activities that are relevant to the individual learner’s experiences, needs, and developmental level. It advocates integration of listening, speaking, reading, and writing into the entire curriculum and views teachers and students as a community of learners.

Because literacy is part of an integrated language process, not a discrete skill or group of reading and writing skills isolated from listening and speaking, literacy cannot really be adequately taught in isolation from oral language. Over the last 30 years more and more of those involved in researching literacy development, as well as both those teaching literacy to adults and those teaching children, have come to understand that reading, writing, listening and speaking are all part of a complex whole.

Writing and speaking are both composing and communicating with oneself and others. Teachers and tutors need to encourage even beginning literacy learners to experiment with writing for a variety of reasons and purposes, rather than simply copying materials or practicing spelling words. As they start to experiment with writing these students become aware of sound-symbol relationships in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them, and are therefore more memorable than what they may be exposed to through language drills.

Over time students learn to apply the insights they gain as writers to better understand the structure and message of what they read. Teachers and tutors can enhance the impact of their instruction by helping students make frequent reading-writing connections in literacy activities. These can be as simple as writing a shopping list for a mobility lesson or as complex as publishing a student-authored book.

The wholistic approach is the most effective approach for teaching a new language to fully sighted students. And, it is especially important to visually-impaired students, because they are not always able to fill in the background environmental context clues on their own. This approach focuses on teaching language as an entire system of communication in which listening, speaking, reading, and writing are integrated and taught together as a whole. This approach includes teaching phonics and syntactical structures, but does not make them the primary focus. The primary focus is on learning to understand the meaning of what is read or heard and to convey one’s own ideas in written and spoken language. This can best be accomplished by building on experiences that are meaningful and centered on the literacy needs of the students.

Teachers and tutors need to take very seriously the importance of using topics that students are interested in and that take advantage of what the students already know. Even those who are beginning new language learners can be taught with very short basic stories that represent their cultures and immigration experiences or ones very similar to theirs. These stories can be included in reading instruction. They can be used as a tool to tap into students’ previous knowledge and to help them make connections with new information that is being taught.

In this way students can learn comprehension, pronunciation, and spelling while enjoying reading and writing material that draws on their past and present knowledge or that introduces them to the new culture.

Many teachers and tutors have found that students who have the opportunity to learn through the meaning-oriented instruction characteristic of whole language are without a doubt the most motivated readers and writers. They become interested in reading and writing about a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction, and they take the initiative to engage in the reading and writing practice that is required for the development of real proficiency. Using this approach, students can also be given opportunities to contribute to and shape their own learning activities, and thereby become the primary ones responsible for making sure that they are interested in and motivated to learn.

The individual pace of the wholistic approach is well suited to the needs of new English learners with visual limitations, who sometimes need more time than fully sighted students to complete assignments. It allows them to spend the necessary time and energy for developing their English proficiency without feeling inadequate because of their lack of speed.

Moreover, utilizing a wholistic approach enables teachers and tutors to avoid using ESL textbooks that disempower students with visual limitations because of their primary reliance on pictures and graphics for supplementing the text and giving it some meaning beyond words on a page.

b. Language Experience Approach

The language experience approach is a method of creating written material from students’ own experiences and ideas. It involves teachers helping students to orally tell their stories. Then the teachers write down the stories and use them as reading texts.

The language experience approach can be used as an integral part of wholistic teaching. It is an important method for beginning to teach reading and writing along with listening and speaking the new language.

It is a particularly good method for helping non-literate adults to begin to read and write in a context that is both interesting to them and demonstrates one of the uses of literacy in a concrete way. It can inspire and encourage ESL students to use their own oral language to create stories.

This approach has been used successfully with ESL students of all ages and can be used with one student to construct a personal experience story or with a group of students to construct a group experience story.

Steps in using the language experience approach:

1. Choose the experience. The teacher or tutor can choose the experience directly or choose it along with the individual student or group of students she or he is working with.

2. Conduct the experience. The teacher or tutor has the responsibility for making sure that the individual student or group of students experiences as much of the activity as possible, using all senses available at some time during the activity.

3. Discuss the experience. The teacher or tutor discusses the experience with the student or students. Each one takes turns asking questions and making comments.

4. Write down the story from student retelling. The teacher or tutor does this.

5. Provide the story to the students in formats they are able to read. The teacher or tutor should give students the stories that have been printed in clear standard size or enhanced or large print, or in braille.

6. Read the story to the students. The teacher or tutor does this.

7. Let the students try reading the story to you, if they want to.

8. Conduct follow-up activities that help students better understand what went before.

Field trips, cooking activities, and events in which students participate in other contexts can all generate themes for developing stories.

When writing down student-composed stories using the language experience approach with ESL students, teachers need to decide if and how they will correct the students’ oral language. When transcribing the stories into writing the first goal is to provide reading material that the students can understand. For beginning new English learners, stories that use the vocabulary and syntax that students themselves use in the telling tend to be the most comprehensible. Too much correction of the language structure or vocabulary may make the stories incomprehensible to the new English learners. So, keeping close to the students’ verbal expression is recommended.

When the teacher and students are ready to begin practicing editing, the teacher may decide to write the students’ language verbatim and then follow an editing process with them to develop corrected products.

After you have helped your students to write their stories, you can conduct phonics activities with some of the words the students have used and that therefore already have meaning to them.

c. Dialogue Journals: An Interactive Writing method to Develop Language and Literacy

A dialogue journal is a written conversation in which a student and teacher or tutor communicate regularly—daily or weekly—depending on the schedule of learning sessions. This method can be used with new English learners who are just beginning to learn how to write as well as with those who are more advanced. Many teachers and tutors have found dialogue journals to be quite affective with fully-sighted new English learners who are non-literate or semi-literate in their native language, and have had little or no schooling in their country of origin. Beginners can write letters, words, phrases, etc. and pair them with concrete objects, pictures, collages, etc. More advanced students may only want to write. All students are invited and encouraged to write as much as they want to. The teacher or tutor writes back regularly, modeling letters, words, phrases, sentences, etc. while responding to students’ questions and comments, introducing new topics, or asking questions.

Dialogue journal writing is a very good method to use with fully sighted students because it provides opportunities for authentic writing and reading while also enabling teachers and tutors to begin communicating with students about their backgrounds, interests, and needs. It is also another way of sharing information while getting more insights into students’ learning progress.

For those immigrants and refugees who have suffered trauma before leaving their countries of origin, during their journeys, or after their arrival in the United States, one-to-one personalized communication is much more relevant and compelling than learning to do exercises that have little or nothing to do with the feelings they are trying to resolve. And, those who are new arrivals are adjusting to an entirely new way of life at the same time that they are learning a new language and beginning to function in a new cultural setting. The one-to-one personalized communication of dialogue journal writing can also be very important for teachers and tutors who may need help understanding their students’ particular language and literacy needs. Many have found dialogue journals to be a crucial part of their tutoring sessions or classes.

Dialogue journals not only open new channels of communication, but they also provide another context for language and literacy development. Students have the opportunity to use English in a non-threatening atmosphere, in interaction with a proficient English speaker. Because the interaction is written, it allows students to use reading and writing in purposeful ways and provides a natural, comfortable bridge to other kinds of writing and reading.

For teachers and tutors who are assisting new English learners who are visually-impaired or blind, dialogue journal writing provides opportunities to create texts in accessible formats for students to practice reading, rather than relying primarily on standard texts with bolding, underlines, italics, boxes, tables, and all the graphics that are so confusing and difficult for large print users to deal with, and even more challenging and confusing for braille users.

d. Wholistic Language Teaching Needs To Include Interactive Hands-On Activities

Teachers should provide opportunities for students to touch familiar and unfamiliar objects in interactive ways, involving back and forth conversational exchanges and use. Simply placing objects in students’ hands or allowing students to touch them briefly is not enough, and may even be confusing, especially if the objects are new to them. But interacting with objects along with oral and written language interchanges can develop real understanding and enhance memory for what is learned.

Music can also be used to facilitate language learning. Songs that include repetition of words, phrases, and sentences can help students increase their vocabularies and reinforce memory of language concepts. Bilingual versions of songs can also be very helpful in developing vocabularies and reinforcing language concepts.

e. Some Things to Concentrate On in Wholistic Teaching

Remember that literacy involves developing speaking and listening skills, as well as reading and writing skills.

Students whose first language is not English have a variety of levels of listening and speaking skills, ranging from low to adequate, and have limited vocabularies, limited knowledge of the new culture, and limited understanding of the syntactical structures of the English language. Therefore, given the interaction among listening, speaking, reading, and writing, the success of students with limited English proficiency in attaining literacy depends on the degree to which teachers and tutors incorporate and intertwine all four of these language areas in their teaching.

Teachers should always concentrate on what the student knows in order to build on that knowledge.

First focus on what the student knows and what her or his strengths are. Only correct a few of the most important errors at one time, so that the student can absorb and benefit from correction.

In addition, the teacher must be sensitive to students’ feelings when correcting their errors. For example, don’t tell the student that she or he made a mistake. Instead, when the student uses non-standard language, model standard language, and ask students questions such as “Do you mean…?” That makes it easier for students to accept corrections without embarrassment. It isn’t simply a matter of being polite or kind. Remember that embarrassment and stress inhibit learning.

Allow sufficient time for students to respond to questions and to create their own sentences.

Avoid the use of idioms and colloquialisms until students have sufficient understanding of English to understand explanations of such expressions.

Engage new English learners in the process of writing as early as possible, and encourage them to take chances and make guesses about how words and sentences are written. Mistakes are as valuable as good guesses that turn out to be standard language, what we commonly call “correct”. Every mistake helps students learn and helps teachers know what further assistance they need.

When teachers or tutors express the belief that proper spelling and grammar are the most important parts of writing, students limit their writing to those words they know how to spell and to the grammatical structures they know how to use. They will be hesitant about taking chances and experimenting with the new language, and will therefore learn more slowly.

Students who are learning English as a new language can compose written work in English before they have mastered the sound system or rules of the language such as spelling, segmentation, capitalization, and punctuation. They should be encouraged to try, as a way of thinking about the new language. In this way they can directly focus on what they want to learn. They may use the sounds and spellings of their first language as a way of building new knowledge. From there, they can learn how the new language differs from the earlier one.

The emphasis in both writing and speaking should be on developing and communicating ideas. Teachers and tutors should assist students to learn how to revise and edit, so that they can come to understand that writing is a process that includes producing and correcting a number of drafts until the final product is achieved.

New English learners can be involved in writing on a variety of subjects. They can use writing to express their feelings and opinions, create poems or stories, report, explain, summarize, or draw conclusions. Incorporating the language used in different content areas into their written work helps them understand the functions of writing and provides opportunities to use language.

It is important to provide many different kinds of reading and writing opportunities for students who are learning English. These reading and writing opportunities will encourage and support students’ acquisition of oral-language proficiency. Frequent and varied reading experiences can provide students with models of writing and thereby help them to write. And frequent and varied writing experiences can help students develop their ability to read in English.

Encourage new English learners to work on revising, editing and polishing their initial written work on the basis of suggestions from other readers in addition to the teacher. Although they may still have difficulty communicating their ideas, these students are capable of using comments from teachers or other new English learners to revise and edit their work.

Changes that teachers may recommend include adding more information to stories and working on the order of words in sentences (for students with emerging language abilities); or editing the text for clarity (for students with intermediate or advanced levels of English language proficiency).

Since students speak a variety of languages and come from different countries and cultures, individual differences in their writing development can be expected, depending on the cultural traditions and literacy experiences these students were exposed to at home and in their communities.

3. Problems with Making Phonics Instruction the Primary Focus

There are at least four problems in making a phonics approach the primary focus when teaching students for whom English is a new language. First, it can be very confusing because in English, phonics rules only hold fifty percent of the time. There are many exceptions to phonics rules. Those of us who have learned English as children have internalized many of these rules and exceptions, so we now use them automatically. We need to understand that memorizing the rules and exceptions and then trying to apply them can be very cumbersome and stressful, and it will take new English learners a considerable amount of time—often years—to be able to automatically produce standard usage.

Second, even if new English learners can sound out words accurately, they may not recognize the words if the words do not occur in sentences or contexts that are comprehensible to them, or if the words are not part of their already acquired oral vocabularies. Proficient English users draw on knowledge of meaning (semantics), language structure (syntactic) clues, and pragmatics as well as phonics in learning to read and in understanding what is read. To emphasize phonics, often to the exclusion of these other systems, is to handicap the beginning literacy learner. Research and experience have shown that adults and children who pay too much attention to “sounding out” words are poorer at comprehending what they read than others who use all the language systems in concert.

Third, teachers and students may emphasize developing better pronunciation at the expense of comprehension. But, without comprehension, proper pronunciation is of very little value to the students in any aspect of their daily lives.

Fourth, the use of words that have phonic regularity but lack connection to students’ lives and are not part of their oral vocabularies may reduce their desire to put in the necessary effort for developing functional literacy.

4. Literacy for New English Learners Using Braille

Not everyone who is legally blind is totally blind. Most legally blind people have some remaining useful vision. If a new English learner is totally blind or has no useable vision, then she or he can and should learn English literacy using Braille. Even older adults can learn braille if they understand its value and have the motivation and persistence to learn. However, when the person is partially sighted or legally blind, with some useable vision, there may be a debate as to whether she or he should learn literacy with braille or large print. If the person can use large print without significant eye strain or fatigue, they may want to avoid what they view as the stigma of using braille and the challenge of learning a new way of reading and writing.

a. Trends in braille literacy

After World War II and into the mid-1960s, many professionals involved in the rehabilitation of adults and children who were legally blind with limited vision encouraged the learning of literacy through braille. Although figures are difficult to come by, the American Printing House For the Blind found that in 1963 51 percent of legally blind school children in graded programs in public and residential schools combined, used Braille as the primary reading medium, and another 4 percent read both Braille and print. The APH also report that the percentage of Braille users has dropped steadily, reaching a low of less than 9 percent in 1993.

A number of studies have found a correlation between braille literacy and employment among both adults who are totally blind and those with low vision.

Additionally, consumer organizations of blind and visually-impaired people have expressed concerns about the decline in the percentage of those who are literate using braille, because of findings indicating that inadequate literacy skills reduce the ability of blind and visually-impaired adults to participate on an equal basis in society with their fully sighted peers.

b. Teaching the braille code to new English learners

There are some very specific problems using the standard braille instruction texts for teaching braille to new English learners. These texts are specifically designed to teach the braille code, not English or literacy. And it is quite difficult for students to develop their English language comprehension in the context of these texts because they contain very little that the students can easily understand. They can be confusing, even for those who have some English comprehension because they are based on the assumption that all students share knowledge of a great deal of everyday information about North American culture and the English language, and have had similar experiences that allow them to understand the language used and the meaning of the practice sentences and stories—obviously not the case with new English learners. When reading or writing practice sentences that are not part of stories, students need to have basic knowledge about such things as common idioms, common synonyms and antonyms, spelling, special pronunciation, vocabulary, pragmatics or functional language use, the syntactical rules for forming admissible sentences, ways of organizing information and showing relationships. But new English learners who lack this wealth of knowledge may find even the stories in the braille code texts extremely confusing, and they may not understand the basic meaning of the individual sentences used out of any context other than in exercises.

And, when reading stories, students need to have basic knowledge about such things as common attitudes, common events, special celebrations, and cultural values to understand the stories. Moreover, much of the material in the braille code texts is not relevant to the background experience of new English learners from other countries. When there is a serious mismatch between the information presented in a text and the background knowledge of the student, it is very difficult for the student to figure out the meaning.

c. Some suggestions of how to help new English learners who are learning braille

New English learners who are blind or visually impaired are a diverse group with different ages of onset of their visual problems, varying degrees of exposure to braille and to print, presence of other disabilities, level of education, and community and family expectations for them. Thus, it is common to find differences in the development of these students’ oral and written language skills.

Adult students who are just beginning to acquire their literacy with braille face many challenges, including their limited incidental environmental exposure to writing and their limited experience of objects in their surroundings which might provide context cues for meaningful language acquisition. They usually need much more individual assistance in becoming acquainted with their surroundings and discussing them than many of their fully sighted peers. And they need individualized assistance in developing basic reading and writing skills. The scarcity of braille materials also places increased demands on teachers and tutors who want to give these students opportunities to focus on meaningful literacy learning.

Nevertheless, teachers and tutors need to provide reading material written in uncontracted (grade one) braille, since new English learners may initially be confused by the myriad of English braille contractions they need to read new words.

Once students have developed rudimentary prewriting skills in braille, such as inserting braille paper into a braillewriter, learning how to operate the braillewriter, and writing the alphabet, they should be encouraged to begin creating and composing written work. They should be encouraged to experiment with writing before mastering uncontracted (grade one) braille. In addition, they should also be given many opportunities to read and write using only uncontracted (grade one) braille before studying contracted (grade two) braille. They need to be given opportunities to read and write in English without having to remember contracted (grade two) symbols for letter combinations and their rules.

Only after students have developed consistent vocabularies and sentence patterns, should contractions be introduced. And then they should be taught, not primarily as part of learning a code, but when students have become comfortable enough with the words that can take contractions to use them regularly in their writing.

Teachers and tutors should tailor instruction to the individual student and always allow her or him to use uncontracted (grade one) braille for reading and writing. Only introduce contracted (grade two) braille gradually, depending on the progress of individual students. Some students may need to spend a number of years with uncontracted (grade one) braille and then progressively make the transition into contracted (grade two) braille.

Students who are blind or visually impaired must be given opportunities to experience activities such as sports, art, music, visits to stores, museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. Through such experiences they will learn phrases, sentences, vocabulary and the concepts related to them concurrently and learn to use words in meaningful ways.
And these experiences can be used to create braille texts that will hold the students’ interest and encourage the practice necessary for developing proficiency.

5. Strategies and Activities for Teaching Braille Reading in Different Stages of Developing English as a Second Language

a. Preproduction (Beginners): Use the total physical response method

The teacher or tutor should select a few objects typically found in the room or rooms used for instruction. Pair verbs with the nouns that refer to the selected objects and make action phrases, such as “Open the book,” “Close the book,” “Sit on the chair,” “Stand up,” and “Put the book on the table.” The phrases can vary according to the new vocabulary introduced to the student. The teacher or tutor repeats each phrase and guides the student through the action. Then the teacher or tutor repeats each phrase while encouraging the student to demonstrate the action.

Parts of the body can also be used along with appropriate verbs to make action phrases such as “Touch your head,” “Bend your knees,” “Point to your nose,” “Rub your back,” and “Scratch your right [or left] foot.” The teacher or tutor demonstrates each phrase and guides the student through the action. Then, each phrase is repeated and the student is encouraged to act out the phrase.

The teacher or tutor can choose several basic concepts and pair them with nouns to make action phrases, for example, “Stand behind the chair,” “Put your left hand on your head,” “Put the ball under the table,” and “Take the spoon out of the cup.” The teacher or tutor demonstrates each phrase and guides the student through the action. Then she or he repeats each phrase and encourages the student to act out the phrases.

b. Early Production

The teacher or tutor selects nouns that belong to the same category, such as apples, grapes, and bananas, and shows the actual objects to the student. Then the teacher and student take turns in practicing naming the objects. Then the teacher pairs the nouns with adjectives to create short sentences such as, “The apple is round,” “The grapes are round,” “The apple is big,” and “The grapes are small,” and then have the student repeat them. Then the teacher helps the student to create his or her own short sentences. Give the student a braille copy of the nouns and short sentences to practice reading them. Then help the student write some of her or his own.

The teacher or tutor can create a list of room labels (such as door, closet, sink, desk, and table) and braille each noun on an index card. Then she or he reads each noun and encourages the student to repeat it, then place the card on the appropriate object in the room. The student should be given a copy of each label and helped to create a list of room labels herself or himself. Help the student braille each noun on an index card. Then help the student to read each noun, and place the card on the appropriate object in the room.

The teacher or tutor should read simple rhymes to the student, such as poems, songs, and short stories with repetitive language patterns. The student should be encouraged to repeat parts of the rhymes, songs, or short stories, first with assistance and later independently. The student should be given a copy of the important language patterns introduced in the oral activity.

c. Emergence of Speech

Using the language experience approach, the student should be helped to create a story based on a field trip or other personal experience. The teacher or tutor can elicit verbal contributions from the student by using open-ended questions, such as “Tell me about the …” Then the teacher or tutor writes the story in braille, using the comments made by the student. Then the teacher or tutor reads the story to the student, and then reads it along with the student, assisting her or him with pronunciation and word recognition. Then the teacher can write the story in braille and record the student’s story on tape. The student can be given a braille copy and audiotape copy of the story to read between lessons. She or he can read the braille copy while listening to the audiotape. After reading the story over a few times, the student can practice reading it with the teacher or tutor.

The teacher or tutor can also find or write a story to read to the student that is appropriate to the student’s cultural experience. Then the student can be given an audiotape and braille copy of the story. She or he can read the braille copy while listening to the audiotape. After the student has listened to the story a few times, she or he should try to write a number of phrases or sentences related to the story.

After the student participates in a daily living skills or orientation and mobility lesson, the teacher or tutor can support her or him in making an audiotape description of the activities completed in the lesson. Then the teacher or tutor can support the student in listening to the audiotape and writing key words related to the lesson.

d. Intermediate Proficiency

The student should be supported in creating a story.” After the student finishes, encourage the student to share it with her or his family.

Teachers and tutors should make continuous efforts to create activities that engage students in all areas of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

6. Activities for incorporating all four areas of language:

Engage the student in a lesson in which the student acts out verbal commands, such as “Stand up,” “Sit down,” “Clap your hands,” and “Touch your head.”

Provide the student with a written version of each command and read it to the student again; then have the student read the commands and act them out again.

Have the student copy the commands, using uncontracted (grade one) braille to make sure he or she notices all the letters found within each word.

Practice with the student acting out a number of action words such as stand, run, walk, hop, and jump.

Present the written words to the student on index cards and read them to the student again. Then have The student read the words and act them out again.

Give the student a number of simple written sentences that use personal pronouns, such as “My name is Wan Mei,” “I am a woman,” “I am 21 years old,” “I have two brothers.” Read the sentences to the student, and then have the student read the sentences.

Suggest ways of creating new sentences by changing the personal and possessive pronouns. For example, the student can change the previous sentences to “Her name is Wan Mei,” “She is a woman,” “She is 21 years old,” and so forth.

Record all lessons and give the recordings to students to listen to between lessons.

For more discussion of teaching ESL students with braille, see the book Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy, by Rose-Marie Swallow, Ed.D., with Diane P. Wormsley, Ph.D., especially the article titled Teaching Braille Reading and Writing to Students Who Speak English as a Second Language by Madeline Milian. Also see the article titled Beginning with Braille: Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy by Anna M. Swenson.

CITATION: Kashdan, S. & Barnes, R. (2004), Notes on Literacy for New English Learners with Visual Limitations. Workshop document, Kaizen Program for New English Learners with Visual Limitations; Seattle, U.S.A.

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