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April 11, 2016

Learning about Braille and Sign Language {Helen Keller, Louis Braille, Koko's Kitten}

The past month we have been working on Biographies in my classroom.  Before break we learned about Ben Franklin and last week we learned about Helen Keller.  The kids LOVE learning about Helen.  She was an incredible lady that conquered her difficulties by working really really hard.  It's because of her character that I choose to spend time learning about her in my classroom.  

First up - our main text last week was I am Helen Keller.  

It's a short book that is full of detail and fun facts.  I picked it up a few years ago through Scholastic when it was only $1. In class we read about 3 chapters a day and finish it up within a week.  Besides spiraling through our reading strategies, we also add in some more texts and activities...

The Miracle Worker on Youtube.  

I didn't have enough time to watch the entire movie of Helen Keller's story, but there are tons of clips available to use on Youtube.  We watched the clip of her going around the table, picking off her family's plate... and then also the clip where she finally understood that words have meanings - the water scene.  We also watched a short clip of the real Helen and Annie, how she would "read" Annie's lips as she was talking with her hand on her mouth.  

I think that showing the clips added to our class discussions and the kids were able to fully understand how difficult her life was.  

Louis Braille - OCR story

Louis Braille's short text is a history of how he came up with the braille alphabet in his teenage years.  The kids are always amazed that a teenager designed it by hard work and perseverance.

After we read about Louis Braille I pass out push pins and the kids get to work writing their names and short sentences by sitting on the carpet and making pin pricks into copy paper.  They have the Braille alphabet in front of them... usually they want more time.  Now, I teach 4th so I always give them a huge lecture about pushpin safety beforehand... and if for some reason they choose not to follow directions they have to immediately turn in their supplies and can't finish the activity.  

Another day we make Braille Names Using Split Peas (picture above).  I take these free Braille cells (from TPT), and the kids transfer over their name first using pencil, and then adding split peas on top.  They are the perfect size to do so.  

Koko's Kitten - OCR Story

Because this week is mainly learning about Helen Keller and the ways that she communicated, we also spend time learning about sign language.  There's a short story in OCR that talks about Koko's Kitten.  The kids always enjoy a good gorilla story and this is no different.  After reading, we also checked out Koko's website and also back to Youtube for a short sign language video (lots of options to choose from).  So many little videos to explore!  

All in all I love this week of learning - how everything ties together so perfectly.  Do you study alternative ways of communication?  My kids loved it!  I hope this helps someone.  

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