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New entrant learner develops braille literacy skills


Fingers on the Mountbatten

Figure 1 Fingers in correct position

Kohl is a five year old boy who is blind and is attending his local primary school.  He transitioned from preschool to primary school in term one this year. He has settled into the classroom routines very well.

Here Marg Crosswell, BLENNZ Resource Teacher of Vision who works alongside Kohl explains his transition and the process of developing pre-braille skills.

In Figure 1 Kohl has his fingers in the correct position on the Mountbatten brailler.

Learning braille contractions

Kohl has been learning the Literary Braille code, including the rules that govern use of the Braille contraction.  This included using correct finger positioning on the Brailler and being able to put the paper into the Brailler independently and correctly.

Kohl was able to build hand and finger dexterity through a variety activities that encourage the manipulation of objects such as clothes pegs to increase strength, flexibility and tactual sensitivity. 

It was necessary for Kohl to listen carefully to his teacher’s and teacher aide’s instructions and also to the speech (letters) produced by the Mountbatten Brailler. Kohl knows the alphabet and can braille it very quickly.  He concentrates very well when having his braille lesson.

Prerequisite skills

Fingers showing tracking from left to right

Figure 2 Kohl is tracking from left to right

Specific areas needed to be part of Kohl’s programme in order to develop his braille literacy skills.  These included:

  • Left to right tracking
  • Shape discrimination
  • Inserting the paper into the Brailler
  • Knowing the parts of the Brailler
  • Finger strengthening activities

Kohl is able to turn his Mountbatten Brailler on and off and locate all the keys that he needs to use. In figure 2 Kohl is tracking from left to right looking for the lost letter or word.

Possible next steps

  • Kohl needs input from an Occupational Therapist to advise us on how he can achieve independent movement of fingers.
  • To continue to braille the small sentences emphasising spaces between words.
  • For Kohl to use his fingers to track a line of braille successfully.
  • For Kohl to learn teen numbers.

Teaching methods and strategies

  • Using a Mountbatten Brailler
  • If the Mountbatten is flat or not working for some reason, Kohl can use the  Perkins Brailler which is in the classroom too.
  • Use of different mediums for Kohl’s reading e.g. pegboard, the word and letter cards, sentence sheets and the braille/tactile books from the Homai library.
  • For Kohl to have some down time when he starts to show mental tiredness, as 1:1 work can be intensive and stopping for a drink or walk is important.
  • Fun tracking games provided so that Kohl is encouraged to use his fingers to track a line of braille successfully.
  • Use of the tactile books from the Homai Library which are used to stimulate tactile exploration of the pictures and to follow the braille along as the story is read to him.

Writing activities

  • We have been following a braille programme which indicates the order of letters and words to be learnt.
  • Lots of repetition of lessons has taken place until Kohl memorises the letters/words.
  • Work is overwritten and talked about with Kohl. He also reads what he has brailled.
  • Kohl is allowed around 1 minute on the brailler to explore/braille what he likes. Then the lesson starts.

Reading activities

  • Kohl reads the work he has brailled.
  • Use fun tracking games so that Kohl is encouraged to use his fingers to track a line of braille successfully.
  • He reads/tracks lines of braille to find the lost letter/word.
  • Reads braille used in the ‘post it’ game.
  • Reads the letter and word cards in the bag.
  • Kohl makes small sentences out of the cards in the bag. e.g. a little ball for Dad.
  • He reads/tracks lines of braille to find the lost letter/word.

Hand/finger dexterity activities

  • Unscrewing lid on/off jar and taking out objects.
  • Putting pegs on the side of ice cream container.
  • Posting cards into a vertical or horizontal slot.
  • Glueing paper to make collages.
  • Using correct finger positioning on the Brailler.


  • Use of tactile tens frames and magnetic counters to explore teens numbers e.g. 16.
Kohl sitting in his chair

Figure 3 Kohl sitting in his Trip Trap chair

Learning adaptations

Kohl has a trip Trap chair.  This puts Kohl at the correct height for working at the table and gives his feet a stable base. 

In figure 3 Kohl is sitting in his Trip Trap chair.


  • Use the SASVI Braille Checklist.
  • Using the Braille Programme which indicates the order of letters and words to be learnt.
  • Data and information written up in notes in Kohl’s ORS folder by Marg & Mark (RTV’s) and Jo (TA).
  • Discussion with classroom Teacher.
  • Discussion with Parents.

Professional Readings and Resources

More information

Email us at BLENNZ Online for more information about this subject.

We will link you up with either the author of this post or another BLENNZ colleague with whom you can continue your conversation.

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