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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Teaching Reading While Using a Story Box

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

I recently did a training for Region X and Dallas ISD called, “Chocolate and Crayons”. During the training I am teaching educators and parents to instruct children with a disability on how to use real objects, smells and tastes to help a child who cannot see or who has other impairments to make learning fun, to verbalize throughout the day, and to hand the student real objects as much as possible.

One of my goals during the training is to help educators and parents to understand that while teaching, we do not have to be perfect. In other words, teach during teachable moments, use what you have and do the best you can do for the child, but do not stress.

When a child is not stressed but is having fun, endorphins pump and create long-lasting skills and memories, which are housed in the middle section of the brain. Using the sense of taste helps the brain to understand without having to go through a chemical process as it processes directly to the brain.

Using crayons inspires people to create. I once watched a video of an inspirational artist named, Eric Wahl. Mr. Wahl paints beautifully and quickly. He is a motivational speaker to many top-notch companies like Xerox and many others. Eric Wahl states that more companies would come up with so many more creative ideas if they would use crayons during their board meetings as crayons are the eighteenth most recognizable scent in the world right behind coffee.

I have taken Mr. Wahl’s ideas and applied them to teaching. Since chocolate stimulates endorphins and endorphins create a fertile land for learning the student will learn for retention and feel positive about their work. Using crayons with a child will help to promote creativity in the brain. Creativity plus endorphins and no stress equals a happy and successful child.

I do trainings in the area on brain research, which has been inspired by an amazing early childhood specialist, Dr. Pam Schiller and Frog Street Press. Dr. Schiller teaches the strategies that I use to educate others. Pam Schiller is now one of my friends and has given me some of her amazing books. If I could use one resource as an educator it would be everything done by this incredible woman.

After I apply Dr. Schiller’s work, I teach how to teach vocabulary to a child who has a visual impairment through a technique called a story box. A story box has real objects that represent vocabulary words throughout the book. Below, I have written a lesson for a story box through a wonderful book that people can buy through APH. (If you are interested in me doing a training for your district, please contact me at, I charge $500 for three hours or $800 for the entire day plus travel.)

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

  • Read the adorable story, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Ask the student to make the sounds in the book such as, “Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!” “Splash splosh! Splash splosh!”
  • In your story box (I usually use a shoe box or a bag) place the following items: pieces of grass, a small plastic container with water, a small container with a small amount of mud, sticks to represent a forest, ice cubes for snow or Steve Spangler’s Insta-Snow, a toy bear and a piece of a blanket.
  • Help students to act out the story movements such as: making long wavy grass with the child’s arms, assisting the student to understand over, under, through, back, stumble, through, tip-toe, cold and goggly eyes.
  • Ask the child to make the sounds from the book into a recording device and then listen to the sounds that he has mad.
  • Use counting bears after the story is read for the student’s math time.
  • Braille the sounds throughout the story and have the child to track the words.
  • Make Insta-Snow from Steve Spangler’s website. Simply add water to the mix, and you have a cup or bowl full of fake snow.
  • Act out the story together
  • Make Pigs in Blankets after the children decide to stay under the blanket.
  • Ask the student to place the hot dog inside the biscuit.
  • Bring different types of stuffed bears to compare. Identify the differences: big, little, soft, rough, etc.

Once a student understands vocabulary from reading selections then he is ready to move on to more abstract forms of reading such as: tactual or plastic embossed pictures.

The most important thing in helping a child who has a visual impairment during academics is to help him to understand his surroundings, understanding vocabulary words through real objects, tastes and smells, while creating a stress-free and fun environment.

1 comment:

Susan Wells said...

Thank you for including our Insta-Snow as an idea for the Bear Hunt. We love finding new educational uses for our snow.

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