Paws for Braille is a Literacy activity the shares the creative experience of reading and writing between peers and an animal companion. This program was created 4 years ago when my daughter "A" was in 4th grade. Her 4th grade teacher had two certified Golden Retrievers that were pet partners. I was familiar with other programs that paired up a struggling readers with an animal companion to "listen," to the child read. I had read that this was a more relaxing environment for the child because the dog would not judge them for any mistakes they might make.
Working as an Assitive Technology Specialist, I am always looking for new ways to engage my students in the Literacy process. Using a variety of props, technologies and devices you can bring a book to life and make it as interactive as possible.
With the idea of pairing up a typical peer from my daughters classroom with a student from the Early Childhood program where I was working, a plan was set to motion. Paws for Braille was created to provide an engaging literacy activity for all of the students involved.
To begin, we did a basic overview with the 4th grade students of what it might feel like to have a visual impairment and to be offered books that were not in the form of media that would be accessible to gain information about that particular story. We placed scotch tape on, or totally blacked out the lens of sunglasses and handed them a print book to read. This allowed the students to gain knowledge of the need for braille, textures, large print, props, voice out put devices and other adaptations to make the book accessible.
American Printing House for the Blind (APH) the students selected textures, props and objects to represent the main ideas in their stories.
Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI) from the Early Childhood program visited the elementary school students and taught them the basics of Braille, how to use the Perkins Braille writer and helped the students create their individual books.
Adding dirt, sand, bark, feathers etc.. to the book to create the "Setting.:
Practicing reading their books to each other before reading it with the early childhood students to the dog reading companions.
On the big day, the elementary school students travel to the school to meet the early childhood students that were visually impaired with multiple disabilities to read their stories together to the dog reading companions.
At that time the early childhood students were on a unit all about bugs and had just finished up a unit on animals. So the staff created stations for the students, the peer partners and the early childhood students to rotate through when they were not reading to the dog.
This station was a coloring station that had raised line bug templates. The trays were used for organization and to create a contrasting colored background. There were a variety of writing tools including scented markers, large crayons and a switch adapted pen that was attached to the battery operated robot.
The "Bug Catcher" station also had switch adapted bug catchers that allowed the students to "catch" bugs by activating the switch and collecting small plastic bugs. The number of bugs that each student caught were placed on a graph to see who caught the most. There was also an educational display, visual aids, magnifying devices and bug models for hands on exploration.
A literacy activity was set up based on the story "Tiny Tadpole." This is a story about the life cycle of the frog. The frog shape switch activated the singing frog that was adapted using a battery interrupter.
Students got to explore the setting from the book, In the Tall,Tall, Grass by Denise Flemming.
Switch activated computer stories were created using Switch It Maker 2 by Inclusive Technologies . These stories were read by the early childhood student to the elementary school student by touching the computer screen or activating the switch to turn the page of the book.
The Elementary School Students together with Early Childhood student read the Rolling Right Along book that they created to the dog reading companion. Some students used voice output devices that had the repeating line of the story recorded on it to take their turn to read to the dog.
Sample of the schedule that was used for Paws for Braille.