Teacher Tips on Developing Your Blind Student’s Overall Classroom Organizational Skills

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Published: 27th March 2012
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1. It is always easier to teach good organizational skills right from the start (Pre-school-Kindergarten) opposed to teaching them in later school years. Teach your student to be prepared and organized by being a good role model.
2. Your braille student will most likely require additional space to store numerous materials, braille books and miscellaneous adapted materials. Here is a suggestion that worked for my students!
Provide (2) student desks to allow for good storage and organization of materials.
Desk #1 This is your Student’s desk for classroom work and storage of frequently used literary braille materials. Literary materials to be stored in this desk may include: braille/auditory dictionary, Perkin’s eraser, slate & stylus, marking items (crayons, color pencils with braille labeling for easy identification), and literary braille code reference guidebook. Store currently used literary braille books in volume order underneath the student work desk/literary desk.
Desk #2: This desk is for storage of Nemeth work folders, materials associated with math (braille ruler, auditory calculator, abacus, analog braille clock, multiplication and division braille charts and miscellaneous math materials). The student may also use a Nemeth reference guide sheet or book while in the process of learning their Nemeth symbols which should be readily available in this desk. Store currently used Nemeth braille books in volume order underneath the math desk in a crate or box for easy access. It is helpful to the blind student to have this extra desk and enough table/storage area next to them to avoid constant lifting of heavy materials such as the Perkin’s Brailler. Therefore, store the Perkin’s Brailler on top of this desk to the left of the student so that it is readily available.
3. Keep updated literary and Nemeth braille reference sheets which includes all the literary and Nemeth code the student has learned up to date. Both reference sheets should be updated during braille lessons to include newly learned braille code for reference. Offer a small reference guidebook once the literary code is completed by the student. A list of basic rules that govern the braille code should also be available in braille as reference for the student. This reference guide list is an especially useful reference tool for the more complicated Nemeth code.
4. Educational braille books not currently being used should be stored in a convenient location in the classroom; review the location with the student and encourage them to access their braille books on an independent basis or shadow them until the student becomes fully independent in this process. Volumes should be removed once completed or no longer required and sent home for reference.
5. Look into having your student’s Nemeth workbooks fully or partially transcribed with print above the braille so that non-braille reading staff can assist the student with instruction when needed.
6. Store smaller items such as a pencil, crayons, small ruler, Perkin’s braille eraser and miscellaneous items in a container for easy access.
7. Provide a braille calendar in the early educational years for use in group activities and include your blind student in calendar group activities. Have a small braille calendar available for student reference during group table-top activities. It is essential that the student is taught how to tactually read a braille calendar in an organized and efficient manner. Students should also have a calendar available in the home setting. These calendars are readily available at major companies that manufacture adaptive products for blind individuals.
8. Use non-slip material under the Perkins Brailler to reduce sliding on the desk-top.
9. Use canvas or cloth back-packs on the back of the student's chair for organization and storage of daily work folders and assignments. Classroom work and homework assignment folders should be clearly marked in braille for easy identification, organization and accessibility. Having braille folders easily accessible to the student will allow them independence in organization and placement of homework assignments and classroom work. Chair back packs are now commercially available or easily made.
10. Have sight words readily available as transcribed braille flashcards. Provide braille flashcards for use in both school and home settings. Sight words can be easily reviewed in braille lessons and updated as needed. Keep cards protected in plastic index card boxes.
11. Mark crayons, color pencils and paint box colors with braille labels so that they are easily identified. Keep miscellaneous writing utensils in the student’s desk for easy access.
12. Take the time to develop the skill of “marking” with your student in the early years. Developing the skill of marking with a pencil or with a tactual mark including circling, checking or an X is a very valuable skill when your student begins to take teacher–made multiple choice tests. This basic skill develops fine motor and organized tactual scanning skills which is also an essential skill for future tactual graphic reading and mapping skills. Tactual marking can be included into simple games such as Tic-Tac-Toe.
13. Start a “homework braille” folder, a “to be transcribed” folder and “to be brailled folder” to help maintain good organization and flow of the student's classroom work. The student should be taught to be responsible for their homework folder and completing the work in it. Provide your braille transcriber an adequate time frame to get materials formatted and embossed in a timely manner.
14. Look at your student’s class seating. Does your student pay better attention up front by the teacher?
15. Include your student in class teacher “helper” assignments such as: bringing attendance record to office staff, bringing class lunch orders to appropriate cafeteria staff, handing out papers, pledge and other class activities. This gives your student the opportunity to develop their Orientation & Mobility skills, memory mapping of the school and socialization skills. Take advantage of opportunities to develop appropriate socialization skills (i.e. social greetings/pleasantries, development of receptive and expressive speech and closing of conversation).
16. Backpack organization skills are a priority. Having an organized backpack with marked braille folders and developing a consistent routine of placing braille work and folders will help your student become an organized, efficient and active participant in the home and classroom setting.
17. Use braille name tags for personal cubicles, especially if print tags are used for the sighted students. Look for end cubicles or cubbies which are easily accessible and identifiable to the blind student. Braille tags for cubicles and cubbies are especially useful in pre-school and offer a great opportunity for the student to be exposed to braille.
18. Provide braille room labels at students hand level for: classroom, bathroom, nurse’s office, art room, music room, Science room, physical education room, cafeteria and main office for identification until the student fully learns their route and important room locations. These braille tags may be discontinued if no longer required.
19. With the vast amount of new technology and resources (Braille Note, Franklin Language Master, audio book player etc.) it is recommended to keep all manuals organized in a folder for easy reference. Braille Note users should be encouraged to explore braille manuals for familiarity and future reference as appropriate.
20. Please be sure to display your student’s braille stories, work and art work alongside their sighted peers. Display your student's work at hand level so that peers and staff can explore their work. Attach a print copy so that others may also read your students work/stories and enjoy his/her creativity.

Patricia M. Brown, as the owner of www.braillethis.com, has worked for over 30 years in the field of special education, learning disabilities and blind & partially sighted. Visit her website for more information on print to Braille literary and Nemeth transcription services, braille adaptation of favorite print toddler books along with interlining services.

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