This year, I really wanted my students to grasp the concept of what it would be like to blind. None of my students have ever been around anyone with that sort of disability before. Before we read our story I explained to them a little about what we were going to be reading about and I let them ask any questions they might have had. After all of our questions had been answered, everyone was “blindfolded” (I used sentence strips) and the lights were turned off. I laid a sheet of drawing paper and a pencil on everyones desk. They had to find their paper and pencil, then draw a picture of spring. I immediately heard things like “but we can’t see anything”. EXACTLY! That is my point little sweeties!
I snapped this photo right before I let them take their blindfolds off so that the picture wasn’t dark.
At first there was lots of complaining that their picture was going to be ugly because they couldn’t see. We talked about ways they could draw without seeing the paper and techniques they could use such as not picking up their pencil. After a few minutes, the complaints went away and they started to enjoy it.
I tried to monitor the peekers as best as I could. If I thought someone was peeking at their paper, I made them draw with their eyes looking up towards the ceilings (hints the last photo above. LOL)
Once the activity was over and I turned on the lights and they could see their drawings, just about everyone one of them immediately began to laugh at their own drawing. I then said to them “what if we had a blind student in our class, would you have laughed then”? They immediately stopped laughing and got a real serious look on their face. We had a big discussion about what it would be like to have a disability such as blindness and how we would have to adapt our lives. It went so much further than I intended it too but it was such a good experience for them and really opened their eyes to the story we were about to dive into.
In the story of Helen Keller you not only learn about her blindness but you also learn that she was deaf. Before she learned to read braille, Helen had a teacher who would spell out letters in the palm of her hand to form words. I put the students into partners and let them practice their vocabulary words by tracing letters into each others palms and they had to guess. (I don’t have photos of this activity but wanted to share in case you’d like to try it.)
After learning more about Helen, the students began to ask a lot of questions about braille and how it was read. Our Journeys book had a photo of the braille alphabet in it and our spelling lesson one day consisted of writing our spelling words in braille. I then would spell a word out on the board and they had to try and guess which word I spelled.