Hands-On Experiences Learning

  • Cherry Avenue Second Graders Gain Insights With Hands-On Experiences Learning Braille


    After reading the Helen Keller story in their readers, Cherry Avenue teacher Mrs. Jessica O’Rourke and her Second Graders explored the different ways a visually impaired or blind student would learn. In the classroom Mrs. O’Rourke had been teaching her students American Sign Language and the children had been researching Helen Keller and Louis Braille. 


    To make it more a “hands on” learning experience, the class collaborated with Mr. Charlie McKaney, a school vision specialist. The children began with the same simple tools used by Helen Keller herself—the slate and stylist—which had been Ms. Keller’s first braille experience.


    “They also used a Perkin’s Brailler invented at her school—the Perkin’s Institute in Boston, Massachusetts,” Mrs. O’Rourke explained.  After, her students sampled a Smart Brailler which vocalizes braille contractions as they type: “k” represents the word knowledge, “bl” represents the word blind, “l” represents the word like and “ll” represents the word little.  There were many more options for tactile and auditory devices. “The students also tried a Refreshabraille,” Mrs. O’Rourke continued, “which is a Bluetooth keyboard and IPad using voiceover. We also set up other stations with a braille eraser, drawing kit, and dice.” The Talking Map was quite entertaining.  The children discovered that when they used a special pen and pointed to places in the U.S. on the map, it named the location. 


    Student Robert Hoss summed up the general consensus of the class with his comment, “My favorite part of this unit was when Mrs. O’Rourke taught us how to write our name and age in Braille with paper and raised dots!”


    “As a special token for all of their hard work,” Mrs. O’Rourke said, “each student received a braille sticker with a happy face and the words great, cool, super and wow!” Wow, indeed. It appeared that this meaningful activity made learning Braille an “indelible” experience for these Second Graders.