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Te Kotuituinga Mātauranga Pura o Aotearoa

11 year old expands her life experiences to improve her literacy


Grace standing holding her gymnastics awards

Figure 1 Grace with her gymnastics awards

Grace is 11 years old and has no light perception in her left eye and very limited vision in her right eye.  Varuni, her BLENNZ Resource Teacher Vision has been expanding her life experiences to improve her literacy.

Grace is also a member of the RNZFB.  In figure 1 Grace is holding up her gymnastics medals.

What is happening now?

Grace is pushing up on the bar with both arms, the bar resting on her middle, with her feet off the floor

Figure 2 Grace is at her gymnastics lesson

Grace has recently got hooked into reading and writing stories and shows great pride in her work.  She requires lots of pre-discussion prior to reading books or writing stories, to support her background knowledge, as her life experiences are fairly limited.

Recently, Grace started Gymnastics lessons, with assistance from the Halberg Trust. These lessons have given Grace an opportunity to expand her life experiences. She was able to draw on these experiences to write and was motivated to do so as they provided her with a real purpose to write. In figure 2 Grace is at her gymnastics lesson

Prerequisite skills

  • To be able to participate in real life activities.
  • To be able to and have a desire to move and play actively.
  • To be able to have pre-writing discussions with the teacher.
  • To be able to have some understanding of letter-sound knowledge and text conventions.
  • To demonstrate some knowledge of word and sentence order to communicate meaning in simple texts.
  • To be able to write most letter forms legibly when creating texts.

Possible next steps

Continue to provide opportunities to increase Grace’s personal knowledge and life experiences.

Some examples:

  • Introduce cane use.
  • Using cane in both familiar and unfamiliar environments.
  • Going to the shops (The warehouse or the supermarket) and have the experience of buying something.
  • Social days with other BLENNZ students.
Grace is sitting at a table in front of a slopeboard writing

Figure 3 is Grace doing story writing

Teaching methods and strategies

  • Pre-discussions prior to writing to clarify story ideas. In figure 3 Grace is writing a story.
  • Verbalising the sentences she wants to write first before committing it to paper, ensure it makes sense and is grammatically sound. Using the correct grammar in sentences continues to be an ongoing struggle for Grace as no English is spoken at home and it is her second language.
  • Grace uses a basic personal dictionary to locate unknown words, giving her more independence with writing. As she masters new spelling words they are consequently added to her dictionary, thereby increasing her knowledge of high frequency words.
  • Grace uses an app on the ipad called Letter School to give her practise in forming her letters correctly.
Grace's face about 3cm from her book

Figure 4 Grace is reading

Learning adaptations

Grace has two Phys. Ed. students from the Halberg Trust Mentoring Programme to provide extra support during gymnastics lessons.

  • She uses a slope board to raise her work, dark lined books and dark pencils during Literacy.
  • When Grace reads she brings her face up close to the book.

In figure 4 Grace is reading.

  • Her readers and worksheets are enlarged to N26-30.
  • She sits on a swivel chair which can be adjusted to give the optimum height to allow Grace to sit comfortably and at eye level with the book on the slopeboard.


  • PM Benchmark reading assessment and Probe 2.
  • Observations.
  • Analysis of writing samples collected.
  • Grace’s achievements in gymnastics – ribbons and certificates awarded.

Professional reading and resources

More information

Email us at BLENNZ 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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